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How to Eat for Life; Understanding the Point of Food

By Dr. Molly Casey

The Point of Food

Food is a part of our life. Multiple times a day -- sometimes all day long -- we are dealing with food. Have you ever really wondered about the point of it? Many people struggle in a variety of ways with food and put little effort into pondering the different facets and layers to food and the role it plays in our lives. This introspective journey on food is required if you want to change your relationship with it and learn to work with it so it works for you.

One of the most stated new year goals is about weight loss, but people often fail to create sustainable changes to achieve their desired results. Thus, we need to look at all the components about food, the body, weight, and weight loss. Here’s what you need to know about the different layers of food.

The Point of Food

At the most basic level the body is a machine, albeit a complex machine. It is a structure made of different pieces that runs on specific processes. For the overall machine to run optimally, each of the pieces and processes of the machine must work at their highest possible level and synergistically with each other as intended. Food, at the most basic level, is fuel that runs the machine. The amount of fuel, the type of fuel, the frequency in which the machine is filled with fuel, all matter and will affect the functioning of the machine.

More Than the Sum of Its Parts

The body is extremely complex and there are things that affect its well-being and function that go beyond required elements that foundationally make it work. For example, friends are not an absolute necessity to the elemental functioning of the structure of the body, but friendship and the support and love that come with friends affect the function of the body and its well-being. Basically, there is more than just the physiological role of certain foundational elements. Food is no exception to this.

Food Is More Than Fuel

Food Is more than fuel. There are many other factors that play into the role of food in our life and how it affects our bodies.

Enjoyment - Food is meant to be enjoyed -- within reason, of course. In addition to the pleasure humans derive from it, food has a scientific effect on the body. Anyone can eat strictly for fuel -- some strict diets do just that: months and months of bland chicken, rice, and basic vegetables. This is not sustainable for most of us, often because it lacks the component of enjoyment. It’s boring and becomes a chore.

Socialization - There is a social element to food and eating it. A common interaction to engage in friendship, fun, and support is to meet for lunch or go to dinner. Although this is not the only way to socialize, the community element shared over food is not to be overlooked. One main reason folks don’t stick with new food routines is that they are so rigid they don’t allow for flexibility while at restaurants or food gatherings with others. The social element matters with food.

Tradition/Culture - Food is different in different areas of the world. Such variety is even seen locally within the states. Indian food staples are basmati rice, chana (Bengal gram), and are flavored rich in spices. Mediterranean food is full of vegetables, whole grains, seafoods, beans, nuts, and fruits. Genuine Chinese food consists of rice, noodles, vegetables, eggs, and fish. The type of food in each culture varies and there is also variety in how it’s prepared and presented. There is art and creativity in the presentation and tradition in the culture. It matters and can be signs of love, welcoming, and an extension of sympathy or joy. The point is that food is more than fuel, and how it is used matters to how it affects one’s body and one’s life.

Food for Life

You don’t need to delve into every aspect and layer of food in the world. However, to gain a better relationship with food and to better learn how to work with it and understand its effects on your body, I suggest looking at what it means to you. How do you use it or abuse it? What do you want from it? Are you wanting your body to drop weight but you have a horribly destructive relationship with food? This likely isn’t going to work toward achieving your goals. Look at food, your relationship with it, and see how you can engage with it and use it to improve your life.

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