What I wish people knew about food, eating and having a body

Image:  Portrait of Arnoldus van Rijneveld,  Louis Tocqué, c. 1738, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

Image: Portrait of Arnoldus van Rijneveld, Louis Tocqué, c. 1738, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

Today in my women's entrepreneur group someone asked: What are some interesting things you know because you do the particular thing you do, that you think would benefit the world if more people knew them?

Here's my answer:

I wish everyone knew that we are NOT born knowing what, when and how much to eat. All animals learn from their mother how to eat. 

This wisdom - knowledge like bitter things are good for you, beans and rice are great together, the best blueberries are over there and cleanliness is important to making cheese - has been collected in human cultures for millennia. 

Anglo-American culture has lost a lot of this wisdom. To regain it requires not that we go inward to regain some mythical infantile wisdom, but that we look at what cultures that are still sane about food do. Shortcut to this that I wish everyone knew: EAT MEALS. When the meal's over, stop eating. 

And find all the ways to make meals nice, like eating with other people, instead of at your desk or on your way to the gym or over the sink. Don’t look for ways to move food and eating to the periphery of your life, thinking you pay it too much attention. Pay more attention.

Food IS love. Food IS life. 

As to body sanity, I would borrow my Zen teacher's maxim: Believe nothing, question everything, don't take anything personally.

What are you being told? Question it. Follow the money. Who benefits? What is the ultimate source of this information you have about how your body ought to look and perform?

Ask if the ideal you're being asked to work toward is achievable by anyoneShortcut to the answer: IT AIN'T.

Guess what? 1. the goalpost is *always* being moved because capitalism is powered by human dissatisfaction <- a longstanding condition observed for thousands of years, seems to be part of who we are and 2. an important component of the "ideal" body is YOUTH and are we getting any younger?


Finally, I wish both women and men knew that the reason we strive to reach these culturally imposed ideals - the reason beyond our brain's tendency to dissatisfaction and its exploitation by drug companies, publishers, "beauty" companies, surgeons, street-corner flimflams and everything else - the reason we strive is a biological imperative. Our first order of business here, after survival, is to reproduce. We want to attract mates.

But how many of us turn down perfectly good opportunities for sex to go to the gym? Lots of us! We go to the gym -> so we can "be fit" but really -> so we can lose weight -> so we can buy cute jeans -> so our bum will look good -> so we can attract mates -> so we can reproduce.

I'm here to tell you: That's going all the way around the world for a carton of milk. You can just go to the corner store! We can attract mates all up and down the scale. Expensive procedures not required.

(But I also want you to know you should still go to the gym to be strong! Especially if like me you have any risk for osteoporosis.)


But the #1 thing? Definitely meals, and I know how DURRRR that can sound. Common sense, right? But the truth is the habit of eating meals is surprisingly uncommon.

Thus, it's one of the first things I teach people. Gets rid of a good 80-90% of compulsive eating.

Max Daniels