Humans are hard-wired for pleasure. Most of our passions and ambitions are centred on the unremitting sensation of joy, exhilaration or satisfaction in what we do. This is most blatantly seen in sports, where skydivers feel the adrenaline coursing through their free-falling veins or when the raucous celebrations of fans when their team wins the big game shake the rafters.
It’s also true for diet. Food has never been all about fuelling the body; what we eat is mostly driven by taste and satisfaction.
A primary culprit is sugar. It’s our Achilles heel. Newborn infants have a hardcoded sweet tooth – sugar is a strong energy provider to the brain – but it’s something we carry right through our entire lives. Being healthy shouldn’t mean taking the axe to everything you enjoy that doesn’t fit in a salad bowl; it’s about moderation and control.
I recently spent the morning outside an artisan bakery in Paris, where the majority of people were filling the role of stereotype by leaving with some baguettes in tow. What struck me was that almost all of those people broke off the end of the bread and ate it leisurely on the walk home.
That set me to thinking.
When we decide to watch our diet or maybe to lose a little weight, we go for the axe; we suspend the chocolates, the pastries and the crisps in a little basket over a cliff and we chop the rope holding it in place. Scientifically, that will work: cut the large quantities of unhealthy fats and sugars and you will have improved your diet. Realistically, cravings will rack our bodies until we all clamber down the precipice and start scavenging for the contents of the basket.
Fats and sugars are good, essential parts of our daily routine. Rather than the axe, why don’t we follow these Parisian bread lovers and just tear off the corner piece? By allowing ourselves to nibble or snack in moderation, the little monster in our heads that screams for guilty pleasures will be sated and we’ll have a weight off our minds.
As I said, our favourite foods are a pleasure to us, not merely a temptation. When we deny ourselves something we love, we set ourselves up for failure and erect a tall rod for our own backs. Why would we do that? If it’s Monday morning and you really want that warm pain au chocolat, then enjoy it. Just think about the rest of your day; maybe have an apple at lunch instead of your cereal bar, or walk to work over the subway.
We are completely capable of having our bread and eating it, it’s just a matter of not eating all the bread on your way out the bakery.