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More reasonable talk on eating

posted by Joshua on December 10, 2011 in Blog, Nature
3 responses

I alluded to a point yesterday that people don’t eat what they want and eat what they don’t want. They diet, avoid things for reasons other people give them, eat unhealthy foods, and so on.

Is this mind-blowing or what?

How can someone eat things they don’t like and avoid things they do?

Food is as basic as things get. What better feelings does life offer than for eating food we like? Could you imagine our ancestors evolving liking eating anything but healthy food? Or disliking eating anything but harmful things? Wanting to eat healthy food and avoid unhealthy alternatives must be fundamental to our wiring. The opposite — eating unhealthy stuff and not getting healthy food — must confuse our systems.

Answering these questions is all too easy. We have become so used to it, we don’t think much of people avoiding things they love to eat or going on diets they don’t like. We’ve gotten used to products based on food — I’ll call them “food” — designed to grossly (as opposed to subtly) stimulate our senses yet so processed that they become unhealthy.

This concept — unhealthy “food” — must be a new concept, however now ingrained. I imagine that more than about a century ago things you put in your mouth were either healthy or poison. Did unhealthy “food” exist then?

Today whole industries create unhealthy “food.” Which led to another thing we’ve gotten used to: companies sell “food” based on made-up stuff instead of the would-be food within. They associate “food” with smiles, love, happiness, fun, convenience, celebrity, status, and so on.

And there, I believe, lies the source of the problem. Companies — industries — purposefully confuse food with “food,” especially for kids, and people don’t learn to tell the difference. Hungry for nutrition, they put “food” in their mouths, not realizing it’s not food, and confuse their systems. They feel full yet lack nutrition. They get a jolt of energy, yet feel lethargic. They feel pleasure as they damage their bodies. The associate pleasure with damaging themselves, not learning to differentiate these things.

Learning more about food — nutritional content, how it grows, how to cook it, and so on — seems to make healthy food ever more appetizing and unhealthy food ever less appetizing. Once you know, you don’t eat something healthy for its healthiness — only for how much you enjoy it. Nor do you avoid anything for any reason other than it seeming unappetizing. We learn to adjust for how we’ve changed our environments. We’ve learned to refine foods to remove their nutrition, leaving only unhealthy parts.

On the one hand I empathize with someone raised with no one teaching them about food, “food,” and the differences between them. On the other hand, anyone with about a high school education and access to the internet can find this stuff out. By the time someone reaches adulthood, if they don’t take responsibility for their behavior, it becomes harder for me to empathize. Kids, it’s hard not to feel for.

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