What Is Food To You?


We often hear this analogy: “Food is fuel.” (like gasoline)

And we also hear: “The human body is like a high performance race car.” (like a Ferrari)

So, you have to get enough fuel to run your car…without getting too much, of course. Or else, the Ferrari (“you”) will get fat.

You also have to choose only really high-quality, highoctane, and expensive fuel. Or else, the Ferrari ("you") will gunk up and break down.

We’ve heard this analogy repeated over and over again. And I think that’s a real problem.


Sort of like a script, it tells the “actors” in our bodies how to perform. When we eat, we’re really delivering messages.

  • Do this.
  • Don’t do this.
  • Release this hormone.
  • Don’t release that one.
  • Express this protein.
  • Don’t express that one.

We’re essentially sending instructions that kick off a chemical chain letter. It’s really quite amazing. Each molecule of food contributes to a beautiful cascade of events, sending all kinds of signals throughout our bodies. Make hormones! Trigger immune cells! Switch genes on and off! Tell the work crew to clean up and the builders to get on standby! Lights! Camera! Action! It’s like the biggest, busiest movie set you can imagine. And somehow (unlike many film sets) it runs almost perfectly.

Our bodies process millions of calories and (let’s be scientific about this) zillions of chemical compounds a year, with nearly 100% efficiency. (Just for comparison: Gas-powered engines, like our Ferrari, would be happy to hit 30% efficiency.)

Even cooler, our thoughts, feelings, and environment can affect these processes. If we smell a tasty meal, have a positive or negative thought about food (or anything else), are happy and relaxed or worried and rushing… it affects nutrient processing.


Here’s the point: The “food as fuel” story reduces food to gasoline, our bodies to stupid machines, and you to a calorie accountant. And that’s sad because you’re more than that. Food and your body deserve a lot more recognition and honor.

The more I learn, research, and coach, the more I am amazed at the power of food! It’s packed with meaning, information, communication. Every food decision we make sends a message to our body. Every food choice is an opportunity to direct, shape, and remake our health, our body composition, our performance, and our wellbeing. Food is not just about science.

Many of us in this field are physiologists and biochemists. Sure, we look at food through a scientific lens. But that’s not our only perspective. We know, too, that sharing food is a fundamental human act. Breaking bread (or whatever other food is on the table) is part of our history, our culture, our legacy as humans.

Yes, food itself is information. Communication. A story. But we also have our own stories that we share around and through food.

There’s information we want to communicate to ourselves — and to others — with how we eat, where we eat, and what we eat.

  • I’m sophisticated. I’m a “foodie”.
  • I’m a thoughtful consumer. I’m a regular at the farmer’s market.
  • I’m from Mexico/Italy/Nigeria/Laos/[insert region/ origin/ethnicity] and proud.
  • I’m the social hub for my big family. Come on over this Sunday for dinner!
  • I’m adventurous. I’ll eat anything once. Once, when I was traveling, I ate…
  • I’m careful with my choices. I avoid processed food.
  • I’m low maintenance; my fridge is empty. Let’s grab something on the go.
  • I’m a bon vivant. I love eating at fancy restaurants.
  • I’m a caregiver. I love you. So I cook for you.
  • And so on.

This is essential information about ourselves, our family and friends. It’s relevant, crucial, powerful, life-shaping knowledge. That’s why I am not a nutritionist; I am a nutrition coach. And I  sure am not a gas station jockey helping clients do the chore of tank-filling.

So, take a few minutes and consider this question: What is food? For you?

Is it fuel? Is it information? Is it personal freedom? Is it shame? Is it self-esteem? Then consider this question: What would you like food to be?

I encourage you to think big! Get imaginative. Learn a little more about physiology. Learn a little more about humanity. Discover what makes food one of the greatest stories ever told.

It’s a story of the wonder of evolution and biology, a collective grand epic of our humanity, or a chemical story written in molecules, not words. It’s also a story that shapes your daily life, your health, and your function. Food is fuel? No, it is so much more than that.


Learn more at: http://www.vital-wellness.org/blog/what-is-food-to-you