How to Balance Eating for Pleasure vs Eating for Fuel


Christmas is a time where we all like to over indulge in food, wine and all things fine.

I though this story was a fitting one, given the period we are heading in to, which is a classic example of an event where traditionally, we eat purely for pleasure.

My partner, his son and I were chatting over dinner recently, and reached the topic of eating habits and portion sizes… as we were chatting away, I decided to shared about a very memorable experience I had, working in a gym for the first time – in fact it was a discussion between my boss and I, specifically on the topic of food relationship.

In our conversation, he proceeded to educate me on how we should all approach eating, quote “Candice, food is not meant for pleasure. It is meant to keep us alive… It is that simple!”

“WOW” I thought. As food loving Taurean who lived for her next delicious meal, you can imagine the shock and horror that went on in my little nineteen year old mind that afternoon.

Well if that’s what I have come in to the health industry to teach people… that is rather depressing, I thought to myself.

Thankfully I had the courage to follow my own gut (so to speak) + gaining years of experience in the industry, I have managed to find a balance between my bosses narrow view of how we should feel towards the food we eat, and my own personal journey of over indulgence & at times, reliance upon food for comfort.

Do you eat for your emotions & for a sense of pleasure? or do you eat to stay alive & well?

What I know:

  • An imbalance of eating purely for pleasure, ‘vs’ simply for fuel (+ vice versa) can create an unhappy, imbalanced mind and body.
  • Food must absolutely, over anything else, serve it’s purpose of nourishment of micro & macro nutrients, plus give fuel to our body to perform daily tasks with ease.
  • The more in tune we are with our body through eating clean, fresh wholefoods – the more we are able to find a healthy balance between eating for fuel and finding pleasure in those foods we choose to eat – without turning to food when we are in an emotional state.

Not sure what side of the fence you graze on, identify your style below…

Pleasure Eaters:

  • You tend to turn to food when you feel sad, anxious, upset, lonely, stressed, excited, etc.
  • You meal is always accompanied by tomato sauce, sweet chilli or some other condiment
  • You snack even when you know you are not hungry
  • You find your head in the fridge every time you walk past the kitchen!
  • You tend to go back for seconds at meal times & feel stuffed after a meal
  • You eat when food crosses your mind, rather then listening to when you are hungry
  • You love salt and sugar

Fuel Eaters:

  • You often forget to eat
  • You can go long periods of time without eating
  • You find eating a chore, rather than a pleasure
  • You tend not to snack in between meals
  • You often need to be physically reminded when to eat – tummy grumbles
  • You tend to cook the same things on rotation & don’t feel fussed with what you eat
  • You don’t have the desire to eat dessert or sweets (unless sometimes prompted)

10 ways to to find the balance:

  1. Enjoy the benefits and flavours of real home made food by spending more time in your kitchen. If you eat out often, you could very well be addicted to sugar and salt without being aware (FYI restaurants’ secret ingredient for flavour is often through sugar/salt and copious amounts of it).
  2. Become interested in cooking – it doesn’t need to take hours to make a delicious meal, the best are often the ones with fewer ingredients.
  3. Slow down and take your time to eat. Don’t eat on the go – try to avoid eating in your car, when standing, while you are on the phone, doing computer work or when you are emotional.
  4. Stock your pantry with delicious, healthy whole foods (Get my Paleo Food List Here)
  5. Hunt down your local farmers market and begin to experiment with different local and seasonal produce.
  6. Share with others, if you live alone – find friends to share cooking with. Invite your children to help cook a delicious meal. Make it social, put music on and have fun!
  7. Start a food journal and track your habits and emotions. *Note the times when an emotion triggers you to eat – and find ways to curb and channel the emotion. I encourage my clients to take their evening shower at dessert time, and to go for a walk during that mid afternoon slump we often have between 3-6pm.
  8. Eat a breakfast of high protein each day – plus avoid convenience food by packing lunch using left overs from the evening before.
  9. Take notice when your energy levels drop. Could it be food related or are they emotionally driven (follow your gut) *your mood can be drastically effected by eating too much or too little.
  10. Find meals that work for your body type. My body responds well to having no grains, and I have a tendency for adrenal fatigue, so I know it is important for me to eat as soon as I wake and never go too long between meals e.g fasting is not my friend, but it suits others. I created a 30 Day Paleo Challenge based on what works for me.

And remember…..

Healthy food is delicious! Believe it or not – when you cut out excess salt, sugar and processed foods – your taste-buds adjust and the food you may initially find bland or boring without smearing it with tommy sauce, will become a flavour sensation (that’s a promise!).

Never be too shy or think it’s not important to reach out and ask for help. I help people to find a balance in their food relationship between pleasure and fuel – and to be honest, everyone benefits from a bit of accountability & support. Even us professionals use one another to stay on track.

Most of all, be kind to your body and it will be kind to you.



What do you think? Comments welcome below...