Humans need food to survive. Along with air and water, it’s one of the key basics in life. But that is only one of the reasons we eat food.
1. Food is fuel.
At its core, food is fuel and calories (energy) that keeps us alive. Luckily, our bodies are incredibly wise and are designed to seek out food to survive. Our brain and bodies signal for hunger when we’re running low on energy, and it sure makes it hard to concentrate or do anything when we’re starving.
We are rewarded when we seek out food and re-fuel our bodies through taste buds that come alive and the returning energy and brainpower. Our bodies even have sensors to guide us to how much food we need each time we eat. And it feels unpleasant when we eat past the point of fullness or satisfaction.
Rationally, we understand this: we need food to survive. By tuning into our bodies, we are fully capable of feeding ourselves what our bodies need, each and every meal. Yet, as disordered eating patterns develop over time, we lose touch with this innate connection with our bodies. Eating becomes a sign of ‘weakness,’ and overcoming hunger is a sign of being ‘in control’ of our bodies. Hunger and fullness cues are lost, and the body and its cravings cannot be trusted.
Yet, food is so much more than fuel. If I viewed food from a perspective of feeding myself ‘nutritional fuel,’ my dinner would become an experiment to get the ‘perfect’ amount of calories, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and micronutrients each meal. I could live this way, but I wouldn’t be thriving.
To thrive as a dynamic being, I view food as pleasure, part of social life, and life energy.
2. Yes, food is pleasure!
For years, I didn’t want to accept this because if each time I let myself eat and enjoy food, a part of me would feel extraordinarily guilty. But, our taste buds are there for a very important reason – so, we can enjoy an enormous variety of delicious tastes!
Food is meant to taste good. Take carbohydrates – a macronutrient that is constantly vilified. Carbohydrates are quick energy for the brain (among numerous benefits). When our blood sugar drops, our brain sets out a ‘warning’ signal to our body. Often, this is when we have cravings for carbohydrates or sugars.
By honoring and nurturing these cravings, instead of viewing them as ‘dreaded’ or ‘something to avoid’, we can take care of our bodies.
By giving yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods, you have the power to choose whichever food you want. You may choose a piece of fruit because you’re only mildly hungry and want a delicious and energizing snack. Or, perhaps, you’re pretty hungry and make a full meal with a sweet potato or rice. Or maybe you want a cupcake – enjoying a food simply for taste is reason enough!
There’s no reason to feel guilty for your cravings.
3. Food is social!
Food is also an important part of any social experience, and I’m so glad it is! Food has been enjoyed socially as at feasts, ceremonies, and holidays for thousands of years. Life wouldn’t be the same without Thanksgiving for me – a holiday built around food and family. I enjoy cooking meals with friends or going out for ice cream in the summer, just for the experience of sharing delicious food with wonderful people.
I don’t base my decisions to eat on what other people are eating but rather trust my own inner wisdom.
By giving myself permission to enjoy food for pleasure and social gatherings, I no longer feel deprived or guilty. It allows me to connect to my body, as well as enjoy my life beyond food.
Eating to fuel my body with life energy is one of the most important reasons I eat. When I stopped obsessing about food, I suddenly had an incredible amount of energy and mind space. Now, I also view food as a way to help me thrive with ‘life energy.’
I want to live a life full of freedom, courage, play, movement, gratitude, creativity, and much more. My brain and body need to be fueled with energizing foods in order to write, work with clients, move my body, and practice courage in my life. This means connecting with my body and trusting its inner cues for hunger, fullness, and its unique cravings that may vary day-to-day.
I encourage you to take a look at your perspective around why you eat. What is one aspect of eating – social, pleasure, or ‘life energy’ – that you want to explore and practice in your life?