Why occasional indulgences can make you happy and healthy
The current obsession with ‘clean eating’ has much to answer for. The orthorexic stars of Instagram, inventors of this purist style of consumption, have fed the nation on their muddled obsession with healthy food, creating a whole new set of dietary diktats that brand foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – despite the fact that, for instance, our bodies cannot tell the difference between organic honey and white sugar.
But professional nutritional experts agree that it is denial and guilt that should be cleared off our plates completely if we are to be happy, healthy eaters. According to Renee McGregor, a performance and clinical dietitian, the proliferation of the new arbitrary alimentary rules ‘set up a deprivation cycle that preys on the worried well, for whom going gluten-, sugar- and dairy-free seems like simple guidelines to live by. Demonising food really worries me’.
Hygge, by contrast, is nourishment for both stomach and soul: finding joie de vivre in a glass of red wine, saying ‘yes’ to a slice of cake after a country walk, sipping a frothy cappuccino (preferably with your nearest and dearest), downing a warming bowl of homemade soup with a slice of freshly baked bread, just because it tastes so good. And the reason it does taste good is partly because the feel-good hormone, dopamine, increases immediately after sugar and fat intake. Moreover, as the nutritionist Eve Kalinik points out, eating foods you like is beneficial. ‘If you don’t really enjoy what you eat or take your time to rest and digest a meal, your body is in a constant state of stress, which affects the digestion.’
Ian Marber, the author of How Not To Get Fat, agrees. ‘The pleasure of an occasional hot chocolate far outweighs the risk of type 2 diabetes. Good eating is about being considered and kind – all this ricocheting from “good” to “bad” foods makes for an awkward relationship with our meals, where we indulge one day only to punish ourselves the next, causing inevitable weight gain. The truth is that choosing what you want to eat three times a day should never cause angst.’ That moderation he speaks of may not work so well on Instagram, but it is a far healthier, more enjoyable and more sustainable way to eat. ky
First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson, £12.99 (4th Estate)
Sweet Almond & Macaroon Scented Candle, £42 Jo Malone London
Dark Chocolate Brazil Nuts & Sea Salt, £8.95 The Chocolate Society
The Happy Molecule, £20 Fountain at Net-A-Porter
Revitalising Hand Cream, £14 Green & Spring