The Pleasure Principle


Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.
--Thomas Jefferson
Sorry to disappoint, but this post has nothing to do with anything racy, unless you consider eating a racy topic.

Harvey Rapp, in our interview last week, said something interesting about taste: that for him the first bite of a meal is always extremely enjoyable but then becomes less so with each subsequent bite.

The pleasure principle at work.

Enjoying our meals makes perfect evolutionary sense; if we suddenly hated eating (like we hate getting shots, even though they are usually good for us), we would avoid eating whenever possible, and our species would die out, for we would happily starve ourselves to death.

It seems that naturally thin people have a near-perfect equilibrium with their hunger/satiety cues, and they think nothing about it.

Lucky them.

For the rest of us, something has gone haywire in the way we interact with food; for some of us, it may be genetic (e.g., Willi-Prader Syndrome), for most of us it may be a result of our food-obsessed culture. In the land of plenty, fast food joints, intensive advertising, social events that focus on eating, and junk food everywhere, we are bombarded with food cues. We become food-driven. It's so easy to say, "Eat to live, don't live to eat" but more difficult to actually live that adage, especially when treats are all around.

In times of famine, you typically don't see too many overweight people; look at any photo from the Great Depression and the people in them are generally slim, which suggests that many of us are born with normal satiety cues but, during times of plenty, lose them.


Whatever the cause, it is up to us to be aware of what we put into our bodies and work on regaining our ability to read our bodily cues. It may never happen fully, but I believe that we can learn to manage what we eat.

For me, every bite is enjoyable, too enjoyable, which (I believe) is why I and others have food issues. When I finish eating that ice cream Popsicle, I crave more; however, if I wait for 10-15 minutes and do something else, the urge generally goes away, and I don't eat that second treat.

Naturally slim people seem to tire of what they are eating while they are eating it! This may sound like a small deal, but slim people are able to avoid the temptation to eat that second treat because to them it isn't even a temptation! Even if they occasionally eat two Popsicles, they will likely make up for it later in the day or even the next week and not even be aware of it.

But if I give into my temptation and eat that second treat every day, that could translate into extra pounds. For example, if I eat two Popsicles each day for a year @ 150 calories each, that extra Popsicle will add up to 54,750 calories per year! One pound = 3,500 calories, which means I will have added almost 16 pounds to my frame! (This calculation assumes that the 150 extra calories is in addition to my maintenance weight calories). In 10 years, I will have eaten 3,652 extra Popsicles and have gained 160 pounds! Over time, adding 150 calories per day turns out to be a big, big deal.

Meanwhile, our naturally thin friend will have just eaten one Popsicle most days and, overall, stayed within his/her daily maintenance calories, so no weight gain.

So that mere 10-15 minute delay in satiety could very well be the key to our undoing; if we aren't aware of it and allow the "I wants" to totally take over our lives, we gain weight and do possible harm to our bodies.

Enjoy that daily treat, whatever it is for you, but plan for it and include it in your diet or maintenance plan.

Enjoy the pleasure principle!

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