An athlete may answer the question of why they eat by saying they eat for energy, strength, and stamina, all in all to perform their best. No matter what your professional designation in life, we all need to look to this answer, and realize it applies to all of us.
It has to do with performing your best. In the case of an athlete this may be realized at the physical level of being able to jump higher, run faster, or bike longer. However, in the case of athletes, and everyone else, it may be applied in a mental sense, to think clearer, react faster, or focus longer. And still for certain people it may mean a spiritual sense of being able to, stay in a state of meditation longer, generate a stronger life force, or better cultivate compassion toward others. All of these aspects need proper nutrition in order to be preformed to the best of our abilities.
So what is proper nutrition, what is food? The Oxford English dictionary describes food as, “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink in order to maintain life and growth.” Thus the substances found in food like products that do not help us to “maintain life and growth”, are therefore NOT food.
How do we know what is food and what is not?
This question is getting harder and harder to answer every day, especially when seemingly “regular” food items like vegetables are sprayed, irradiated, and genetically modified. It’s also difficult when, advertising promotes false health claims, industry fails to give us a straight answer, and we’re too busy to dig for the truth but there is hope! It’s impossible to research every company we buy products from, so start with buying less processed foods. Begin to seek out organic fruit, vegetables, and meats. Find whole raw nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Buy organic non-GMO dried lentils, beans, and other legumes. For a host of awesome food tips grab Michael Pollen’s book Food Rules.
Food is supposed to help us stay healthy, to help our bodies and minds function at their best. Give yourself the best fuel, consume in moderation, drink water when you think you need a snack, and look to whole foods before processed when looking for food that is indeed food.
Excerpts from Food Rules by Michael Pollan:
#11 Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
Food marketers are ingenious at turning criticisms of their products—and rules like these—into new ways to sell slightly different versions of the same processed foods: They simply reformulate (to be low-fat, have no HFCS or transfats, or to contain fewer ingredients) and then boast about their implied healthfulness, whether the boast is meaningful or not. The best way to escape these marketing ploys is to tune out the marketing itself, by refusing to buy heavily promoted foods. Only the biggest food manufacturers can afford to advertise their products on television: More than two thirds of food advertising is spent promoting processed foods (and alcohol), so if you avoid products with big ad budgets, you’ll automatically be avoiding edible foodlike substances. As for the 5 percent of food ads that promote whole foods (the prune or walnut growers or the beef ranchers), common sense will, one hopes, keep you from tarring them with the same brush—these are the exceptions that prove the rule.
#19 If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
#36 Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.
This should go without saying. Such cereals are highly processed and full of refined carbohydrates as well as chemical additives.
#47 Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.
For many of us, eating has surprisingly little to do with hunger. We eat out of boredom, for entertainment, to comfort or reward ourselves. Try to be aware of why you’re eating, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry—before you eat and then again along the way. (One old wive’s test: If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry.) Food is a costly antidepressant.
#58 Do all your eating at a table.
No, a desk is not a table. If we eat while we’re working, or while watching TV or driving, we eat mindlessly—and as a result eat a lot more than we would if we were eating at a table, paying attention to what we’re doing. This phenomenon can be tested (and put to good use): Place a child in front of a television set and place a bowl of fresh vegetables in front of him or her. The child will eat everything in the bowl, often even vegetables that he or she doesn’t ordinarily touch, without noticing what’s going on. Which suggests an exception to the rule: When eating somewhere other than at a table, stick to fruits and vegetables.