So we have established now, that eating is a human need. The body, this living, breathing, vibrating, beautiful living organism is made of the dancing particles of all matter, and renews itself constantly. The body is at all times a part of the whole and exchanges energy and matter through the lungs, skin and of course through the digestive system.
We cannot willingly control the exchange of energy and matter through air, radiation and temperature, as these systems work independent from our thinking mind and in general we do not think much about it, because the intelligence of the body is able to regulate it and keep a perfect balance. It may tell us to breath deeper or faster, to put on a sweater to keep us warm, or to use a hat or sun glasses to protect the system from radiation. The signals that go along with an imbalance, goes along with a felt body sense, that is interpreted as “pleasant” or “unpleasant” by the mind and action is being taken to rebalance the system.
The same is true with nutrition. The body has an incredibly smart system of breaking down nutrients and using the energy and matter released in this process to renew itself and maintain health and wellbeing. So we eat food to survive and food supplies us with energy necessary for carrying out all the physiological processes to keep us alive and carry out our daily activities. Like above, food intake – how often, how much and what to eat – is controlled by several factors of the body-mind like the nervous system, hormones, and stomach. But also environmental factors like food-availability and climate play a role. These basic factor influence hunger (running low on fuel) and appetite ( which type of food do I need to rebalance) and satiety ( when energy stores have been replenished sufficiently). Hunger is an inborn impulse, a stimulus to eat – while appetite is dependent on the sensory mechanism of the body, to determine which kind of food is needed, which is expressed by the different qualities of food (like taste, texture and smell).
But do we eat to live, or do we live to eat ?
While hunger and satiety are dependent on internal signals, appetite is more influenced by external factors. It is a perfectly calibrated and regulated system, that is designed to keep us healthy. If we left it alone, like we do not care much about breathing, it would not need much time nor effort – just a little awareness and attention.
However, it appears that at one point in time the human mind has discovered the pleasant feeling of fullness that goes along with satiety and has fallen in love with it. The egoic mind is designed to keep us out of trouble, to use experience, knowledge and information to help us use our analytical skills to survive. However, it is a complimentary system and was never meant to take over and run the show. The thinking mind interprets the availability of food not only with survival, which is generally the domaine of the greater body intelligence independent of the mind, but primarily with security and pleasure.
Cultural, social and emotional factors determine our relation to eating and food. Our eating habits are strongly influenced by these factors and often overrule the physiological instincts. When and what we eat is no longer simply selected by what we need, but by what we want. We do not just eat to give the body energy and building blocks it needs, we eat for the pleasures we hope to find in the process of eating and we are more driven by our emotional factors than hunger, appetite and satiety.
The thinking mind knows that eating and food is associated with pleasant feelings and it uses this context to reward itself. And this is how compulsion and addictions to food are born.
So we mostly live to eat and this deserves more contemplation.