Do you eat to live or live to eat? Are meals a disruption in your day or glorious moments you look forward to?
Is food an art form, a culinary moment of splendor achieved for pleasure or just some calories best consumed if you want to continue to maintain life? I confess I belong to those who live and love to eat!
For years I did not understand the phrase “Oh, I couldn’t eat another bite” as I had seriously never been in a situation where I sincerely believed that I couldn’t consume one more bite of food. But after finally confronting my issues with food I am finally able to say, “I’m satisfied and don’t need another bite.”(This is more difficult with chocolate crème brulee sitting in front of me as one more bite seems imminently do-able.) This has taken about three years of figuring out what food means to me and it clearly meant a whole lot more than a nutritional necessity.
Today we are more knowledgeable about the nutritional aspects of what we consume and perhaps even use words like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins or minerals with some measure of understanding. Labels now contain the amounts of these things and there are guidelines to tell us what amounts are healthy and what aren’t. Most of us know that cholesterol is bad for our circulatory system and can block the life’s blood flow if certain complicated conditions are created by too much of this, too little of that. We know that there is not a pill to cure all the careless eating we have done through the years or one to take unwanted pounds away as proof. But often we deny we know this.
Food is so much more to our culture than just a material of plant or animal origin we must ingest and assimilate to produce energy, stimulate our growth and keep us alive. We need food to maintain the life process. It is crucial. People die from lack of food. People have terrible health problems from lack of proper nutrition or eating the wrong kinds of food. Food, along with shelter and a sense of safety, are the basic needs people require before they can lift themselves beyond mere survival to enjoy the meaningful things in life like art, poetry, a mountain vista or ocean’s undulating shoreline. You might write a symphony or a novel or join the battle against killer diseases like ALS, cancer, Alzheimer’s or the common cold. But you can’t do it hungry. The physical body requires good fuel to function well and that means going beyond eating to assuage hunger or emotional pain. Proper nutrition is the goal and food is the means to the end.
In our society, we use food as a tool for socialization. We go out to eat, we cook meals for friends and family to get everyone together, and planning holiday menus is tradition for many. “Breaking bread” together signals friendship and caring. We take food to the sick and the grieving. We want to comfort those in pain by offering them something to eat. We want to comfort them with food and we often comfort ourselves with our own particular “comfort food.” Most often the food we want to comfort us is loaded with sugars/carbs/calories so we often feel guilty when we fill ourselves with such consumption. My thinking is it’s OK.
From our escape from the womb, our mouths were the means by which we oriented to our new less comfortable surroundings. We suckled milk, chewed our fists and fingers, sucked on a pacifier and learned the world by tasting it. When we got to baby food, we were in awe of the power of taste and texture. We had no idea about tacos, pizza, sushi, steak and potatoes or we would have developed teeth earlier.
It’s expected that we will use food to comfort ourselves. And sometimes to punish ourselves as we deprive ourselves of food we love to eat in order to lose weight or atone for over indulging. We think of food as good, bad, comforting, harmful, delicious, necessary, a bother, a joy, too much trouble, a reward and a jillion other meanings. Everyone has their own personal relationship with what they want to put in their mouths. And after everyone is able to feed himself, warnings to anyone who tries to interfere with that.
While I admit I have never left the house at night in search of a celery stalk and I have for a Hershey bar, and there probably isn’t a loaf of bread on the planet that I couldn’t mate with, sugar is my kryptonite. My advice: don’t give it up; just limit the amount. It seems that following the old adage, “moderation in all things,” works great in your relationship with food. Especially with tofu, kale and strange looking tubers.