Eat to Live, Live to Eat
There’s a quote I’ve seen floating around the Internet lately: “Eat to live, but don’t live to eat.”
I understand the underlying message of this: that food should fuel your body and not be what your life revolves around. We, as humans, turn food into a lot of different things, don’t we? Food can be a reward (“I kicked that race’s ASS! I totally deserve a plate of cheese fries.”), a punishment (“I need to lose five pounds; therefore, I’m only allowed to eat egg whites and spinach for the next 48 hours.”), a consolation (“I had a tough day at work. I need a cookie.”), a way to show how much we care (“I love you so much that I baked you an entire batch of cookies. From scratch!”), and so on and so forth. I’ve lived every single one of those situations, sometimes on a regular basis.
When Nick is in town, for example, I generally go on some serious baking binges. He loves to eat, I love to bake, and I especially love to see him enjoying WHAT I’ve baked. He doesn’t expect fresh cookies every time he comes to town, but I enjoy the process of making them for him. For me, in that context, baking from scratch, regardless of what I’m making, is a way for me to say, “I am so glad you’re home, and so I took the time and effort required to make something I know you’ll savor and enjoy.”
(Sometimes I like to dance for him while I’m baking too, apparently).
And seeing him savor and enjoy those treats (and often times enjoying them with him) is beyond rewarding for me.
I also occasionally use food as a reward and a consolation for myself. See my above example of eating cheese fries post-race? Yeah, that really happened after I ran the Baltimore Half.
And after a REALLY bad day at school? I generally don’t want a glass of wine; I want a bowl of ice cream. There are plenty of studies out there that say we reach for comfort foods because they do, in fact, comfort us. I’m no nutritionist, but I’ll be the first to tell you that a brownie just feels damn good after a long, crappy day.
The one food role I tend to have a major issue with is food as punishment. Forcing yourself to survive on foods that you don’t enjoy seems beyond pointless to me; yes, food is fuel, but it’s also a sensory experience in and of itself. I speak from experience when I say that denying yourself the foods you really love will only cause you to miss them and crave them more (and, eventually, go bananas when you eventually come face to face with them). There are plenty of delicious foods out there that are good for you. Why deny yourself the pleasure and true satisfaction that they can bring you?
Other than that, I don’t think any of these food roles are that bad, at least not in moderation. If you’re “rewarding” yourself with a brownie three times a day, well, let’s be honest. Most of us aren’t doing enough to elicit that much “reward” on a daily basis. But the occasional treat for celebration (hello, birthday cake!), fun, or just sheer indulgence? Go for it. Find yourself in Italy faced with an endless assortment of gelato and pizza? Enjoy it. Grandma wants to prove her love in the form of your favorite homemade meal? Savor it.
So I do agree, we should all eat to live. We should treat our bodies with the respect they deserve and feed them real, wholesome, hearty ingredients. But, every so often, when you find yourself in a situation that merits it, let yourself to live to eat.
What do you think? Are you more of a person who eats to live, or one who lives to eat?