Food, Skinny Thinking, and Sex

“ Do you dream in chocolate?”

“Once you break it’s shell the filling will start to melt and so will you.” (Lindor Truffels)

“Over 160 years of passion for that one moment of yours.”

These taglines come to us courtesy of the Lindt Company. Here is what one of their customers wrote: “Lindt Lindor Truffels are the ultimate chocolate lover’s dream. The wonderful smooth chocolate filling inside a rich chocolate shell is enough to turn a chocolate lover into a truffle addict. I bought a couple bags of the milk and white chocolate as favors for a party and just couldn’t seem to control my urge to eat them all. Just one of them will get you hooked.”

The goal of food marketers is to entice us to lust after their food. Because selling food based on its nutrition just isn’t sexy, their tactics are designed to appeal to our desire for pleasure, systematically working us into a craving frenzy so powerful that we feel compelled to storm the closest merchant in hot pursuit of their brand of food. If we’re not flushed with desire after seeing their ad, they haven’t done their job.

Having learned the potent trick of selling the “sizzle” not the steak, food marketers’ first line of attack is our senses. If they succeed in engaging our senses through a seductive image, smell, taste, or texture description, they lead us down the merry path of imagining just how good that food will taste once it’s in our mouth. At this point, they’re ninety percent of the way there. Just by encouraging us to imagine what their food will taste like in our mouth, we become their food-sex slaves and “cha ching,” their cash registers start to ring.

Innocently or perhaps not so innocently, marketers have been co-opted by the ego, acting as the mouth-piece of the Pleasure Seeking Child, the little kid our heads that personifies the pleasure seeking principle in all of us. The main job of the Pleasure Seeking Child-, when it comes to food, is to get us to eat entertaining food, enticing us based on the imagined taste pleasure food delivers.

The only problem with listening to and letting your eating be guided by food marketing or the Pleasure Seeking Child is that it’s like believing the “happily ever after” line in a movie or story tale: you never get to see what happens after the “The End” frame flashed across the screen. The guy gets the girl, they say “I do,” and then what?

It’s the same way with eating Pleasure Food. You experience the intense pleasure hit while the food is in your mouth, but then what? To keep that sensation going, you need to take another bite and then another, and another, and so on and so on. At some point, those bites don’t taste so good, and your stomach protests. Soon the pleasure turns into nausea and pain. The attraction that you felt turns into repulsion. As your body struggles to digest the junk food, you feel bloated, headachy, groggy, and grumpy. Your body suffers because not only didn’t it receive the nutrients it needs, it now has to expend precious energy to get rid of the stuff. To top it off, it may have to carry around excess weight as a result of this Pleasure Food party.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “This is the rest of the story.” The moral of the story is if you want to avoid the pull of the Pleasure Seeking Child and avoid her influence on your eating life, avoid watching sexy food ads. Turn away from any images or sound bites that quicken your pulse and get you salivating. When the Child tries to get you to imagine what food tastes like, ignore those thoughts. If you follow them, you may find yourself careening down a slippery slope and landing smack dab in the middle of Pleasure Food over the top party.

To heal, look at your concept of food. What does food mean to you? Is it your friend, your source of comfort, or it is straight nutrition. What does food actually have to offer you? Ultimately, healing means withdrawing your romantic projections from food, seeing it as nice tasting nutrition, not the stuff that you can’t wait to curl up with and get into your mouth. Rather than “Oh sweet brownie, how I love you and long to get you into my mouth,” your food thoughts look more like, “I’m hungry and it’s time to eat. What will I have? My body could use some protein and vegetables, I have X in the house, so I will create Y meal. Although it may not be sexy or exciting, this new way of thinking sets the stage for a healthy, rational, mature relationship with food.