News Alert: Vitamin P Deficiency Leads to Overeating


Ok, sorry for the scary headline. But it seems these days we have to scare people into self-care.

That’s what this is about… Vitamin P has to do with Pleasure in your life. It’s very true that if you have none or little, it will affect your emotional health, which for some translates into struggles with eating.

Here at Green Mountain at Fox Run, we’re often asking women about their spiritual hunger. In other words, if eating is the highlight of the day, something may be awry and indicates a need for fulfillment, for meaning, for an increase in their dosage of “Vitamin P”.

How does Pleasure affect your eating?

As humans we are designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Most of our behaviors revolve around this process. So the question is, how much pleasure do you have in your life? And how does this affect your eating?

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For many, when there is more pain than pleasure, or even all pain and no pleasure, it’s not uncommon to turn to what we might think is an easy form of pleasure (aka… eating) to compensate.

Has eating moved beyond Pleasure?

Sure, eating is pleasurable. We WANT eating to be pleasurable. And yes, it does provide some fulfillment, both physical and psychological. Again, we want that. But, simply stated – it’s pleasurable… until it isn’t.

When eating continues past pleasure and nourishment, it now becomes eating in pain (physical and psychological), which then becomes a new stressor to cope with – the stress of disordered eating. And in turn, there’s not only a continued deficiency in pleasure, but an additional pain to deal with.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to increasing your dosage of Vitamin P.

  1. What is happening in your life that feels pleasurable to you?
  2. How can you keep eating in the pleasurable range, without it becoming physically and emotionally painful?

For many in which eating is their primary source of pleasure, it might seem like an impossibility to have any other type of pleasure.

Totally understandable…ISH. I’d suggest asking yourself:

  • Is eating is really pleasurable?
  • And if so, for how long?
  • And how do you feel after?

If eating really is pleasurable, for the entire time and you feel good after…no problems here, move on to part 2.

But if not then it might mean something kind of difficult – grieving the loss of food as your source of pleasure.

In other words, it might seem like eating is your only source of pleasure, but it’s actually not. And turning to some alternatives may not seem like enough, but they actually do provide some pleasure. The idea is to stack up enough of those other things until it’s good enough.  

Taking the next step… What are alternatives to food that provide Pleasure?

Think about some things that may have been a part of your life at some point that you enjoyed.  Some examples from our participants here at GMFR have included:

These activities really do stimulate the reward centers of the brain, just like eating can.

We may need to do more than one before the desire to overeat subsides. It’s not about NOT eating. In other words, this isn’t about REMOVING something, it’s about being ADDITIVE. It’s about not eating to the point of physical and emotional pain and instead adding some of these other things for pleasure.

Taking the next step… How can you derive Pleasure from eating without pain?
The other part of this process is how to allow emotional eating to stay in the pleasure zone without going into pain, or without going too far into pain. This is all about staying aware while you eat, staying awake, about being mindful.

Oftentimes overeating or binge eating happen while we’re “checked out”, on auto-pilot. We don’t realize we’ve gone too far until we’re done and feeling the effects (discomfort, pain, guilt, shame, etc.).

The point is that on the timeline of that eating experience it changed from pleasure to pain. Eating started, it was yummy and pleasurable, eating continued, the taste/flavor changed, our stomach became more satiated, eating maybe continued, it stopped tasting good at all, our stomach becomes fuller, and on and on until when we stopped we realized how bad we felt.  

If we stay awake during that timeline, we notice the changing flavors, tastes, as well as satiety beginning and pleasure fading. It’s then that we can let it go (the eating) and if needed go to something that is providing pleasure… because our awareness helped us realized that this isn’t pleasurable anymore. This is mindful eating.

How to Move from Grief to Pleasure

I know that letting go of the eating is hard…that’s the grief. This is when we need to grieve the loss of food because it’s not providing us with pleasure.

Instead we move to those things that actually DO provide pleasure, even though it may not seem as good. The idea is to do those pleasurable things until it’s good enough. Until eating pulls on us a little less.

Remember, “Vitamin P” is necessary in ongoing doses. So make sure you front load pleasure regularly. Because if you don’t…. then you will.

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About the Author

Shiri Macri, MA, LCMHC

Since 2004, Shiri’s approach as a therapist for treating binge and emotional eating is holistic, focusing not only on the presented issue at hand but also considering overall health. Working in this way often includes mindfulness-based approaches. Now as a trained MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) teacher, Shiri’s love of mindfulness and meditation practices are at the forefront of her blog writings and recordings. Shiri is the Clinical Director at the Women's Center for Binge & Emotional Eating, affiliated with Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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