The concept of pleasure

I recently came across a TED talk about pleasure. In this talk a woman described her battle with herself trying to achieve the perfect weight. She restricted her calorie intake, she wore herself out during long painful workouts and she hated herself.

She was fighting in a war against her own body. She hated the process of achieving her goal, and when she finally got to her perfect weight, she didn’t feel happy at all.

What was wrong?

What she did wrong was the actual battle. She had her focus on the goal and she ignored the signs of tiredness and hunger that her body was sending to her. She imagined, that once she was at her perfect weight, she would feel amazing and perfect. But this is not what she got at the end. She started thinking: what now?

At one point of time she realized that she needs to have a different approach to herself. She found out that she had to start listening to her body’s needs and wants to become anxiety-free and happy with the process. She threw her scales away and began to develop her own inner compass. She began to trust her body: she stopped and listened. She started to rest when she was tired, she did another type of workout if it was what her body was up to, she ate what her body was telling her to. This woman found peace with herself after all those years of fighting. She calls this inner orientation for orientation on pleasure.

It is about getting pleasure from the things that you do. Pleasure when you work out, pleasure when you eat and pleasure when you don’t. When you decide to enjoy your body and give it what it enjoys.

The concept of pleasure is actually a big part in intuitive eating. It feels good when you eat when your hunger is right (and not small or non existent) and it feels good when you stop eating when you are satisfied (and not stuffed and have a stomach ache). The ability to know what your body wants requires establishing a level of trust to the signals it sends. You need to connect your mind to your body and decide on following the signals that you get from within.

So how do we get here? If there is a smart way to learn to listen to your body, I’d start with tiny habits.

Tiny Habits concept has been developed by BJ Fogg to help people make changes in their lives. Accordingly to Fogg, the easiest way to change is not just implementing the new behavior on its own. To make a change in your behavior, you need to find the right trigger for your desired behavior and do a small step every time the trigger is out. Triggers are actions that are already incorporated in your daily life like getting out of bed in the morning, brushing your teeth and the like. When the trigger is released, you do the desired action, which has to be very small, som that it won’t create stress in your system like a huge change would do. The action of listening to the body needs to be easy to do and it has to be small like just 10 seconds. It is important that it will be something that you can continue doing everywhere and at any time – then you will stick with it.

To apply tiny habits with your goal of listening to your body you it can be some triggers like sitting in front of your plate dinner table or putting the food on the plate at every meal. When you know the trigger, you attach the new behavior of listening to yourself to it.

The trajectory can be like this: you sit in front of the plate with your food (which you would do anyway before a meal, so that’s a trigger) – you tune in to the body (your new behavior) – you eat.

  1. The new behavior: before you start eating the meal imaginine that you have eaten all that food on the plate and imagine how it would feel after 10 minutes when you are done. How would you feel? Light, heavy, stuffed or still empty in your stomach?
  2. What is your desired feeling in your body after this meal? What would your body enjoy most at the moment? Give just 10 seconds to this visualisation and try to imagine your feeling in the body after this meal.
  3. Eat the food.
  4. After you have finished the plate, compare the feeling which you had imagined with the feeling you have now. Do they align or are they different? Did the food on your plate give you the feeling that you were looking after before eating? What can you learn from this? Did you estimate the food’s impact well or can you adjust next time?

Answering all these questions is an important step in creating a bond between the body and the mind. The “tiny”ness of the habit makes tuning in to the body doable and doesn’t take much time. If you give 10 seconds to this just before you eat, you will eventually create the connection that you are looking for.

The woman in TED is an advocate for the feeling of pleasure that your body wants to achieve. But pleasure can be felt differently. One day the pleasure is the feeling of being a bit heavy and warm from inside out after eating mashed potatoes, and another day pleasure can be a featherlight feeling after a cold gaspacho soup! Decide for yourself what your body will think is pleasurable at the moment, look at the food in front of you and imagine if this food will deliver what your body needs. Just for 10 seconds. It will take you far!

You can watch the TED talk here

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