Some of you might be rolling your eyes… well roll away, eye people, because I’m going to do this anyway. 🙂
The answer to the question that is the title of this post might be pretty obvious to a lot of people. We eat to survive. We eat to fuel our bodies so that we can get on with the things that really matter in life, like sitting around on our bums tapping on our smartphones, or something (yes, I’m kidding… I don’t even have a smartphone).
But is that really the case, when you think about it?
I mean, sure… we eat because we’d starve otherwise. But when we say we’re hungry, I’m willing to be that at least some of the time, it’s purely desire speaking. Our bodies are not actually hungry, we’re just experiencing that urge to stuff food into our mouths as quickly as possible, to achieve that fleeting feeling of truly filling our bellies, that beautifully indulgent abundance only possible in a society that wastes so much food while barely batting an eyelid. But that’s a different problem.
When you put food into your body, what are you thinking? Are you thinking that you’re putting vegetables in to get vitamins and fibre, meat to build and maintain your muscle and carbs to give you energy throughout the day? To some extent yes… I mean, we’ve all felt really smug when the portion of veg on our plate outweighs anything else that might be on there, but unless you’re super healthy and careful about what you eat already, I’ll wager it doesn’t happen every day. Or even necessarily every week (or ever full stop, but then that’s another problem I guess).
I’m going to go out on limb and guess what you’re thinking (sorry if I’m wrong) and I wholeheartedly agree. We also eat for pleasure. After all, we’re blessed with such a ridiculous amount of delectable goods all around us. Putting things in our mouths just to see what they taste like is a habit acquired very early on. Of course, we’re too young as babies to discern what’s dangerous to us and what isn’t… and some people never grow out of it. The most bizarre foods (don’t click on that link if you’ve just eaten or are in any way squeamish) are available all over the planet, every single one of them making you wonder what the first person to ever try them was thinking… and why the hell are they still served now? Are the plants and roots around us not enough? Of course, it’s a matter of perspective. A person in a country where they eat fried tarantulas might see it as a perfectly normal form of nourrishment. In fact, they might view our foie gras and other “delicacies” as equally horrifying… and yes, they would undoubtedly be right. What I’m wondering is what possesses us, as a human race, to strive ever further when we already have all the nutritents we need?
Now please, don’t get me wrong. I *LOVE* food. Food is one of my two great passions in life (the other is writing). I love to cook and I love to eat. Food is one of my favourite topics of conversation. Planning any trip usually revolves around which restaurants we are going to visit. So I’m not writing this article because I believe food is overrated and we should all revert back to gathering wild berries and shrubs. Far from it.
I guess I’m writing this because I do believe that some of us have lost sight of what food is for. Putting yummy stuff in your mouth is incredibly satisfying, there’s no doubt about that… but what are you gaining from it? 30 seconds of pleasure followed by 3 days of guilt? When was the last time you asked yourself: what am I giving my body by eating this? What is this food actually going to contribue to my life? Is it going to make it longer or shorter? Easier or harder? Will it be easy to digest? And when I’m done digesting it, will I still feel good about it?
There is a funfair on in Luxembourg city at the moment. This year is the 614th edition of this fair, so it’s pretty old (the ground rules for holding the fair were set down in 1340) and traditional. Thousands of people flock to it over a three-week period and I’m sure you can imagine that so many mouths need feeding. In fact, the food is a major part of the attraction for lots of people, including me.
My husband and I have only been living in Luxembourg for a little over two years and so this is our 3rd Schueberfouer, but we’ve already established our own little tradition. We’ll go on a couple of rides, and then we’ll have a currywurst and some chips with mayonnaise and a shandy at our favourite food place. As we wander between the differet rides and game stalls, we’ll evoke the possibility of having a pancake or a waffle or some churros afterwards, if we’re still hungry. But does hunger really factor into it at all?
Last Sunday, we did exactly that, only we were so excited about the food that we skipped the rides altogether and headed straight for the currywurst. It was okay, but the chips weren’t nearly as good as last year’s. The portions are aleady quite big and the gassy beer-lemonde combo that is the shandy doesn’t exactly help. By the time we’d finished our not-entirely-satisfying meal, we were feeling too full up (and slightly ill) to go on any rides. Needless to say, we gave up on the idea of churros pretty quickly. So in the end we just went home, feeling a bit sick and disappointed with ourselves.
But did I learn my lesson? No, of course not. I went back to the fair with my colleagues in the week and was treated to a couple of sausages and chips, but again I didn’t feel right afterwards. My stomach was upset for several days, taking longer than usual to get back to its normal self. We also had my husband’s work barbecue on Friday and although I managed to steer clear of some of the junk food, I could’nt resist the free ice cream and waffle in the end. I waddled home again in shame. No wonder I’ve not been able to lose any weight since the start of the summer. I haven’t gained any either, which is no small feat considering the kind of indulging I’ve been doing, but that’s because I’ve been working out quite a lot. Thank goodness for exercise. But is it really worth it if I’m undoing all of my precious efforts every time I open my mouth to eat?
I guess not… I mean, I like vegetables. There’s nothing wrong with them. I like simple nutritious meals that make me feel good and not too full afterwards, and where I can just carry on with my day, guilt-free. I’m trying to become more conscious of what I’m actually giving my body, just so it can keep up with the exercise. Today was chicken curry (with lots of veg) and naan bread, but I left out the rice. Tonight is soup (more veggies). Tomorrow will be leftovers from today. I do need to cut down on the carbs, which are making me feel sluggish anyway. But how then can I explain the piece of cake I had yesterday in town (after our 3rd trip to the fair, during which we ate nothing and only went on rides, because it had to be done)? Well, pretty easily. I’d only had salad for lunch, that’s why. My brain fell into automatic “you’ve-been-good-so-have-this” mode. I think most of you know what I’m talking about. It’s so annoying when it happens, yet we can’t stop ourselves.
But why do we do it? Why do we think cake (or any other sugary calorie-bomb) is an adequate reward when really it undoes everything we’ve just tried to achieve? Why, when I went for a 6km run this morning and had a satisfying but not-too-big curry for lunch, are my tastebuds camouring: “give us ice-cream!” right this minute? I’m not even that crazy about ice-cream. It’s nice, but I can also happily live without it for a few months.
I think my brain (and mouth) has blown his whole eating thing out of proportion. It’s so used to getting such a wide variety of foods that it has me believing I want things I don’t actually need (but then again, it does that in a lot of different contexts). So I’d really like to understand it better and to stop in those crucial moments of self-indulgence, before it gets too late. Of course, I’m not going to deny myself the occasional treat or stop cooking the things I love, but I think it’s time to learn how to eat again. After all, I’m in this body for the long-run (I hope!!) and I don’t want to slow down any time soon.
So next time you and I eat something (good or bad, doesn’t matter), lets ask ourselves: why are we eating this? If the answer doesn’t meet our standards, or if we wouldn’t give it to our children (or dog), then we’ll put it down and push the plate away. Slowly but firmly. Now.
Have a nice week!
PS: I’d like to quickly appologise for the lack of “Weekly Recipe” postings since July, but I’ve hit a wall with those (after only two, I know… pathetic, right?) because while I’d love to share recipes with you, I’m a bit reluctant to share uber unhealthy ones (which are usually the ones my brain supplies when I try and think of something, of course)… and also I’d like to share ones that I actually invented myself, but for the moment there aren’t many of those around. So when the perfect recipe comes up, I will put it on here, but in the meantime, “Weekly Recipe” is officially on hiatus.
PPS: I GOT MY POST BACK! (thank you WordPress, sorry I called you a meanie)