Something that we always hear; most of all when we are training and working out. I want to debunk this right now. Food is never just fuel and has never been just fuel. Yes, Food is Fuel but oh is it so much more.
I heard this phrase all the time from my family and still do, which is funny because they are the ones that introduced me to various kinds of foods and the vast spectrum of tastes and sensations early. It’s something that holds then hint of disordered eating that I would later come to realize made up so much or my and, statistically, most of your lives.
As more study is put into actual weight and medical conversation, we find out that weight lose is so much more than Calories in and Calories out. This is something of a dated and a gross mislead that flies in the face of actual nutrition and nutritional science. Our bodies are not just steam engines; they are dynamic and complex. Boiling “Food to Fuel” is something that is not only insulting to food, but is insulting to your body.
The same goes for the cultural significance of food. In my past life in Uni, one of the most fun classes what I ever took was called Food and Culture (Go anthropology). It was a remarkable thing to me, even coming from a large Italian family where dinners played such a huge role. We know on a level that food plays a role but it is engraved so much deeper in our personal and cultural identity then we realize.
Food Is Memory
Scent is our most important sense. We might think that it is sight but in reality scent is the one that is most closely linked to memory. When we think about a holiday, it is the scents that trigger these things. Orange and spice rings in the winter. Spring is flooded with the smell of fresh cut grass. The smell of bread baking is nostalgic and lovely t o us, flooding our houses with smells and memories. It gives us emotions; not just nutrients.
Food Is Pleasure
Food tastes good. Food makes us feel good and the quicker that we get over this, the better off we will be as a culture. Demonizing food is actually a pretty new thing; something that came out of our current situation where for the first time over the past few hundred years, most of us weren’t just trying to get enough food in us to keep functioning.
Now though, it is seen as ‘gluttony’. Enjoying something is something that is a ‘guilty pleasure’ or something that is done on a ‘cheat day’. Doing this brings about feelings of uncontrollably though as opposed to the fundamental pleasure that it is. The sooner that we admit that we get pleasure from food openly and do not see that as something to be scoffed at or hid behind the gluten free crackers, the sooner we can get the heck over it. Our bodies want this. Period.
Food is Family
If I ask what you are, chances are a lot of it has to do with what your mother, grandmother or someone in your family made you. It is part of our holidays and part of our childhoods. We grow up with memories of it and of the people cooking it for us. For many of us and our families, this was how we showed our love and devotion. Our mothers and fathers weren’t just fueling us.
Food is part of our Cultural Identity
When I say Italian what do you think? Pasta. When I say Southern what do you think? Grits. When I say Mexican what do you think? Tacos. When I say German…you get the idea. Food plays a huge role in our culture and how we gather. Are we barbecuing in the back or are we all packing tamales for Christmas around the table? How we interact in these kinds of preparation of food is not just about how we interact with food itself or its ingredients, but how we interact with our community.
Food is a Shared Experience
In a world where we segregate ourselves so much and always find something to fight over, food is something that we all have in common and love. All of our foods are different yes but the love is there. The care and preparation is there. The idea of going out and laughing and eating is something that every culture pretty much has in common.
When trying to find common ground, breaking bread is something that we all have in common. Think about the flat bread (A yeast less quick bread). It doesn’t matter where you are from; we can all relate. Israeli/ Jewish culture has the matzo, Italians have the flat bread, India has the Naan, Mexico has the tortilla.
No matter where you are from, the smell of embers and fire rings true, timeless and universal. It is shared and universal.
The moment we stop pretending that food is just fuel, the sooner we as a society can fix our relationship with food. Understand what it means to you and you can start repairing your life and enjoying what you eat when you eat it. Enjoy what you eat and you can stop depriving yourself.