BY BROOKE ORR MS RD LDN, ACSM-CPT
Food is fuel. Eat this, not that. Drink more water to curb your appetite. Fill up on raw vegetables so you will eat less at meals. Most of us have heard these tips or something similar; however, despite the plethora of these helpful antics, Americans still struggle in their relationship with food and body image. In fact, Boston Medical Center reported that “An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and Americans spend $33 billion each year on weight-loss products. Yet, nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.” It seems that many people find themselves consistently cycling through “The Destructive Path of Diets,” shown below.
See Diagram from Rebecca Scritchfield, Body Kindness (see online article on page 14 of digital edition)
It’s not all gloom and doom. The secret to better health and happiness may be as simple as eating foods you like with people you love! The Institute for the Psychology of Eating found that decreased pleasure from food is associated with the body’s chemical response to increase appetite and cravings for pleasure foods. Marc David, from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating put it simply “Vitamin P (pleasure), metabolism, and a naturally controlled appetite are interwoven to the core. The simple act of eating raises our levels of endorphins. This tells us that eating is an inherently pleasurable experience because biochemistry makes it so.” Humans are designed to eat foods that taste good and bring pleasure, and as it turns out “Vitamin P” plays a biological role in digestion and absorption. Registered Dietitian Alissa Rumsey explains it well “Enjoyment tells the parasympathetic nervous system to trigger its relaxation response. This is the same system that gets your digestion going by relaxing the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract and increasing digestive juices. So when you are eating food that tastes good and brings you pleasure, you’re also triggering digestion.” Digestion isn’t the only plus to enjoying a good meal with friends. One study showed that women absorbed more iron from a pleasurable meal than from a meal high in nutrients but low in satisfaction. Research is increasingly pointing towards what centenarians from studied Blue Zones have known: sitting down to a good meal with your besties is good for the body and soul.