The Game of Eating - Part One

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This is a three-part series. All three articles are tied together by the theme of knowledge equals health. Part one states the case for the tremendous impact we can have on our health by gaining knowledge.

Part two examines the theme from another angle. I examine whether there is an alternative to acquiring specific knowledge about nutrition. Can we just apply common sense and intuition?

In part three, I will describe the game of eating. The simple act of eating has been transformed into a serious game of eating as our society has advanced. I am not necessarily referring to the introduction of happy meals or fun foods, although that could be considered part of it. The game of eating is a competitive game with serious health consequences. Almost none of us can avoid participating in this game. If we interact with food producers (even natural and organic food producers) by purchasing commercial foods, we are participating in the game of eating. I don’t think it is necessarily bad to purchase commercial foods – many of us don’t have another choice. However, if we lack specific nutritional knowledge, we are at a big disadvantage in this interaction. I’ll describe why in part three and explain how this affects our health.

Knowledge equals health

Our health is directly correlated with our knowledge of good nutrition and good lifestyle choices.

Our ability to stay healthy and to live a long life depends on the quality of our knowledge about health. Knowledge may not be the only factor, of course. Genetics, motivation, environment and other factors influence our health and longevity. However, there is a very simple and very powerful relationship: the better one’s knowledge of health, the healthier one can be. And it works the other way too: without specific nutritional knowledge, it is very unlikely that one will stay healthy.

We either need this knowledge ourselves, or we need a close friend or family member who has this knowledge and who shares it with us. Having a good physician might be enough if you work closely with him or her. However, the nutritional knowledge needs to come from a source intimate enough to influence our shopping, dining and eating at home. There are new choices and new dietary innovations coming along all the time, so it helps if we have easy access to the latest knowledge – either in our own heads or from a person close enough to us that we can get immediate feedback on our eating decisions.
 
Avoiding chronic diseases depends on our nutritional and lifestyle knowledge as much as anything else. Our health is a function of our knowledge. If we know enough, and the things we know are of good quality, then we have the ability to greatly reduce our risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many other chronic diseases.

Better knowledge of health means knowing the right things and knowing enough things. The knowledge connection is qualitative and quantitative.

The purpose of this article is just to remind us that our knowledge correlates with our health and longevity in a very powerful way. More (quality) knowledge equals greater health.

I’m not arguing that simply reading books will improve one’s health, of course. However, I would like to advance the view that we must seek out knowledge about health if we hope to avoid the plethora of diseases confronting each of us in modern society.

Sometimes we think that being healthy is about depriving ourselves: don’t eat this food, don’t indulge in that, etc. Other times we think being healthy is about forcing ourselves to do things we might not want to do, or might not have the time to do: go to the gym, fix a good breakfast, etc. Of course, we do need some discipline and we do need some motivation, but knowledge underlies both of those things. The point I hope to make in this article is that we can change the focus from depriving ourselves or forcing ourselves to learning. With new knowledge all the other things become easier.

Not only does knowledge provide a source of motivation, it also leads to more options. Some of those options may let us avoid those unpleasant things I just mentioned. For example, at one point in my life, while a competitive athlete, I was on a very difficult and very restrictive diet prescribed by a physician. Some time later I was advised by a physician who used another discipline (Ayurveda). I was shocked how easy and pleasant his whole program was. In fact, I distrusted that a program so easy to follow could actually work, but it did. In that situation, knowledge of a specific field of alternative medicine brought me results and also allowed me to avoid the alternatives that were much more difficult. In this case, I simply needed to know enough to seek out the right health professional, but without specific knowledge, I would not have found the solution I needed.

I believe that personal knowledge is the foundation of excellent health and longevity. I often encounter the argument that we should just be able to apply a little common sense and otherwise follow our instincts about eating -- and that will be good enough.

I can think of one potential situation where people might be able to just follow their instincts and apply their common sense and enjoy excellent health and longevity. However, very few of us will ever find ourselves in that situation. I’ll elaborate in part two of this article.