Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat

photo credit: permanently scatterbrained

The title sounds easy right?  Eat to live, don’t live to eat.  Simple enough.  So why do I go to the park and half of the people I see are overweight or severely obese?  Why are their kids fat?  Why do my coworkers have fat rolls that hang off the back of their chairs?  It’s a question I have asked myself over and over again.  There have been many theories as to why people are fatter today than they were 100 years ago.  Now you can choose to believe the BS about good calories and bad calories or that we are fatter because we don’t eat like our ancestors.

You can also choose to believe that calories don’t matter and we are fat because of the processed junk food we consume so much of. By taking a look at fat people, we can make the most probable assumption that they consume more calories than they expend.  So, if you are in tune with what happens when energy intake is greater than expenditure, you know the excess energy is stored as body fat or contributes to LBM gain under certain situations.

Why is this important?  A long time ago when we had to chase down our food and stab it with a sharp object, storing fat was essential for survival as it could be days or weeks before we might feast again.  So after I expended all of that energy hunting down the kangaroo, you can bet your sweet loin cloth I am going to sit and stuff myself for the next few days.  Now some of that ingested energy went to preserving lean body mass but a lot of the excess was shuttled right into my fat cells.  Thankfully we have the ability to store fat, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today writing this article.

So here is what I have noticed.  While it’s not revolutionary, it’s not something we think about much.

We are Emotional Eaters

Many of us are emotional eaters.  We sometimes eat to relieve stress and find comfort in eating certain foods.  While I have not looked at statistics, I am willing to bet those of us at high stress jobs are more likely to be overweight than those in less stressful positions.  I witnessed this at a previous job where over half of the workers there were over weight and some were dangerously obese.  The day job was very stressful and the cafeteria served some really calorie dense food.  People would go to lunch and take the edge off by eating a foot long chili cheese dog or go down the road and polish off a few big macs.  Then when it was time to head home, I am sure many hit the pint of ice cream for their post dinner indulgence.  I have also noticed people working in lower stress environments to be slimmer and more fit.  I supposed they had more energy and vigor outside of work to be more active than their stressed out counterparts.  Now this could all be coincidence and anecdotal but I have a hunch there is more to it than that.

Lots and Lots of Food

If you live in America, you know how easy food is to come by.  We are constantly being told to eat thanks to TV, radio and the internet(I am thinking about ordering a pizza right now because of the Domino’s ad I see on the web page).  This seems to screw with our natural cravings.  It’s like we only become hungry because food is always in front of our face. So we only think we are hungry. We eat and then a few hours later are bombarded again with more advertisements of food. Time to go to Wendy’s! No wonder we are a bunch of fatties.

Lack of Balance

This is probably the biggest factor in the obesity epidemic we are facing. The fact is most people are very sedentary. We wake up, go to work, sit for 8 hours and return home to sit some more until we hit the sack. Now this may sound a bit exaggerated but it’s not far from the truth for many. Most of the people living like this are very chunky too. People like to argue and say they have a metabolic disorder. They say “I eat the same amount that my grandparents used to eat and they were always thin.” I wonder if working on a farm and doing manual labor had anything to do with them staying so slim?

If you are sedentary and desire to maintain your weight it’s most definitely a great idea to begin working out a few times per week, burn some calories and move around a bit more than usual. Perhaps you can begin walking on your lunch break. If you don’t have time to do any extra activity, then the only way to manage your weight is by watching what you eat and keep it at your maintenance intake. Now ideally, you will be doing both of these(exercise and watching your diet) for optimal results.

Eat To Live

Eating purely out of necessity is often hard to do because some food tastes so good. Sometimes we eat a little too much or indulge a bit too often. I am not telling you to completely limit your intake of what you really enjoy eating because that will only make you crazy. This is coming from the guy who eats cereal every day because he absolutely loves it. I really love a big bowl of Cap’n Crunch with cold whole milk. The main point I am trying to make here is we should view food as energy and nothing else. You simply need energy to live. Do not get hung up on food being bad or good, clean or unclean. This will only lead to a terrible relationship with food. I have experienced some slight issues with binge eating, thus I had to take the time to reestablish a healthy relationship with food. Nowadays I am not concerned with what I eat, as long as I eat enough for my current goals. I make sure to get my protein, fish oil and fill in the rest with the other macros. I may eat pizza, tacos, oats or have a few beers. Once you can view food as nothing but a fuel source, a piece of chocolate cake or a bowl of rice is essentially the same difference. They both provide energy. We need energy to live. Don’t live to eat, eat to live.

April 4, 2009

  • Mechelle Beuth November 29, 2010

    I admit, I’ve not been to this website in a very long time. but it had been another joy to see your excellent articles.

  • Travis April 01, 2010

    I’ve long thought the same thing JC… that eating should prolong us and benefit us, not shorten our life span and make us feel like dirt. That doesn’t mean being a food nazi 24/7, but it DOES mean understanding the intended purpose of food and not letting it get the best of us. Ultimately we should control food… food should never control us.

    • JC April 01, 2010

      absolutely. food is something I just view as energy any eating as something I “just gotta do.” Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it. but it doesn’t consume me.

  • JC May 05, 2009

    hey to you!

  • Autumn May 05, 2009

    Just saying hi ;-)

  • Saj April 15, 2009

    That burger looks yummy :) And the article is excellent.

  • JC April 14, 2009

    I think you have problems if you would choose packaged tuna over a nice, bloody steak. just sayin’ ;)

  • David April 14, 2009

    Yea I’d say the same for me too. The canned is very very bad. At least the chicken doesn’t make you gag. But its like choosing between lung cancer and stomach cancer – they both suck! ;)

    Although I might eat one of these pouches over steak on any given day. :)

  • JC April 14, 2009

    well on any given day canned chicken>canned tuna IMO

  • David April 14, 2009

    Yea, I guess you get what you pay for… The only way I can even eat canned tuna is to take it out of its can and squeeze a lime or lemon juice on it. Even then it has an inferior taste texture and quality to almost any other protein source I can cook. Maybe it isn’t fair to compare the two (cookable food with canned). A lot of canned chicken is damn nasty as well, and is loaded with sodium up to wazoo.

  • JC April 14, 2009

    I really like the tuna pouches but dislike the price when comparing to the regular nasty canned tuna(gag reflex).

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