Real Food Whole Life

Why Food Isn’t Just Fuel

LifestyleRobyn Downs6 Comments

The Living Within series is about moving away from extremes toward eating and living from and for a place of joy.

In the last installment of this series, I talked about noticing our own thought patterns related to food and exercise. That noticing these patterns--the little voice in our head that’s narrating these relationships--may just be the best place to start this process.

And once we’ve started to be aware of the thought patterns, it’s also time to shed some light on basic assumptions and motivations. 

Like food is just fuel. 

Sound familiar? 

Of course, food is fuel. We need it to provide the essential nutrients to survive. For our body to work and our brain to function, food is absolutely necessary. 

But hold on just a second. Of course food is most definitely more than just fuel. I mean, food is also just plain awesome.

The sensory experience of food alone--taste, smell, texture--can be tremendously enjoyable. A shared meal with friends and family is one of life’s simple pleasures. Instead of thinking of food simply as a source of fuel, then, why not consider it a source of serious pleasure and an opportunity for great joy? 

I think it’s because we’re afraid. Afraid that if we start approaching food from a place of pleasure that we won’t make the right choices.

That if we take away the rules, and the extremes, then there won’t be anything left to keep us from going off the deep end.

Because for this to work we would have to trust ourselves.

Trust ourselves that eating from a place of pleasure won’t result in devouring of an entire bag of red hot cheetos. Or eating fast food for every meal. Or binging on a gallon of ice cream. Or never eating a vegetable. 

I think, though, that eating from a place of pleasure may just be the way to build the trust in the first place.

Because I can tell you from my own experience that when I run into trouble with food it’s not because I’m coming at it from a place of pleasure. It’s because I’m coming at it from a place of scarcity, guilt, shame, or stress. Or some hybrid of all these. 

Shall we get real for minute here? [I mean, why not reveal my innermost thoughts about food to the Internet?]  

Okay then, here we go. As I said in the last post in this series, I’ve been thinking about my thinking when it comes to food, and I’ve realized that there are quite a few thought patterns I play on repeat that are scarcity-, guilt-, shame- or stress-based. For example. . .

“I have no time to eat, I need to just shove this food down and get back to work.” 

“I need a big serving because I’m starving now and because I don’t want to be hungry later.” 

“I need to finish everything on my plate because it’s wrong to waste food.” 

“I deserve the treat because I’ve had a hard day.” 

“Oops, I ate the thing I shouldn’t have eaten. What is wrong with me?!?”

Now, to be clear, I’m not having these thoughts every single minute of every single day. They do pop up frequently, though, especially during challenging or stressful times. I didn’t even realize how often I had them, until I started paying attention in writing this series.

And as I’ve noticed them, it’s become clear that the only way for me to shift away from restrictions and extremes and the food-as-fuel mentality is to replace the scarcity-, guilt-, shame- and stressed-based thoughts with to those of pleasure, at least as the first step.

Which seems rather revolutionary. 

I mean, what if we instead of navigating through the day thinking about food as fuel or as a source or result of negative emotions we instead asked how it can bring pleasure.

What if we asked questions like, “What does my body really want right now?”

“What will bring me the greatest pleasure at this moment”

“What will bring me the greatest pleasure 20 minutes, an hour, and a day from now?” 

Because pleasure is, of course, about taste, but it’s also about so many other things. It’s about the overall experience, of who you’re with, where you are, and what you’re doing. It’s about how food makes you feel at the moment, and how it will make you feel later. 

It’s simply a question of changing the approach. Maybe you want to try it. To see what happens. It’s how I plan on walking through the next week. Maybe you’ll join me.

I love hearing your experience in the comments, or on social. Knowing your perspective helps so much in moving this series forward. 

Until next time.



Read the Living Within series from the beginning:

Part I: On Quitting Extremes: Toward Living and Eating in Joy and Pleasure

Part II: On Starting: Thinking About Thinking

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