Our times are known for global connectedness, having a link to people the world over in our pocket at all times. We know about others, we read about them, see them, hear them daily. We could debate on how shallow this form of contact can become, but before I attempt to put my thoughts on such nuanced issues on paper, I would like to address the biggest problem I see in most of us: though we feel connected with the world, we are utterly disconnected from ourselves. We learn about a million things outside of ourselves before we get to know the intricate processes that go on in our bodies & our minds every minute of the day.
I found myself reading an article on the death of the calorie late last night, a long-read from The Economist 1843 Magazine that shone a light on the outdated system we still use to select the things we feed ourselves and those around us.
The system of the calorie, which was presented to the world for the first time in the 1890s, is, in a sense, a shortcut when it comes to nutrition. We are told that men need 2500 kcal every day, women 2000. And so we can measure the foods we eat on spreadsheets or in apps that tell us when we are crossing the boundaries of our body’s needs. What is often left out of the conversation, however, is that one calorie isn’t quite the same as another. Or at least it isn’t when it enters the human body, which has a number of different processes to break down and either use or store the energy from the food. 400 kcal worth of eggs is going to affect us quite differently than 400 kcal worth of chocolate, but this topic nuances and muddles the ease we feel when looking at the foods we eat, so when this is noted, we often don’t care to listen.
It is a telling sign of our current culture, which is enamoured with a good shortcut. Why read a full book when the synopsis can be scanned in four minutes time? Why work out when we can stand on a plate that vibrates all those calories straight out of us? Why carefully select the foods we eat when the labels tell us the calorie count and all we have to do is not go overboard with them?
It’s funny, in an extraordinary and ridiculous way, how we live in an age of “living our best life” and “becoming our best self,” yet still cannot find the time and energy to be conscious about how to care for ourselves.
The human body is an extraordinary machine that continually works to keep itself stabilised and functioning to its best ability & our laziness is working against it. It seems that some people think it selfish or narcissistic to carefully select foods and decide to go to the gym on a daily basis, as though caring about how our bodies function and how we look is a bad thing. This is honestly one of the most ridiculous ways of thinking I know of. We seem to have forgotten that we are our bodies, that our minds are not simply floating along with this packet of meat that works against us more than it works with us (which it does when we do not tend to it). What we eat affects how we feel, how we think, how we function. Our movement does the same. And the sooner we’re conscious of that, the more likely it is that we will forge a relationship with ourselves that isn’t toxic.
This is self-respect.
This is proper thinking about not just who we are, but what we are.
The simple fact is that there is no easy way out. There is no power bar that will render all other foods expendable. There is no tea that will make us magically lose the excess fat we carry. Calories are not, as the 1843 Mag article lays out, the end of the thought process on how to feed ourselves properly. Food is so much more than its calorie content. Macronutrients are part of it. The cooking process is part of it. The time of day on which we consume is part of it. And so, making healthy choices requires a certain education on what food does inside of our bodies. An education that I think should be a priority to all of us. This is, in my opinion, the foundation of self-care. I think we owe it to ourselves to understand how we work on a basic level and make our decisions from there on out.
These may be some places to begin learning:
To understand nutrition:
To understand body optimisation:
To understand the importance of sleep:
To understand the continual intricate processes in the body:
My Father’s Body, At Rest and In Motion by Siddhartha Mukherjee.