What is it that drives us to deliberately damage our health is the question at hand.
There are 3 kinds of diseases. The first type is karmic and the suffering is an experience we have agreed to before we were born. Examples are all sorts of genetic defects, hereditary diseases and the like. The second type is caused by external factors, like the food we eat, heat or cold, radiation, poison, parasites, bacteria but also accidents, trauma and so on. The third kind is caused by chronic stress due to inner conflicts. Obviously all kinds of mixed forms exist, and most factors play together in the development of a disease.
The definition of health is a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, it is not just the absence of a disease. Health is a fluid and dynamic state, constantly influenced by inner and outer factors. Just eating too much, or taking in the wrong type of food, can upset the homeostasis and requires the body to re-establish it’s balance. Obviously, when this is happening too often, the body wont be able to compensate any more and the consequences are damages to structure and function and this may be the starting point of a disease to manifest.
In the course of awakening, when we become more aware of our inner body, we are getting more sensitive towards the effects of an unbalanced lifestyle. We simply get more conscious regarding the wrong kind or quantity of food, drink, temperature, sleep, exercise and, of course, emotions.
Many, years ago I had an Ayurveda teacher who did not grow tired to claim, that it is our food that is killing us. In particular he pointed out the poor choices of our Western civilisation, ways too much protein and sugar. If we consider the intrinsic qualities of the food we eat, it is easy to see why nutrition, digestion and metabolism are at the core of health. We are what we eat, as anything that we put in our mouth is either transformed into energy right away, or it is broken down and either stored or eliminated accordingly. Just to become aware of the energetic effect of the different types of food is already a very useful step in the right direction. I am mentioning this because today everyone seems to be obsessed by food, what to eat, what not to eat, obesity, weight management and so on. Food is what is killing us and I am once again quoting Dr. S Gupta from the fine state of Gujarat, who used to live on a very wholesome and savoury (his claim) diet of milk, rice, vegetables, mung-beans and almonds. I wonder if he is still alive, actually…
So we need to take food into consideration – what we eat and drink and also how we eat and drink. We tend to forget, that we eat to fuel the energy production of the organism, and not so much for the social or sensory pleasure associated with having a meal. Actually, the body needs only very little food to function properly and to become aware of the relationship between what we are putting in our mouth and the energy we need to keep the body going, is a very good first step in terms of a healthy life.
I am mentioning food because just look around – despite the abundance, I hardly see people getting it right, in terms of eating what, when and how much they really need. I tend to agree with Dr. Gupta – food is killing us – but then, we cannot live without food either. So what is it that is misleading us to take in food that does not agree with our bodies and does not provide the energy that is needed? We would not dream of doing this to a car, but we do it every day to ourselves.
The reason is simple. Apart from availability, which I have a hard time to see as a problem anywhere in a Western society, I think it is simply lack of knowledge, cravings for something that is perceived to taste good, and of course sticking mechanically to a habit. So it is actually nothing else but ignorance, greed and attachment, the Three Poisons of the mind.
I kind of wondered why I got into food, but I can see it now.
Food is a necessity, it serves a biological purpose but it is not automatic, like say breathing. If the body runs low on energy, we get hungry and this is a signal to eat something soon. The sensation of hunger is triggered by several hormones in a gut-brain connection, meaning that a certain cognitive process is necessary to recognise hunger as a signal to take in food. But there is also appetite, a psychological desire to eat, often related to specific foods, a learned response, motivating us to eat the right kind and quantity of nutriment.
What happens though, is that we feed the body a long time before it is actually needed. We form a habit out of a biological necessity and most importantly, we fulfil a need, but we don’t energise, we mostly eat to saturate. When we take in food, we do not only feed our body, but also our mind. And it is our mind that controls our eating habits, to a point that we choose foods that don’t work for us and upset the balance. We do it to satisfy an imaginary need of the mind, not to provide the body with fuel. This is how eating becomes easily a learned behaviour to compensate for boredom, frustration or fear.
Once a behaviour is manifested in the mind, it may become the basis for an addiction.