Vitamin "P": Pleasure is vital for health


Vitamin P (for pleasure) is a term coined by Marc David. He is the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, and was a guest professor at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition when I studied there. 

Pleasure is essential to life.

Not only is this true in terms of the sheer enjoyment of life (no pleasure, no enjoyment); but also in terms of creating optimal health (no pleasure, no health.) 

Several studies (both in rats and in humans) have shown that the degree to which we absorb nutrients from our foods greatly depends on how much enjoyment we get out of the foods we're eating. 

In one study for example, two groups of women ate an iron-rich Thai meal and their iron-absorption rates were measured. One of the groups of women consisted of purely Thai women; the other group consisted of Swedish women.

Even though both groups ate the same meal, the Thai women's iron absorption was greater than the Swedish women's. Then they changed the meal and gave both groups an iron-rich Swedish meal. As you might expect, the iron absorption was higher in the Swedish women. In other words, the group who enjoyed the meal the most had the higher iron absorption. 

In a second part of this study, the Thai women were split in two. One group got the Thai meal, while the other group had the same meal but it was blended into a 'smoothie,' thereby making it into a less-than-appetizing porridge.  They did the same thing for the Swedish women. One group got a tasty Swedish meal; the other group a porridge of that same meal.

You can probably imagine the results. The women who were fed the unappealing, unsavory blended meal did not assimilate the iron at the same rate than the groups who had the tasty meal they could enjoy.

We are SUPPOSED to enjoy our meals! 

Yes. Pleasure is a hugely important part of nutrition. Why else would we have tastebuds? 

Allowing yourself to fully enjoy your meal, to give into the pleasure of eating creates a distinct nervous system state that benefits your health even beyond the nutrients contained in the meal.

In these studies, you can see again why it makes no sense to reduce food to calories, and insist that counting calories and eating low fat is the way to a healthy lifestyle. 

Is it any wonder that the vast majority of people fail to achieve and sustain any degree of health through diet plans that suck the joy out of eating?

They simply can't. We are wired to enjoy our meals and we are supposed to do so!

But beware of making food your ONLY source of pleasure.

We also need to experience pleasure in other aspects of life. In very real ways, pleasure is the best remedy for stress, anxiety and high blood-pressure. 

If you neglect pleasure elsewhere in your life, it won't be long until you find that you simply must indulge in a candy-bar, fudge or extra helping of pasta you don't really need. 

When we are pleasure-starved, our cravings tend to run out of control.

To cultivate a healthy lifestyle for life, pleasure must be a top priority.

What brings you pleasure?

A couple of weeks ago, I gave my Vibrant Body clients the 'homework' of writing their Pleasure Menu. I now want to invite you to do the same. You may find that your pleasure muscle is so weak and atrophied that you might struggle to list more than a handful of things that bring you pleasure.

Here are some idea starters from things that give me great pleasure:

  • Coffeeshops: I treasure the experience of going into a coffeeshop with a journal and a couple of pens. Sitting there, with a mocha or capuccino, or a lovely cup of tea and writing in my journal is simply delightful to me.
  • Baths: I use epsom salts and lavender-scented sea salt for my baths. I make it hot. Light several candles and turn the lights out. I sometimes use essential oils and I play music or a pre-recorded meditation. Lately I've been listening to my friend Melani Marx's crystal bowl recordings. Heavenly.
  • Soft sheets and foot rubs: I love having a really good-quality foot moisturizer on my nightstand. After I shower, which I also LOVE to do before bed, I rub my feet with my moisturizer and slip on comfy, fuzzy socks. I choose my sheets so they have a really soft touch against my skin, and choose my pillows so that getting in bed feels luxurious. 
  • Morning tea with a view of the lake: I love the quiet time in the early morning, sitting on my couch, looking out at the lake and feeling my hot mug in-between my hands. I do my meditation here, and soak in the enormous appreciation for the beauty that surrounds me.

All of these things are great sources of pleasure for me. None are expensive. None involve eating a significant amount of food.

It's your turn. What brings you pleasure? What can you remind yourself to do more often?

The other trick is to do these things with FULL consciousness. Your complete presence maximizes the pleasure.

And of course, fully enjoy your meals!