Food as Fuel?

- POSTED ON: Apr 20, 2013

A statement often quoted is:

“Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”

This was a statement made by Socrates, a Greek philosopher who lived from 469 BC to 399 BC. He was the teacher of Plato, and he was executed for corrupting the young.

There are many ways to look at the issues and values of life.
Thousands of years ago, Socrates stated his own opinion on the value of food in life, which has been quoted many times since then. 



I disagree. 

Yes, eating food is required for the body’s survival, and our bodies are designed to make us regularly fulfill that necessary function. However, I choose to value the process of eating highly, simply in and for itself. Food tastes good. I enjoy eating it, and find it to be one of the most pleasurable ongoing activities of life.

As far as I’m concerned, “living to eat” is a perfectly acceptable value choice. 

Life requires us to constantly deal with conflicting values. I want to eat as much delicious food as often as possible. But I also want my body to be a “normal” weight. My vanity; my wish to move my body without pain and be generally in good health are some of the basic reasons for my desire to avoid obesity. So, how do I handle these conflicting values? 

Below is an article which involves that issue

Food is Not Just Fuel,
and That Matters for Your Diet

                               by Dr.Yoni Freedhoff, M.D. - April 17, 2013

Some 12,000 years ago, on the banks of a small river in the western Galilee region of northern Israel, the Natufian people were burying one of their elders. She was a shaman—a medicine woman—and they buried along with her the wing tip of a golden eagle, the pelvis of a leopard, the front leg of a boar, the horns of a male gazelle and a severed human foot.

And while the true meanings of these burial accoutrements were unclear to the archaeologists who found her in 2008, the meaning the 70 charred tortoise shells and the gnawed and marrow-stripped bones of three aurochs— giant extinct cattle—was obvious. They were evidence of a great feast. As well, they were proof of the fact that food isn't simply fuel for our species—food is used for comfort, food is used for celebration and, in all likelihood, food has been used that way since we took our first figurative steps in the savannahs.

Yet, for many modern-day dieters, the use of food for comfort or celebration is expressly forbidden. Those who worry about weight may deny themselves of their lives' most comforting or celebratory indulgences for fear of their—almost by necessity—larger numbers of calories (green leafy vegetables don't tend to be much of a comfort) and their "bet-you-can't-eat-just-one" allure.

Those who worry about health may deny themselves entire food groups—food groups that they may in fact enjoy a great deal but avoid out of fear of a potential health risk or as a result of following a theoretical but as yet unproven eating philosophy.

So what's the problem? Doesn't it make sense to forbid the danger foods, the treats that simply can't be resisted or those groups of foods whose consumption may be unhealthy? Would cutting them out not further a dieter's aims, or is there a downside a person might want to consider?

The past 60 years of dieting, both for health and for weight management, have certainly seen a great many different approaches and options. But the one shared commonality is that, for the vast majority of dieters, diets are short-lived, white-knuckled affairs that, regardless of their actual dietary edicts, can be fairly described as planned suffering. And therein lies the rub.

We're not particularly good as a species at perpetual and unnecessary suffering. And just as we have been celebrating and comforting with food since time immemorial, so too have we tended to avoid unnecessary suffering. Ultimately, when life inevitably throws a blindly restrictive dieter a curve ball, dietary suffering tends to fall by the wayside; and when life lets up, the tendency for most is not to pick it up again.

I sometimes think of blindly restrictive dieting like an icy cold lake on an unseasonably hot day. You work up the nerve to dive in and, after the initial shock wears off and numbness sets in, you splash around happily for a while. But once you climb out, the memory of that initial frigidity is enough to keep you warmly on dry land— diving back in is almost never an option.

So instead of adopting a blindly restrictive, icy-cold lake diet, my advice is for you to practice thoughtful reduction. It's not about whether or not a food or an indulgence is allowed; it's whether or not you feel it's worth it to you, where worth isn't determined solely by calories or content, but also by circumstance, desire and the human condition.

Sometimes it's worth comforting or celebrating with the most nutritionally terrifying of foods. Just make sure, if you've decided it's worth it, to also ask yourself what's the smallest amount of that delicious awfulness that you need to like your life. A small bit of here-and-there awful, and maybe you'll actually stick to your new and improved dietary intake. But deny yourself that chance, and I'd bet, eventually, you'll find yourself right back at your all-you-can eat, unhappy square one

Dr.Yoni Freedhoff, M.D.
www. and www.

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On Apr 21, 2013 jethro wrote:
Although “Eat to live, don’t live to eat” is alleged to be a statement by Socrates, I doubt very much its authenticity since Socrates did not leave any written legacy and all we know about him is accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes. Nonetheless, if you modify the statement to “Work to live, don’t live to work” you have what is known as workaholics, individuals that work so much, when it is not necessary, to the detriment of their families and their health.If we change work to eat, it doesn't have a connotation of food as fuel, a concept foreign to most people a mere 100 years (or less)ago. The message is that those who live to eat are sybarite gluttons with no concern about the health impact for themselves. Dr. Friedhoof is correct that we cannot shutout nor abuse the consumption of certain delightful foods. Like NOS dictates, let's save them for special occasions. But if everyday is a "special occasion" to be celebrated with got problems.

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