The Paleo Experiment (4): Tensions

By March 11, 2011No Comments

In the next two posts, I’d like to interact with some of the tensions that I’ve raised.  This post will deal generally with ideas; the next post will deal specifically with how we are trying to eat now that the challenge is over.

As some have noticed, I have been building a bit of a dichotomy between “good tasting” and “good for you”.  So to put it in a Venn diagram:

I threw this diagram together based on my own food preferences prior to the Paleo challenge. There was some overlap between what tasted good to me and what was good for me.  Everyone’s diagram will look a little different. But these are hardly static categories.

As I began to be more intentional about what I ate, my appetite began to be rewired.  Self-denial and self-discipline became the path to cultivating a new appetite.  And the overlap between what tastes good and what is good began to become larger:

I fell in love with mushrooms.  I discovered the far superior taste of butternut squash (sliced then baked) to french fries and of spaghetti squash to traditional spaghetti noodles.  I lost all interest in soda.  My appetite was being re-calibrated, and I was beginning to legitimately enjoy the food I was eating.

Duty, discipline and denial gave way to delight.

I think I probably have a ways to go before the circles overlap completely.

But to be honest, I don’t want them to.  Because I also believe that there is a place for simply enjoying food, for receiving it with thankfulness because of how good it tastes, regardless of how valuable it is as fuel.

I’m not talking about genetically modified, processed crap food that you can get at a drive through window.  I’m talking about:

“whenever we eat a cookie, and then down a tall glass of cold milk. When the hot gravy goes on the cheese potatoes. When we are sitting on the lawn on a summer evening, spitting watermelon seeds. When the butter melts on the corn on the cob just right. When we pour lemonade and iced tea together, half and half. When the green beans are cooked together with pistachio nuts. Honey butter. Homemade fudge sauce on store bought ice cream.”

Most of these things wouldn’t make the cut when it comes to the “good for you” test.  But they are good for us in a whole different way.

They are good because they bring us joy.

Rich foods, decadent desserts, fine wines, etc. are a taste of the Joy that is at the heart of the world.  They are gifts, the fusion of divine and human creativity.  To deny them completely is to miss the gift.

So is to gorge ourselves on them, or even to allow them to become the substance of our diet.

To eat whatever we want, whenever we want destroys our bodies and trivializes the gift of food.  Only a fool would eat birthday cake every day.  Birthday cakes are meant for celebration, for a feast.

So here’s the tension: Eat healthily. But don’t forget to feast.

Next post: what does this look like for me?

Question: For a person trying to be healthy, what is the place of decadent (often unhealthy) food?

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