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Eat to Live, Live to Eat

June 1, 2011

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.

(Post-cookie bliss)

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?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2011 9:58 pm

    Thanks for this post. It is nice to hear these comments in this way. It puts this into perspective; the crowding out principle. You can eat things that you like and are good for you and the more you eat these healthy, yet enjoyable things the more you will “crowd out” the bad stuff. So if you celebrate a success with something like fresh berries with some cool whip is a nice treat, you can also add a slice of angel food cake, then you are still treating yourself to that dessert, sweeter sort of food… but “crowding out” processed sugars and foods that the body really does not need. I love how you made the reference that the food is fuel for the body. This totally is a great way of looking at things. I also like the idea that the body is our temple. Do we really value our sacred physical body when we stuff it full of processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy food items? That is helpful for me to think about when tempted with a negative food option. My boyfriend just brought me home a pepsi and it is 9:57. It was really nice of him to think of me and I will probably give in and drink some of it Friday or Saturday- but what stopped me at this point tonight was to think of my sacred body and how well it got treated today and how physically healthy it feels. And that made my decision to have water with dinner and hold off on the soda for now much easier! Thanks for the post today. Great reading!!!

    • June 2, 2011 7:00 am

      I agree, and I really do believe that, sometimes, my body could use some chocolate! Not at every meal, not even every day, but if that’s what I want, that’s what I’m going to have. Not as a reward, but as an acknowledgment that “treats” do serve their purpose when eaten in moderation.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Allison permalink
    June 2, 2011 12:28 am

    Well.. considering I graduated from culinary school I definitely live to eat.But like you said I do it in moderation. I really enjoy a NICE dinner. and while the husband is off defending the country have a taken myself out um, alot? yes. I am a person who really like to enjoy the entire meal as the chef intended it to be also , so that means(usually) ordering an app and dessert. Its just how i roll. of course every meal is not like that I have had my fair share of cereal for dinner , and weeks of salad. I can not just eat to live. it would make me miserable.

    love the blog Hilly. WTG.

    p.s don’t judge me on my grammar 🙂

    • June 2, 2011 6:57 am

      Haha I would never judge you on your grammar (and it was just fine, to boot!)

      I agree–we all enjoy a nice dinner. One of my favorite things to do is eat at a nice restaurant and enjoy the experience of the meal—the ambiance, the wine, the food, the company. I think that is one of life’s greatest pleasures (and one of life’s OLDEST pleasures), and to deny ourselves the opportunity to “indulge,” just every once in a while, is sad.

      Glad you like the blog so far. I hope you keep reading : )

  3. June 2, 2011 6:51 pm

    Hey Hillary! I found your blog via Healthy Tipping Point’s comments – I’m going into grad school to become a secondary history teacher and it’s always nice to hear from teachers in the field! I’m nervous about balancing work and school in the fall but I’m sure the actual teaching will be 100x as hard.

    And did I read that you’re from Rhode Island?!?!? I live in Providence!

    • June 2, 2011 7:03 pm

      Hey Erin!

      So glad you found me! I’m a middle school English teacher, and I’m in the third semester of my graduate program (I’m getting a master’s in curriculum and instruction). You’ll find time to balance work and school—that was my biggest fear too and, eventually, I figured out a system and made it work for me. And yes, the teaching will be hard, but you’ll do it!

      And you did read that I’m from Rhody! I was born and raised in Cranston, and I graduated from URI. I moved down here to MD after graduation because it was so hard to find a job back home (my parents had moved here the year before, so the transition was a bit easier!)

      Again, it was so great of you to read and comment! I hope you’ll keep dropping in—we obviously have a LOT in common!

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