Call it latent Puritanism if you want; I am still guilty of judging things by hard they feel. “No emotional pain, no gain.” Something like that. So, as dramatically as I’ve improved, I will sometimes still underrate the value of something that doesn’t feel astringent.
I think we all do this in one way or another.
I see this type of cognitive bias come up a lot in fitness. Let’s call it the Puritan Fallacy; the more you suffer, the better it works. That’s the implicit belief, anyway. So, when it comes to nutrition, the most popular approach to dieting is to scapegoat a group of foods.
Testy, can we back up for just a second? I want to mention a foundational nutrition concept before we proceed: calories in vs calories out (CICO). It is the most reliable factor for changing your body weight. It is not the only one — food quality, sleep, stress, and a host of other factors are significant. But none magically jump above the first law thermodynamics.
When does CICO factor into the Puritan Fallacy? Check your list of diets. Find anything that communicates a bias against food — for starters. Scapegoating sugars. Or fats. processed food or natural food. Are beets are the cause of all suffering in the world? Carbs? For some people, it’s calories in any form at all.
What a colossal bummer.
Food is your friend. It is a network of friends, actually. So much so that there are some of whom you’ve outgrown and others who will definitely land you in jail.
But your bestie? Ah, your bestie. Maybe it’s kale, sure. Totally.
Let me start over. Maybe your bestie is ice cream. Or espresso. Or ice cream in your espresso. Or — ok — a berry, kale, and protein shake (which I legitimately do enjoy). Some of these things are 10/10 for health and others are 10/10 for enjoyment. Rarely are they both.
So, when it comes to your favourite enjoyment foods — the ones that truly give you mind-blowing gustatory pleasure — my advice is this: keep them in your life. These should be the absolute last thing that you ever compromise on.
That’s how you increase happiness through food; you enjoy it.
Three principles for increasing happiness through food
- Prioritize food relationships that build you and/or are inherently joyful
- Think in terms of short-term and long-term
This isn’t a guilt thing. But if you’re going to be unhappy with your choices in 24–48 hours, then factor it in.
- Work towards eliminating the mediocre. You can’t miss something you don’t miss.