People talk a lot about food these days. And when it comes to food and nutrition, there is so much emphasis on food as fuel. What does that even mean anyway? It’s analogous with a machine like a car using gas as its source of energy; food is the fuel you add to your tank, or stomach rather, to function efficiently. I get the analogy, but at the same time I don’t necessarily wholeheartedly agree with it, and have a bone to pick with its constant use. Some of the common sayings surrounding this phrase we hear are: “fuel your body with clean foods, fuel your body with proper nutrition, fuel your body post-workout, you don’t want to fuel your body with cheap or “bad” fuel, do you?” Alright, we get it. Food is fuel! Please excuse me while I top my engine off with some premium octane. Oh wait, that’s a protein shake. Gah! Food is so much more than fuel alone. The food we prepare and eat everyday is an experience, its ritualistic, and is a cultural practice that dates back hundreds of thousands of years to when Neanderthals began cooking in prehistoric times. I mean, if that alone doesn’t shed a little light on the fact that food is more than fuel, I don’t know what will. 🙂
Seriously though, we put so much insistence on food being calories in versus calories out, religiously counting these calories and obsessively tracking our macros (proteins, carbs, and fats), and adhering to specific diets like Paleo or Ketogenic or Vegan to maintain our physical appearances, yet we sometimes lose the beauty that is the food itself. Just imagine all the beautiful bushels of vibrantly colored fruits and veggies that are popping up at your local farmer’s market right now, or go to your butcher and check out all those salty cured meats and yummy artisan cheeses that are available. Ever notice how food usually tastes better when it’s prepared and enjoyed with others? Food should not simply be something that you only look at as fuel for your body. Food and the meals we eat are celebratory and should be valued as abundant gifts that fill our lives, and I’ll be damned if that means ALL my meals have to be bland and eaten out of a plastic Tupperware that I’ve used for meal prepping the Sunday before.
Food is date nights, birthday dinner celebrations, home-for-the-holidays (generational) meal traditions, summertime BBQ’s, and Sunday evening family dinners. We have so many beautifully shared experiences that revolve around food. Preparing and cooking food ignites our creativity and can also be a relaxing meditative practice that allows us to shut out all the daily busy that surrounds us. The smell of certain foods cooking like sautéed garlic and onions, for example, might remind you of someone close to you or of a specific meal that you loved eating as a kid. Food can carry emotional associations for us that bring a little nostalgia into our lives, and leave us filled with yummy memories.
The next time you’re invited out to dinner or brunch, go! Don’t let diets or gains rule your life all of the time. Obviously if you are prepping for a competition or something along those lines, you’re going to be less flexible, but don’t let that food mentality rule your world indefinitely. Be grateful for the food you have access to, and give thanks at every meal.