Why We Eat What We Eat



So, I’m going to gently dip my toe in murky waters today.


I’m going to talk about food. 


You’d think this would be the safest of safes, right? I mean, everyone’s gotta eat! But, interestingly enough, what we eat has become a huge issue, constantly up for argument and debate. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, there’s someone out there happy to tell you you’re an idiot.


I have my own food philosophies, sure. Those ideas also change and morph and, yes, stretch over time. I like learning and I enjoy reading others’ ideas, but I’m typically slow to jump on food bandwagons. Hence, I’m always late to the party. That is, if I even wind up deciding I want to go to that particular party.


But today, I really just want to talk about this entire food business and what I find missing from so many arguments…


We can argue all the livelong day about what foods are most nutritious and how they affect our bodies and what various substances are doing to us. That’s all important stuff. And it very effectively addresses some of the important reasons that we seek out certain foods– nourishment and healing are both very real needs met by food.


But here’s the thing–


They’re not the only ones.


In their own ways, all of the following truly can be valid needs met by food–

  • nourishment
  • healing
  • satiation
  • satisfaction
  • joy
  • fulfillment


Why We Eat What We Eat


Some foods meet many needs, others just one. In my case, for example, a piece of excellent sharp raw cheddar might meet pretty much all of those needs. However, for someone sensitive to dairy, that cheese could be far from healing or joy-inducing.


We choose the foods we eat because they meet needs that are a priority to us at the time. That’s normal. There are times when we’re just ridiculously hungry and might be willing to eat any number of things just to feel somewhat satiated. There are times our bodies are lacking important nutrients and we flat-out crave certain foods to meet those needs. Other times, we seek out foods that bring joy or fulfillment through taste, nostalgia, or association– a rich birthday cake could be an example of that.


I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating a whole variety of foods for a whole variety of reasons. I don’t believe that every single morsel we consume needs to fit in some perfect little mold.


There’s a lot of talk about diets that heal. A lot of theories about just what foods we should be consuming to allow ourselves the best shot at feeling, well, good.


I like that concept, to be honest. I actually really appreciate looking at how food affects us and the impact it has on our well-being. It makes sense to me that, in a very real way, food can serve as a type of treatment or almost medication. But, again, I feel like there’s something missing from the conversation. And that is this:


“Healing” can look different depending on the situation.


When faced with a deep bone infection that required heavy-duty antibiotics, I drank kefir to help balance and heal my system. That’s an example of choosing nourishment to heal.


When recovering from a stomach bug, I always– ALWAYS– follow the exact same pattern of reintroducing food and drink. I sip at Gatorade. Then I attempt a popsicle. I move on to ginger ale and a few oyster or saltine crackers. And, finally, when I actually feel that tell-tale hunger gnaw, I reach for deli turkey on white bread. Every. Time. It is tried and true and, though I don’t eat that way most of the time, it works without fail. It, in a very real way, heals.


When reeling after my miscarriage, I hardly felt like eating. I felt hollow and sad and crushed. A friend, knowing me well, sent me Lucky Charms. I ate them.




This is what is missing from so many conversations. There are so very many reasons we choose to eat what we do. Are some choices better than others? Sure. Are there different theories worthy of debate? I suppose.


But, through it all, I think it’s so very important that we remember that we eat to meet a whole variety of needs. Further, the best way to meet those needs might fluctuate depending on circumstances. And you know what?


These all count. They all matter. They all have value.


Now, pass the salad and a bag of peanut M&Ms, please…

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2 comments to Why We Eat What We Eat

  • Sonja

    That was a breath of fresh air, thank you for sharing. I have been so overwhelmed with all the research I’ve been doing and completely revamping my recipes. I went through very serious depression for a couple months believing I had caused my husband’s heart attack by feeding him whole grains and homemade whole wheat bread. Some of the advocates for healthy living are so adamantly opposed to each other it can be very confusing! Thank you for adding a voice of reason to the chaos!

  • Lori

    I feel like people pick up a cause that doesn’t matter in the long run so many times, and this is one for so many. I try to eat real food 80% percent of the time! and the “bad” processed junk 20%. And I know that sometimes you just really need a little debbie brownie and other times you really need a salad.

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