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On a sociological level, food is not merely sustenance for humans.

Most of our religious rituals revolve around food, either by the presence of special foods (like the Jewish Seder or Christian Communion), or the abstinance from food for a period of time (Lent or various traditions of fasting in eastern faiths). In many cultures, the dead are buried with items of food that they'll bring them them into the next life, and offerings of food are made to the gods (yes, even Yhwh, read the old testament). The spiritual symbology of food runs deep in the human psyche.

Our family/social connections tend to center around food rituals of all sorts: Family dinner, Pizza night, Easter Dinner, Thankgiving, Feast of the Dead, Harvest festivals, canning parties, pot latches, afternoon tea, pot lucks in the church basement, food drives, food shelters, "going out for coffee", "let's do lunch"... the examples are endless. Every human culture has myriad examples that show food is deeply ingrained, not just in our biology, but in our culture, all throughout our society.

These rituals we engage in are profound. They touch us more deeply than we tend to be conscious of.

When we lose track of these rituals, for instance the gradual decline of the "family dinner", it diminishes us individually. We're losing something that helps us connect with our families or our friends. When most of your meals are something bolted down while you're driving alone in your car, or even at home, standing in front of the fridge and eating whatever comes to hand, you're losing some of the experience of being human.

Of course there isn't always time in our modern world to make every meal something special, but recognizing the social and personal importance of sitting down to meals, and engaging in the process of taking in sustenance helps us find ways to make time. It improves our relationships, our ability to connect to the people in our lives, our need for relating to people outside ourselves. Even sitting in a restaurant alone but surrounded by other people is touching the edges of the social meal experience and is more grounding than gulping down a big mac in the car.

It's wrong to feel guilty about food, or enjoying food. When you're fat, you're always hearing about "your relationship to food", and it's always couched in terms of guilt. In Western society in general, and in American society in particular, there is a deep psychosis about food, and eating, and enjoying food.

Denying ourselves pleasure in our meals is denying a fundamental part of being human. When we actually feel guilt for such a truly human experience as enjoying food, we are caught in an inevitably destructive mindset that pits us against our own humanity and biology. We have millions of years of evolution that drives us to eat, and not only to eat, but to take pleasure in eating because we respond positively to pleasurable stimuli. Sex is pleasurable -because- it encourages us to reproduce. If people didn't enjoy sex, they wouldn't bother.

Likewise, eating is pleasurable. We don't just eat because we're hungry, we're more complex then that. Taking pleasure in our food, concocting new recipes, discovering new things to eat, all of that is enmeshed in being human, in being social, and in being mentally healthy. Setting yourself up against these profound truths about being human is as impossible/potentially harmful as trying not to breathe.

My next post is going to be about applying these thoughts in a practical way as I consider getting the mini gastric bypass.

Sound but not valid

Date: 2007-05-11 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hawthorn-berry.livejournal.com
While I agree with your conclusions entirely, I have to raise a pedantic objection to the process of your reasoning.

Eating is a valued part of human culture and the human experience, and you point out some of the reasons why. And I agree that giving that up is a loss because of the value, both the things you said and the things you didn't.

However, you can't argue that because something is part of the human condition, getting rid of it is automatically "losing some of the experience of being human" in a meaningful sense. Polio used to be part of the human experience, and I'm glad we lost that.

Losing that is bad because of all the reasons why it is not only part of the human experience, not even only integral to the human experience, but also VALUABLE to the human experience. And furthermore you must also show that removing it doesn't create more good than it removes.

As it happens I think that the conclusion you reach is right. And I know this isn't meant to be a math proof or a position paper for a peer-review journal. Still, the "but that's part of the human experience, ergo you must preserve it" fallacy is so badly misused so often I feel a need to object to it, even when it happens to be being raised in flawed support of a sound conclusion.

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April 2010

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