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.


  1. Mechelle Beuth says

    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.

  2. says

    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 says

      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.

  3. David says

    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. :)

  4. David says

    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.

  5. JC says

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

  6. David says

    Hey thank you sir!… and I give credit (or try to at least) where credit is due.

    Discipline and hard work! Or you could just say – THERE IS NO SUCH WORD AS CAN’T.


    If you’re eating 3000+ calories a day, then the mental aspect of having the burger as opposed to the stir fry will be different since you’re getting a lot of food anyway, but if you only have 1800-2000 kcal to “spend” then that burger can make up more than a quarter of your total calorie allotment for the day.

    This seems to be my experience as well. One day about two months ago I tried to go the frozen pizza route. I ate (more like stuffed my face with) over a third of my calories in literally 90 seconds and was hungry not long after. Don’t get me wrong, the Cali Pizza Kitchen Pizza was damn good, but it was gone within a snap and wasn’t filling at all. And just a guess – if I didn’t workout right after I ate it, I’m pretty sure it would have made me take a nap within a half hour.

    Something off topic to add. For all you tuna lovers out there. I just went out and picked up Starkist’s flavored (creation) pouches. Damn are they good! I mean really good. It seems like a steal. One bad thing is they are about 2x the cost of cans.

    Maybe its from eating mostly lightly flavored chicken/turkey/shrimp, but they really are worth a try even if you only buy one pack of each flavor. No mess, no water, tastes fresh, nice big white chunks and takes 2 seconds to rip open. And no I don’t work for them (wish I did maybe I’d get a discount 😉 ) But, if you enjoy Tuna I figure I’d pass this on, I wish I’d have known about it 3 months ago. I have only tried the Garlic and Herb, Sweet and Spicy and Hickory Smoked so far. I like the Sweet and Spicy the best.

    I don’t know maybe I’ve been living under a rock and you guys knew all of this.

  7. JC says

    Do you get the myofascial release work down professionally? I’ve read a lot of good things about it and have considered getting a foam roller, but I have the feeling that I wouldn’t do it on a regular basis because I’m lazy that way.

    Yes, I have had 4 treatments in the past few weeks. It’s been amazing thus far.

    Go get a foam roller and do it often. It’s one of those things I neglected until now. After going through what I have, I definitely appreciate the foam roller, even though I dread it.

  8. says

    Yes, I sit at a desk daily as well. I am paying for it as I have been having to get some myofascial release work done on my hips from prolonged sitting. Make sure you are getting up every 20-30 minutes to move around and stretch a bit.

    I totally need one of those treadmill desks :p.

    Do you get the myofascial release work down professionally? I’ve read a lot of good things about it and have considered getting a foam roller, but I have the feeling that I wouldn’t do it on a regular basis because I’m lazy that way.

  9. JC says

    @Christy: I like whole foods for the same reason you do. I like to feel full. Now when I am extremely active, calorie dense foods come in handy.

    Yes, I sit at a desk daily as well. I am paying for it as I have been having to get some myofascial release work done on my hips from prolonged sitting. Make sure you are getting up every 20-30 minutes to move around and stretch a bit.

  10. says

    Since I started eating a lot of veggies and whole foods and exercising regularly, I get sick maybe once a year and it’s usually just a cold that goes away within 4-5 days. Prior to that I’d catch every bug in my vicinity and I had a real problem with strep throat. The other thing I appreciate about whole foods is that they are less calorically dense so I can eat more of them. I’d rather have a huge bowl of stir-fry with tons of veggies and chicken than a small, unsatisfying burger from McDonald’s. If you’re eating 3000+ calories a day, then the mental aspect of having the burger as opposed to the stir fry will be different since you’re getting a lot of food anyway, but if you only have 1800-2000 kcal to “spend” then that burger can make up more than a quarter of your total calorie allotment for the day.

    I just started an office job and it’s amazing how easy it is to just sit on your ass all day. I’m up on the third floor and I try to get up and use the bathroom on the first floor and I take the stairs up and down. I also use the same bathroom to refill my water bottle. But, yeah, if I wanted to I could move very, very little throughout the day.

  11. JC says

    @David: Haha, I really do not have much to add to what you wrote, except to say that I agree and thanks for sharing your thoughts. You are right in the fact that it just comes down to discipline and will power. Oh, and thanks for the writing comment.

    @Dawn: I like it when you stop by. 😉 It’s really amazing when you think of how much our lifestyles have changed when comparing ourselves to our ancestors. If you would have told them we would be sitting at desks hitting some keyboard and staring at a screen they would’ve sent you to the crazy house.

    I agree with you about whole foods. I find that I feel much better when eating fruit and oats rather than when I have weeks of nothing but birthday cake and McDonalds due to special events and traveling. I can also relate to missing out on most of the nasty bugs everyone has at work. I attribute it to my balanced diet and a nice dose of good luck. ?

