Ray Eames invented the “visual dessert” and served it to her dinner guests. It is a wonderful example that dessert doesn’t always have to be food. It can be anything we find sweet.

I recently watched the documentary EAMES: The Architect and the Painter. It portrays the life and artistic contributions of Charles and Ray Eames, a couple who are regarded as some of America’s most important designers.

In it, their friend, Kevin Roche, tells a story about a dinner he attended in their home. When the main course ended, Ray Eames served three bowls of flowers for her guests to admire. She called it a “visual dessert”.

Kevin remembers being annoyed and thinking, “What the hell is wrong with these people?” After dinner he went straight to Dairy Queen.

I admit that the visual dessert might not have done it for me. But I love her idea. Dessert doesn’t have to be food. It can be anything that we find sweet. She had such appreciation for the beauty she took in with her eyes. She devoted her life to making things visually appealing. Her aesthetic was deliciously satisfying to her.

Each of us has a thing so delicious to us that we forget about food (and everything else) when we’re involved in it. It might be a cause, a creative expression, connections with others, talking, movement, meditation, work, music, etc.

There’s nothing wrong with dessert. But it is only one kind of pleasure. If it is our only or our primary sweetness, we are leaving other delicious treats on the table. What brings you joy? What is a non-food sweetness that fills you completely? How could you make more space for it? Perhaps consider having it for dessert tonight?

Want help making the shift into a healthier mindset and body? Join us at Center for Eating Recovery for an 8-Week Eating Psychotherapy Group, Heal the Hungry Brain, or for Repair Your Reflection, our monthly, body image workshop where you will update the lens through which your see your body and start to build body esteem. 

Alison Ross is the founder of Center for Eating Recovery in Agoura Hills, California. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in eating and body image. Alison was inspired to start the Center after healing her relationship with food and her body. Her mission is to help others rise above the obsessive and self-hating diet mentality in our culture to find true health through empowerment, awareness, love and self-care. The Center offers treatment for eating and body image problems across the spectrum including food addiction, binge-eating, emotional overeating, yo-yo dieting, bulimia and anorexia.