Do you divide food into two categories, like this?
“Healthy food” versus “unhealthy food.”
“Clean food” versus “junk food.”
“Good food” versus “naughty food.”
Lots of people do. It drives me slightly crazy to hear people talk about food in these black-or-white, good-or-bad, saintly-or-evil terms, because it’s usually part of a larger conversation about howyou’ve been so “baaaad” (uh, eating cookies makes you a “bad” person?) and how you need to get back “on the program” and start being “good” again.
This type of thinking about food usually leads to deprivation and then overindulging.
Like, you stick to your unsatisfying “diet,” “program,” “detox,” “plan” or “system” for a few days until you’re practically dying for something that doesn’t taste like cardboard or solidified water, then you gorge on ice cream and French fries until you feel sick, then you gain weight, feel miserable, vow to be “good” again, and repeat the pattern all over again. And again. And again. (As I remember from my dieting / compulsive overeating days, all too well!)
You know how it goes.
But recently, I had dinner a smart woman named Sasha who works as a Positive Psychologist and coach. She has a neat way of describing food that I think is super cool.
Instead of calling certain foods “good” or “bad,” Sasha refers to them as “strong” or” weak.”
So, in her world, a roasted sweet potato topped with braised kale and grilled chicken and drizzled with a delicious homemade pesto sauce would be “strong food.” That’s food that gives you tons of nutrients, tons of strength, energy and vitality. It’s primarily plant based and feels amazing as you eat and digest it. Yum. So strong!
On the other hand, a slice of mint Oreo cheesecake would be “weak food.” Tastes yummy—and it’s totally OK to enjoy it once in a while, of course—but it usually leaves you feeling sleepy and “weak” rather than energized and “strong.”
Sasha joked that her four year old came to her one day and he said, “Mommy, I just want some weak food!” Ha! Yes, kiddo. Sometimes, we all just want some weak food… nothin’ wrong with that!)
I really dig the “strong” versus “weak” terminology. I like how rather than giving food a spiritual or moral label (like “good” versus “evil”), you’re simply labeling food in terms of what it does inside your body—the level of strength that it gives you or doesn’t give you.
But after mulling it over for a few days, I decided to come up with my own terminology:
“Power food” versus “pleasure food.”
Yessss. Bingo! For me, that terminology feels just right.
Some foods gives you tons of power. (Veggies, fruits, whole grains, seeds, lean proteins, healthy fats like avocados and nut butters… you know what they are 😉
Other foods are purely for pleasure. (Chocolate dipped graham crackers, butterscotch pudding, BBQ chips, fried deliciousness, wazzup??)
Neither type of food is “good” or “evil.” Both can absolutely fit into your eating rhythm. They just have different effects on your body and serve different roles in your life. And, I would argue, unless you’re a Buddhist monk who has transcended all earthly desires, you want and need both. If you’re only allowing yourself to eat power food, you’re probably going to feel deprived.
If you’re only eating pleasure food, you’re probably going to feel lethargic. Swing too far to one extreme or the other, and something is bound to feel out of whack.
But if you can find a happy balance—primarily power food plus a moderate amount of pleasure swirled into the mix, in whatever proportion feels right for your body—yay! That’s a way of eating that’s powerful, pleasurable, and most importantly, sustainable.
What are some of your favorite power foods?
What are some of your favorite pleasure foods?
Could you allow yourself to enjoy both, sometime this week, without assigning any spiritual / moral “virtues” to either when you do?
You are allowed to feel powerful. You are also allowed to feel pleasure. Both are amazing experiences. Have both. Savor both. On the same plate or separately. In whatever proportion feels most “loving” to your body. Eat like that, savoring each meal until you’re satisfied but not stuffed, and in time, your body will drop down to its natural / ideal weight set-point… and stay there.
Power. Pleasure. Both. Yes, really. You’re allowed.