    Italian food? That is my most favorite food EVER. I have relatives that are Italian – some of the best home made food I have ever experienced.

  12. says

    Nice article. I wish I was eating too much and had to cut down my eating. Unfortunately it’s the other way around – I don’t eat enough! :(

  13. says

    Hey JC.

    I learned recently (WW staff meeting) that people 100 years ago expended 1000 calories a day just getting around. Yes, 10 miles a day. They didnt’ eat less then, and they probably didnt’ eat healthier (think whole cow’s milk and fresh butter). Same amount of food, much much more daily activity. That made such an impression on me that I’ve been trying lately to walk more everyday even if it means just parking 10 spaces further. Otherwise, yes, I workout almost daily for 60-90 minutes…but the rest of the time, the vast majority of the time, I’m sedentary.

    As to quality foods. I don’t really believe in going nuts over good and bad foods. Sometimes you gotta have a twinkie, trans fat and all. But eating healthier foods since August 1st has really improved my energy and health. I managed to somehow miss all the colds and stomach bugs that hit everyone around me the past two months. It’s gotta have something to do with the 9-13 servings of fruits and veggies I eat everyday!

    My husband eats to live. It’s annoying, frankly. I eat to live. I come from Italian roots. Food is much more than energy to me. It’s an experience!

  14. David says

    This might be your best article yet JC!

    I’m no chemist and don’t claim to understand all of the metabolic processes. Protein EFA Water and Air of course are the necessities. I would think that while your total caloric intake (and varying amounts of macros) and genetics have the greatest influence on your hormones, a smaller part might be the long list of the micro nutrition (vitamins and minerals).

    I personally think (but could be wrong) that there are better food options. Ie 100grams of carbs coming from broccoli is superior to 100 grams from Wonder Bread. Due to some of the major things that broccoli has (fiber, tons of vitamins, lower insulin response) that Wonder Bread lacks.

    This I am not telling you to completely limit your intake of what you really enjoy eating because that will only make you crazy. is 100% true.

    Balance is key as you said. If someone is truly serious about what the scale says they should be recording their intake and logging their cardio and weight training. It would probably be optimal (assuming they aren’t going keto) including some veggies and some fruit and of course on any diet the healthy fats and plenty of animal protein.

    Did I say I liked this one? I really did! The emotional section was great too. You really should apply to write for a mag.

    You’ve got all these factors that you mention working against you… But once you actually know what you’re supposed to be doing, it is just a matter of applying it.

    You either want it or you don’t! There are too many examples of people in terrible terrible terrible shape that turn complete 180s and get either thin or lean or both. NO EXCUSES! Accept responsibility. For 99.5% of the people your genes are not an excuse. Laziness in the gym and out or in any endeavor is not rewarded, hard work is.

    Life deals everyone a hand. Everyone has varying natural talent in every area. In this area (weight management) it is easier and more natural for some…but not impossible for probably anyone if they want it and work for it. If you CHOOSE to fold, its your CHOICE and you SHOULD suffer the health consequences. If you CHOOSE to work hard and work smart then you WILL reap the unlimited rewards. And as they say – if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything.

    Hope some of that made sense…Kinda started rambling a bit. 😉

  15. says

    Now if someone will please remove the box of Tastykakes from my desk drawer. Hey! How’d those things get in there???? Good thing is it’s been a week and I haven’t even opened the box. Hooray for me!

  16. JC says

    @Yum Yucky: It does look good huh! I eat this stuff on occasion but not too often since I currently have a sedentary job. It’s all about moderation, as you know.

    @Rickard: I am very pleased my writing is of value to you. Changing your relationship with food will not happen overnight. It is indeed a process and sounds like you are nipping it in the bud. Thanks for the comment.

  17. Rickard says

    Yeat another great article! Specially the last part “Eat To Live”.
    Every time I read your article about binge eating it seems like I get my head together a bit more. The first time i read it was a couple of months a go when I was really a mess, but after reading it a couple of times it started to sink in and now I tend to get a more and more healthy relationship to food. I had not put words on it before, but this article helped, now I tend more to eat to live than live to eat.

  18. says

    Ok, I admit it. I live to eat on occasion, but I’m mostly good. But doggone-it JC! That picture has just activated my Greedy gene. Look at that bacon! oooo weee (sorry everybody)


  1. […] And Control your Portion Sizes – it makes a difference. Even if I buy a sandwich from Outpost Health Foods I still save 1/2 for dinner and only eat 1/2 for lunch… today Americans order food and EAT whatever they buy for instant gratification instead of for fueling their body with nutrition to function: think clearly, gain energy, and simply live! Look at all the FAT in these foods most Americans eat regularly! Eat to live! Don’t Live to Eat. […]

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