Recently I find myself saying that a certain food or combination of foods is “scary” because it feels “indulgent”, as if indulging in something is akin to committing an act of sin.
Thanks to a toxic and pervasive diet culture, we tend to view indulgences as a bad thing.
Little known fact, our desire for indulgent meals may actually be over 500 years old. A new analysis of European and American paintings across five centuries shows that “salt, bread, sausage, and shellfish were among the most commonly depicted foods in paintings of meals from 1500 to 2000 AD.” (Cornell Food & Brand Lab, July 26, 2016).
So you might be wondering, what do these foods have to do with my frustration with modernized connotations of the word “indulgence”?
Salt, bread, sausage, and shellfish are all foods that fall under the categories of “bad” foods that modern diet-culture warns us about.
“Eat these only in moderation!”
“Too much of this will make you fat!” (and according to diet culture fat is something we should all fear)
To indulge means to allow oneself to become involved with a generally disapproved of activity, which is where I think the feeling of “oh shit, I did something wrong” comes from.
Eating a delicious piece of molten chocolate cake should not conjure up the same emotion as robbing a bank. One is morally wrong and the other is called…eating. Just plain, old, and simple eating.
But regardless, who’s to say who deserves an extravagance anyway? Why is there a reluctance to accept and enjoy [things deemed as] “extravagances” without feeling guilty? Why can’t we catalogue self-compassion instead of our self-loathings?
It’s simultaneously perplexing and infuriating that indulgences are so closely linked with the ideas of overeating, “bad” foods, “more” or “extra”, and a sinful decadence. To indulge implies you are giving yourself what you want, and this is very closely related to the idea that everyone has “needs”.
To have “needs” does not mean you’re a bad person. To have needs is to be human. In a society with an exhausting demand of autonomy, having “needs” requires the blunt admittance of dependence. Often this is met with extraordinary guilt, when truthfully there’s relief that we do not have to survive this alone.
As mindfulness tells us, it is healing and transformative to be fully present, to have contact with the immediacy of our experience and our reality, and if we allow ourselves, indulgences can help us stay more present.
Food does not only exist to sustain life, but it also exists for enjoyment. Yes, we are supposed to indulge ourselves.
in strength and healing,