Why do we need to eat? To provide us with fuel, right? If we really did just need fuel, or calories, to keep going and that was all that mattered, wouldn’t that mean we could just eat a certain number of calories a day, regardless of the source? For example, if all we were interested in was calorie intake, 200 calories of snack cake would provide us with the same fuel as an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter. That, however, is not the case. Our bodies are much more complex than that, and we need a wide array of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals in addition to the energy food provides us. What we eat helps our body do its job – strengthen bones, muscle repair, make hormones – and tells our bodies how to function properly – what hormones to express and when, when to release an immune response, and so much more.
Because our bodies don’t burn fuel the way machines do, we can’t look at food and the calories food provides as fuel. Every body digests and processes food differently, and our own body differs in how it digests and processes food throughout the day. Not only do our bodies process calories differently, calorie values assigned to foods are not always accurate, so counting calories doesn’t really work, and it can also drive a person crazy! A better alternative to calorie counting is to eat a wide variety of mostly whole foods in appropriate portions for your gender and personal needs.
Food also tells a story about us and our personality. It can indicate to others where we’re from, what culture or cultures we’re a part of, if we’re vegetarian or vegan, how conscious we are about what we put in our bodies (processed vs. whole foods), how willing or unwilling we are to try new things, and so much more! Not only does food tell a story about us, it helps us connect with others. Eating with people we care about provides multiple mental and emotional, social, and physiological benefits.
While it is true that food provides us with energy, or fuel, food also tells our story, connects us with others, and can benefit or hurt out health. So what story does your food tell about you? How do you connect with others? Sometimes taking a few minutes to really think about these things gives more meaning to, and makes us more aware of, the foods we’re putting in our bodies and what we’re doing while we’re “refueling.” Hopefully this has given you some insight and now you’ll look at food as more than fuel but rather an experience – and hopefully a positive one!
Think positive, stay active, and smile. -A