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I’ve just returned from an exceptionally indulgent 8 days in Italy.
If you’ve ever been to the home of All-The-Carbs-You-Could-Ever-Dream-Of-And-More you’ll know how much the Italians pride themselves on the top-notch quality of their grub.
Being emotional extroverts with a very high pleasure threshold, my boyfriend and I threw ourselves into the experience with little care for body-related consequences:
There was a gorgeous (and inevitably drunken) wine tasting at a vineyard.
There were lunch-time Aperol Spritz’s and late-night trips to the gelateria (double-scoops, dairy-FULL).
There was an exquisite 7-course meal at the 60th birthday party we were attending in the rolling hills of Abruzzo, which included some other-worldly truffle-smothered gluten-free pasta (made especially for me and one other fellow gf buddy).
Let’s just say, it was like the 5:2 diet - minus the fast days.
And of course, as well as many moments of near-orgasmic pleasure, living like this for over a week also resulted in a few naked turns in front of the mirror, pinching my love handles and feeling ugly, ashamed and just plain wrong for the epic nature of my holiday consumption.
One afternoon, after a pot-luck lunch of parma ham, melon and about six different types of cheeses and meats (washed down with a glass of prosecco), I went into my room to change into my bikini for the beach.
As I stood there looking at my expanding silhouette in the reflection ready to launch in to my usual body slag-fest, I had a random but very affirming revelation – likely inspired by the ancient culture we were immersing ourselves in between meals:
A Goddess’s primary concern is pleasure, not perfection.
Being the eternal geek that I am, I took this as a cue to get on Google and find out if this was just my wishful thinking masquerading as insight (this happens to me more than I’d care to admit), or if the ancients really did see pleasure as something to be respected and celebrated, in the same way that moderation, self-control and discipline still are to this day.
To my delight, I discovered that way back when, the Romans had worshipped a goddess called Voluptas (huzzah! my love handles immediately exclaimed as I read these words, up yours size zero – where’s YOUR deity?!)
Voluptas (‘Hedone’ to the ancient Greeks – which is the root of the English word “Hedonism”) was the personification and goddess of pleasure, enjoyment, and delight – more specifically, pleasure associated with the senses (you know - eating, drinking, bonking etc.)
I put down my phone and glanced back at my full-bodied figure in the mirror.
What this new information had given me was an unexpected choice:
I could choose to continue to berate myself for my holiday indulgence, pinching and scrutinizing my wobbly bits, cellulite and lack of a thigh gap (*insert bored eye-roll and elongated sigh here).
I could proudly and contently observe all of the above as marks of my commitment and devotion to the goddess Voluptas (my new favourite lady-ruler) and say:
“THIS is a body that has savoured and luxuriated in the simple pleasures of fresh, delicious food-fuel: melting burrata, christmas-red tomatoes, the ripest of avocados, the creamiest of gelato.”
“THIS is a body that has relished every sip of crimson wine generously gifted by the Montepulciano grape, and revelled in drunken twirls around the dance floor to real-live music created by real-live instruments.”
“THIS is a body that has prioritised pleasure over productivity, laughter over logistics, orgasms over organisation.”
“THIS is a body that has allowed her heart and soul all the joy, fun and liberation they can take, and has cherished the companionship of those she loves and who love her back wholeheartedly.”
“THIS is a body that went to bed late, slept in later, then dedicated her entire morning to being adored and worshiped by her lover amidst crisp white linen, as the spring sun warmed their browning bodies through the Venetian shutters.”
“THIS is a body that cares not for ‘should’ or ‘ought’, but follows her desires from moment to moment, permitting herself to feel shaken with euphoria right to the end of every single toe.”
“THIS is a body that may not feel so ZEN right now - may not have drunk her green juice or practiced one single downward dog in a week, but by GODDESS does she feel satisfied.”
I don’t know about you, but even just writing that has made me feel delighted to be alive.
Because we are allowed to enjoy our time on this planet, you know.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and all that.
What’s so excellent about allowing myself to embrace pleasure – fully and guilt-free – when I’m on holiday (or at any other time I so desire to) is that I tend to find myself looking forward to returning to healthy eating, regular exercise and having a routine again.
Because my appetite has been satiated, discipline no longer feels like depriving or denying myself – it actually feels like a reward.
So, here’s a revolutionary approach to life:
Play FIRST, work SECOND.
I think the goddess Voluptas would approve ;)
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
I’m aware that for some the above mantra and idea could be disasterous… unfortunately, we’re not all able to fully indulge our pleasures and desires – especially if we’re prone to addictions.
However, I still believe we could all do with allowing ourselves some more pleasure in our lives – in whatever way works for us.
I’d love to hear your thoughts around this – how could you bring more pleasure to your life? How would your life look and feel if you prioritised pleasure over work more?