I’ve been following this month’s healthy living blog posts with great interest. I enjoy making efforts to live a healthy and active lifestyle and it makes me feel at home to see how other people are taking strides to do the same thing.
However, I’ve read a million times in a million places the message that “food is fuel” – we need healthy food to fuel our bodies with high-quality energy and nutrients. I’ve also heard the message that if the food is sourced close to home, then it’s a better choice for my community. The message that I feel is missing so far is that food is more than fuel.
Food is pleasurable; it’s a reflection of culture and plays a role in traditions and social settings. It can tantalize our senses with different tastes, smells, and textures. The Northern Health guidelines (position paper) on healthy eating also recognize this. Quoting a 2005 study from the Canadian Journal of Public Health on Aboriginal traditions, the paper notes:
…the consumption of traditional foods is more than just about eating; it is the endpoint of a series of culturally meaningful processes involved in the harvesting, processing, distribution, and preparation of these foods.
My family and I harvest and prepare foods together; in the summer we have a garden and, while it may or may not be fruitful, I enjoy the time that we spend together caring for the plants and watching them grow. Even if we are “harvesting” our food from the grocery store, I enjoy that time together, considering the food we’re buying and how we’re going to prepare it. Preparing and serving the food to family and friends serves as a gathering for conversations and sharing that may not happen otherwise.
Thinking about the pleasure that food can give us, I don’t know if there is a silver bullet solution to finding the balance between food as pleasure and food as fuel. However, I have learned a couple ways to help me find balance:
- Exercise control (when you have it) – Most days (e.g. routine work days) I make every effort to eat the quality fuel we talk about from Canada’s Food Guide.
- Savour social settings – Other days we have events or opportunities to savour things we may not get to on a regular basis (e.g. birthday parties or when travelling). In these settings, I take the opportunity to enjoy the pleasurable side of food (with moderation in mind).
This balance between exercising control and savouring the opportunities helps me to enjoy the pleasurable side of food and my physical and emotional well-being. What are some ways that you balance eating for health and eating for pleasure?
About Chelan Zirul
Chelan Zirul supports strategic planning in Northern Health’s public health department. As a graduate from UNBC, her passion for northern community and regional development that is grounded in research drew her to work with special projects in public health. Born in northern B.C., she is learning to take advantage of the access to outdoor living. She stays active with CrossFit training and finding ways to be active in daily living. She enjoys training for special events, such as Canada’s first-ever ToughMudder in Whistler, BC which she ran in June 2012.