Enjoy your food! On losing weight and taking pleasure.

Does ‘healthy eating’ require people to control themselves and to abstain from pleasure? This idea is dominant, but in our studies of ‘dieting’ in the Netherlands we encountered professionals who work in other ways. They encourage their clients to enjoy their food, as only such joy provides satisfaction and the sense that one has eaten enough. Enjoying one’s food is not easy. It depends on being sensitive. This does not come naturally, but needs to be trained. And while one kind of hunger may be difficult to distinguish from another, feeling pleasure may open the doors to feeling pain. What is more, sensitivity is not enough, enjoying one’s food also depends on the food being enjoyable. A lot of care is required for that. But while engaging in such care is hard work, along the way clients are encouraged to no longer ask ‘am I being good?’ but to wonder instead ‘is this good for me?’ Yes, both these questions are normative and focus on the person rather than on her socio-material context. However, in the situations related here the difference is worth making. For it entails a shift from externally controlling your behaviour, to self-caringly enjoying your food.

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