Another Way to Think About ‘The Foods Our Bodies Need’

This post is one in a series – here are the previous posts:

In this post I want to come back to the notion of food and dieting, which is kinda what this blog is about. I’m thinking that it needs to be looked at in a larger context – namely because I think some of my past failure is looking at food and dieting as something I do and not something that is part of me.

Now I know over the past few days I’m getting dangerously close to either psychobable or hippy-dippy new age gobbledygook. Neither is my intention nor desire – I think both are seriously suspect and with an engineering and technology background, as well as 30 years of reading skeptical literature that regularly trashes such nonsense, makes  that sort of stuff a serious turnoff for me.

But…I think there are things that are unknowable by science, as well as there are aspects of being human that are beyond description by words. Language is a clumsy tool (especially in my hands) that is only a few thousand years old at most; mankind goes back millions of years and evolved from forebears that go back hundreds and hundreds of millions.

Language pales in comparison to what it frequently attempts to describe.

So let’s agree that there are some human experiences that words can’t adequately convey.

Don’t want to? Ok – here’s an example from one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books – I think it was ‘Blink‘:

Think of Marilyn Monroe.

Bam! You see her face clear as day.

Now describe her features only to me in words so that I know you are talking about Marilyn Monroe.

Ummm…blond, got a beauty mark…her nose is…

Tricky, isn’t it? It’s because our brains have been given plenty of space to recognize faces of members of our own species, but our language centers in the brain – as well as the language we use itself – are inferior to the task.

I have also heard that we are especially attuned to the facial features of our own race – which is why racists will sometimes say of other races ‘they all look alike’. To them – they do.

So where am I going with this? OK: what I’m thinking is that we have to learn to listen to our bodies, but the body does not use language.

‘Sounds like gobbledygook!’ I hear you say, but here’s where I’m going with it – and what in God’s Name it has to do with dieting:

I’m trying to figure out what foods I need to eat to be happy.

Let’s take any food: scallops, for example. I don’t want to parse them through any lens of science, like how many calories they have – at least at first – I want to think about them from a purely sensual standpoint.

For me, without words or descriptions, categories or rankings, scallops are one of those foods that I would think my life so much poorer for if I did not have them.

Once I’ve determined that, I look at them from other angles that are more important to my rational mind. Note – the rational mind comes second in the equation. It’s not forgotten – but it doesn’t take precedence.

As I’m on a low carb diet and I’m not concerning myself with environmental issues in this example,  scallops get listed on my preferred list.

Let’s take another one: beer.

Before I went on a low carb diet more than a half-dozen years ago, beer and I had a very close intimate relationship.

But now? Beer registers a big fat zero on my interest list – even working on the assumption that I can have anything I want with no restrictions.

Why is that? I dunno! I can’t explain it – words don’t help here!

OK – how about another: French bread.

Honestly – French bread, hot out of the oven, with some fresh sweet butter, is one of God’s gifts to man. At least that’s what my body would say if it spoke – or something like that in translation. Beer – after 7 years does not create cravings. French bread does.

For me to try to resist French bread would not only be futile, but it would be missing out on one of the great real pleasures in my life – and life is meant to be lived with as much substantive pleasure as possible.

So now my rational mind comes in to inspect this: hmmm – not good – it’s going to ruin a low carb diet. My emerging diabetes isn’t compatible with this either.

Here we have a conflict between mind and body – and I think at this point I have to say that the body wins: you can have French bread – but the rational mind says: in moderation, OK?

One last example: cookies.

I like cookies. But if I were to be given that classic ‘if you were on a desert island, which would you choose?’ question, I’d go for the French bread over the cookies.

Some of the conclusions that I come to in this example is that:

  • There are a lot of things I ate because they were forbidden rather than because I truly love them
  • Life is too short to eat things you don’t truly love and I shouldn’t waste my time or the calories eating them
  • You have to have a lot of patience and listen very carefully to tell the difference between what you love to eat and what you think you love just out of some habit you picked up
  • Sometimes it might help to give up something you ‘love’ for a period of time to see just how you adapt to it’s absence – perhaps after a while you won’t miss it – or it might leave an aching hole in you forever. You don’t know until you try
  • Sometimes you will have to make peace with your body – and understand that prohibiting some foods from your life is simply too much for your body to bear. That’s when the rational mind must accommodate the body and accept this – not as a flaw or a weakness, but just as what is – and learn to work around it.

To be contiued…

4 thoughts on “Another Way to Think About ‘The Foods Our Bodies Need’

  1. I keep thinking about this “stuff” while trying to switch to low carb too. I quit smoking not through will power or anything but because I was somehow just ready. I fell in love with a man who didn’t like smoking; he never made me choose between him or smoking – I just found I was no longer interested in smoking. Same with drinking – I stopped while I was pregnant and now, eight years later, just don’t have any desire to do it again. But I can’t figure out how to do this with food. How to simply move into a healthier way of eating just because it’s natural and feels good to me – instead of struggling and telling myself, “you can’t eat this, you can’t eat that.” Eating is such a natural, pleasurable thing, it seems that any long term “eating lifestyle” will have to be natural and pleasurable too.

    1. You know, Karyn, I’m a big believer in doing things when it feels right. A lot of times I’ve tried to make a change, only to fail, then I would try again. What I found was many times it came down to ‘the right time’. I frequently try to change other aspects of my life – uncluttering, buying new clothes, going someplace new – as a way of dehabituating myself in other ways. It’s all connected (somehow) and I find that sometimes helps.

      Right now, I’m trying to learn more about cooking and food – trying to treat the the food with a bit more care. I’m focusing on low carb dishes, and perhaps this will guide me to a new way of eating low carb that will help me attain my weight loss goals.

      If it doesn’t – I try something else – and I learned something about the art of cooking in the process. Not a bad deal.



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