How a pizza becomes more appealing than a fillet steak?
Following a conversation with a colleague the other day I wanted to post some thoughts on this topic.
Hypothetical scenario: I take you to a great restaurant with heaps of choice. You can order anything and it's all on me. A fine fillet steak or a pizza? wouldn't you choose the fillet steak? I think many people would. It's perceived as a treat, it's premium. it Seems reasonable to assume you would choose this delicacy over what is essentially cheese on toast?
Now let's say you're on a diet and you know pizza is usually off the menu. But it's "cheat day" and you can have anything you like! It's common for that pizza to suddenly become more appetising than a fillet steak, simply due to the fact that it is a "forbidden" food that you are now granted permission to eat.
I've observed this phenomenon in many dieters. It often leads to binging when finally given the opportunity to break the restriction. There's plenty written on this topic and I want to avoid flogging a dead horse, as such my hope is to provide a fresh suggestion for dealing with this problem, by addressing the way you perceive it.
Disenchantment is a Zen exercise that trains you to see pleasure and pain for what they actually are, rather than what you perceive them to be.
Taking the above example, the “reward” you experience is actually the act of eating something that has been restricted. The sensations of pleasure and reward do not come from the pizza. It’s texture, flavour, tastes and smells are not the source. Your pleasure comes from the very fact that you ate, or acquired, something you had framed as a reward through restriction and perception.
If you were to eat that pizza mindfully, you may experience something very different. You may realise that the flavours are dull. The doughy texture is not particularly fulfilling, for example. The point is not to say that pizza (or any food you like to indulge on) is not pleasant to eat. Rather that the reward you experience, the reward that actually drives you to eat it in the first place, is not rooted in the food itself but in your perception of that food as an incredible treat.
Disenchantment aims to reframe your perception and experience of such foods. Allowing you to see through the veil of reality and realise that;
a. The foods you choose to cheat on are not the root of the pleasure you experience when eating them.
b. The absence of these foods, therefore, is not as much a cause for discomfort as you may be feeling.
c. Pleasurable sensations are abundant in the foods you can eat all the time, maybe you simply need to open up to experiencing them in this way.
d. Your choices for “cheats”, and the very way the fitness industry frames them, may be driving your choices more than you realise, and more than the food itself.
e. If you try eating more mindfully you may realise that the foods you are choosing might become less enchanting over time, freeing you to make better choices while experiencing more pleasure from food every meal.