The Gifts of Pleasure

30 July 2021 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

One of the very nicest things about life is that “we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating”. 

Luciano Pavarotti

One of our basic gifts is the pleasure we get from the simple act of eating. Sadly, in our culture, many people experience guilt when what they eat is pleasurable –  heard the phrase “guilty pleasures”?
When someone tells us what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat, we lose touch with what we truly want and what is pleasurable. And we lose connection with ourselves.

In a session with a client last week, she shared that she doesn’t know what she wants to eat. She’s followed rules for so many years, she’s not in touch with her likes and dislikes anymore.  When we’ve never been given choice, it takes time to discover what food would be satisfying. At the height of my dieting days I would say “just tell me what I must eat, I don’t want to think about it”. When I stopped dieting and began eating hard cheese instead of fat free cottage cheese and full cream Greek yoghurt again, my taste buds exploded!

If you are unsure what you would find satisfying, start by eliminating foods you know for sure you DO NOT enjoy. And then think about the sensory aspects of food. You could treat this as a culinary adventure. Ask yourself what taste would you like: savoury, salty, spicy or sweet, or perhaps a combination? What texture would be pleasurable: crunchy, creamy, chewy? Do you feel like eating something cold, warm or hot? Would you like the food to be hearty or light and fresh? Discovering the gifts of pleasure and satisfaction in food is a mind – body – heart experience.

Let’s look at some factors that reduce enjoyment from the eating experience:

Food Rules

Rules lead to feelings of guilt, which don’t go well with pleasure! We’ve been conditioned through dieting to fear pleasure from food. I remember hearing “can something so delicious be good for you?”

The “Food Police” in your mind

If your mind is chattering about how “bad” or “naughty” food is you’ll feel so guilty that you can’t experience satisfaction.  Sharing a meal with people who are critical about food choices detracts from the eating experience and diminishes your pleasure in eating.

“We will not be healthier, both psychologically and physically about food until we learn to love it more, not less (…) with a relaxed, generous, unashamed emotion. In the process, it may be that we will have to redefine fundamentally the concept of “eating well”.
Michelle Stacey – Consumed: Why Americans Love, Hate and Fear Food

Distracted eating

We say we love food, but how often do you find yourself eating like it’s a chore? Racing to finish so we can tick off the next thing on our to-do lists? Eating on the go and in a rush? If you are busy answering emails while you eat, your meal will be finished and you won’t remember where it’s gone. Think about it, how do we show up with things and people we love? We give them our TIME and ATTENTION. What would it be like if you gave eating your time and attention?


What does the area where you eat look like?
Cluttered and messy? Is it noisy? Do you eat standing up at the counter? Are you busy with other activities while you eat?  Scrolling through your phone, reading emails on your computer, watching TV or driving?

Hunger and Fullness

If you let yourself get uncomfortably hungry, you will probably rush through your meal in a panic. The ideal is to be gently hungry to get maximum satisfaction. Aim to stop at a point where you feel comfortable and satisfied. When eating something delicious, it can be difficult to stop, especially if you have been deprived of enjoyable foods.

Discovering satisfaction from food is not a perfect process. Let’s face it, there will be times you are rushed and you need to work and eat at the same time. There will also be times when you eat past a comfortable level of fullness. It’s okay. There’s no such thing as a “perfect eater”.

Take a moment to reflect on a memorable food experience:

Where were you?
Who was with you?
Were you hungry?
How was the atmosphere?
How long did the meal last?
How much pleasure and satisfaction did you get from the food?
How much joy did you get from the setting or the people?
How could you bring aspects of this memory into your daily life?

I invite you to try a food experiment to discover the “gifts of pleasure” from a meal:

  • Ask yourself what you truly feel like eating.
  • Allow yourself to experience some gentle hunger.
  • Set the scene in your home.
  • Set the table and use the good crockery. Maybe eat outside?
  • Put on music. Light a candle. A flower in a vase?
  • Make the entire experience as enjoyable as you can.
  • You could even try having the first three bites in silence.
  • Pay attention to the sensory aspects of eating.
  • Let go of criticism and guilt (as best you can).
  • End the meal when you feel you’ve had enough.


I love to hear from you, please share your experiences!

Wishing you peace and pleasure from food!

All my best,

✨ Do you want to stop the incessant food noise and learn to find food satisfying? Are you ready to heal your relationship with food?

Book a free 30 minute mini-session.

✨ Check out the Food Freedom Group course starting in September.

Here is what Karen J had to say about our work together:

“I felt hopeless and helpless in my daily struggle with mindless eating for many years.  Then I found Xen which is exactly what I needed!  My decision to work with her helped me to finally repair my relationship with food.  It’s changing my life for the better, one day at a time.  Now I have control over the food, instead of it having control over me, which is the way it should be.  I highly recommend Xen to anyone who has a desire to overcome similar food struggles.  Xen, thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

Karen L, Denver, USA

“I felt hopeless and helpless in my daily struggle with mindless eating for many years. Then I found Xen which is exactly what I needed! My decision to work with her helped me to finally repair my relationship with food. It's changing my life for the better, one day at a time. Now I have control over the food, instead of it having control over me, which is the way it should be. I highly recommend Xen to anyone who has a desire to overcome similar food struggles. Xen, thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Karen J, Colorado, USA

“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

Sweta Vikram, New York, USA

“Working with Xenia was amazing. She armed me with a bunch of tools to help me through difficult times. Xenia is the kind of person who really cares for helping you in the long run. Her work will forever have an impact in my life.”

Daniela Velásquez, Ottawa, Canada

“Working with Xen was a game changer for me. After working together for a few months my relationship with food radically changed. I no longer felt like a failure. I now have the tools to nourish my body with foods that feel good in my body. I don’t feel guilty about eating cake or chocolate, I also don’t overeat cake and chocolate. I no longer feel the need to exercise to compensate for my eating. I feel much more free around eating and I am more accepting of my body. Xen has a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to coaching and really supports you in the process.”

Rachel, Dublin, Ireland

“Working with Xen has been very empowering. Her approach is so refreshing from the usual. I have learned that I am in charge and that I get to choose what I put in my body and how to move my body in a way that I like! I get to make my own choices. It’s so liberating. Once you get a taste of freedom with food, there is no turning back to old ways! Thanks Xen for guiding me along the way to freedom.”

Heather B, Cork. Ireland

“This is the answer for those of you that struggle with food and all that surrounds it. Xenia said that I could make peace with food and it seemed at the time like an impossible dream. Turns out it isn’t. I recommend Xen and the mindful eating / intuitive eating approach unreservedly. If you have any questions about my experience, please get in touch. Thank you Xen. My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”

Michelle, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Xenia was a walking, living, breathing example of what can be done. I laughed and cried my way through a short course in this fascinating and invigorating programme with her, and have gained a designer tote full of coping skills that go way beyond containing kilogrammes. I feel infinitely lighter. I am doing this for me and, yes, you can do this for you too! And believe me, I’m cynical!”

Diana, Vancouver, Canada

“I don’t obsess about food like I used to. I am thinking differently about food and feeling so much more relaxed around all types of food. It’s wonderful to have pleasure and satisfaction from eating.”

Sarah, Illinois, USA

“I learned a new way of thinking about food. I have learned that food is not the enemy and that it can actually be enjoyed with no guilt.”

Sandy, London, United Kingdom

Certified by The Life Coach School Certified and Trained by The Original Intuitive Eating Pro Professional Member of The Center for Mindful Eating