Imagine you’re going to call up a friend and ask to hang out this weekend. What would you plan to do during your time together? Maybe you’ll see a movie, go for a hike, or visit an exhibit in an area nearby. No matter what you do, though, it’s often assumed that getting food will be at least some part of the meetup.
Socializing over food is nothing new. Consider the way holiday meals bring families together or block party barbecues gather your neighborhood. Having dinner together is a great way to connect with a group of friends. But the assumed connection between socialization and food isn’t necessarily the best thing, either.
Eating for pleasure has reached an entirely new level in this day and age. Scroll through a foodie Instagram to see some of the mind-blowing edible creations available today. Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying the food you eat, problems can arise when it’s taken to the extreme.
When the majority of your food intake is for pleasure rather than properly fueling your body, you place yourself at risk of numerous health problems. What are some of the results when the main focus of food shifts towards enjoyment and away from nutrition?
Eating for Pleasure vs. Eating for Nourishment
At its most basic, food exists to provide you with the energy to go through your day. Human beings need to eat food to provide the body with the necessary nutrients to survive. Your body informs you when it needs to eat through the sensation of hunger.
But how often do you eat because you are truly hungry?
Think about the last thing you ate. Did you eat because you felt hungry or you eat out of boredom? It’s easy to consume food as a way to pass the time without realizing what you’re doing. The wide range of readily-available, pre-packaged snacks keeps you from even having to think about it.
The main purpose of eating food is to nourish your body. Your body needs a proper blend of nutrients to operate as well as it possibly can. If you don’t provide it with a variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, and proteins, you’ll notice a difference in the way you feel.
That doesn’t mean you need to eat chicken, rice, and broccoli for every meal. But it does mean that you’re missing out on vital nutrients if you’re mainly eating for pleasure. You can’t survive on the mind-blowing, over-the-top concoctions seen on the Food Network alone.
The Rise of the Social Media Foodie
Eating food today has become more of a social event than ever before. Then photo-sharing social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Yelp amplify that effect. Anyone can snap a picture of what they’re eating and share it with their audience around the world.
Social media provides opportunities for both consumers and companies alike to share their food experiences. You can’t scroll through one of your social feeds without seeing at least one or two pictures of food. Whether it’s an exciting new dessert place in town or the dinner that someone cooked, it allows people to share their practice of eating for pleasure.
Plenty of foodie feeds post picture after picture of the most mouthwatering creations you could ever dream of. Cookie pizzas? Check. Craft Bloody Mary’s adorned with tiny cheeseburgers? You got it. It doesn’t matter whether the combination makes sense. If it looks good in a photo and can garner some attention online, someone will make it.
But these Insta-worthy foods you’re eating for pleasure are far from nutritious. They don’t provide your body with the nutrients it needs to perform well. You can’t survive only on the things that look fun and delicious and worth the post on your favorite social media feed.
What Does Science Say?
Eating for pleasure doesn’t just happen as a mindless way to pass the time, though. There is a reason that it’s easy to polish off an entire pint of ice cream before you realize it. It feels impossible to quit eating the bottomless chips and salsa while out to dinner with friends for the same reason.
Researchers have extensively studied the way humans eat for enjoyment to see what they can discover. One study in Italy showed that you activate a reward system in your brain when you’re eating for pleasure. It isn’t the system that lets you know that you’re full, though. Instead, it activates the “feel good” reward system that encourages you to continue eating.
Eating for pleasure tends to trigger more pleasure eating compared to eating when you’re hungry. This is particularly true for more “yummy” foods like those you see gathering hundreds of likes and comments on social media. It’s the same reason that you have an easier time overeating dessert than you have overeating something like vegetables.
Health Impacts of Eating for Pleasure
It’s okay if you’re eating for pleasure in moderation. You won’t do yourself any harm if you go out for dinner with friends or have an extra dessert now and then. Problems arise when social eating for enjoyment becomes your main mode of eating.
You’ll notice an impact on your health if you don’t provide your body with a wide range of nutrients that it needs. There are numerous health conditions associated with improper nutrition. Some of these include obesity, type 2 diabetes, or the increased risk of heart disease.
More extreme eating for pleasure may result in the possible development of an eating disorder. Changes in body image might cause body dysmorphia which leads to unhealthy or disordered patterns of eating. These can become an even greater problem than the initial issue and require intensive treatment over time.
Your doctor can provide the most informed opinion in terms of your health so speak with them if you’re worried about the impact of eating for pleasure. Switching to a healthier, well-rounded diet may help you reverse the effects or relieve the risk of some health problems. Finding support for shifting your nutrition habits may be one of the best decisions you ever make!