It is said that one cannot think well, love well, and sleep well if one has not dined well. Eating itself, however, derives from the physical necessity called hunger. Not anymore.
We now eat because we are tired or bored, happy or sad, or just because it is time to eat. Many of us don’t even know when we are hungry or otherwise. As a result, most of us have bodies that are not temples but are more like amusement parks.
Someone close to me believes that the Lord has allocated a quota of food for each one of us. It is our choice whether we want to die young by eating it quickly or live long by eating it slowly. The other day, I shocked her by refusing to eat Salted Caramel Ice Cream (Haagen Daz). No Hakim had advised me to do so, but men do change.
The change comes like the wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn or as a sudden repugnance for something you could not previously live without.
Fond memories of food from childhood have a way of transporting us back to the past. When I was growing up, meals used to be moments of connection and conversation. In Lyallpur, everyone ate at home, except for occasional treats at Jahangir Murgh Pilao, Cosmos or Chenab club.
Later on, we were introduced to culinary delights such as Chamma Dal Chawal, Zafar Hotel Dal/Qeema Paratha, Babar Chok Samosa/Chat, and Russian Salad at Spinzer.
Now, times have changed – Lyallpur has become Faisalabad. It is also known that when times are bad, people feel compelled to overeat. If they are not eating, they are talking about it. They have also starting thinking with their bellies or what’s below.
Therefore, everything in Pakistan starts and/or ends with food because there is nothing else to do. I once overheard in a restaurant in Islamabad, “The F word turns me on darling”. “The F word?” the man exclaimed. “Food” – she retorted. I left the country the next morning and have not returned since.
The human diet transformed not when we started eating meat but when we learned how to cook. Our human ancestors started cooking about1.8 to 4 million years ago, which provided the energy to develop more complex brains and to gain weight.
The flip side is that we now get more calories than we burn in a day as rough bread gave way to Twinkies and apples to apple juice, etc.
This shift to processed foods is contributing to an epidemic of obesity and related diseases. If we eat more fruits and vegetables, less meat, and whole grains (as in the Mediterranean diet), and exercise for an hour daily, that would be great news for our health and for the planet.
People eat out on social occasions or because some food is tastier than what is available at home. Modern chefs prepare food by over-spicing, which masks its natural taste and damages stomachs.
The ghastly invention of using a common paste for all curries (to prepare food quickly) means that all of them taste the same. This has put off so many regulars that Desi restaurants are going bust for the first time.
Put this together with a lack of ethics and dubious ingredients and eating out may become a dying tradition.
The shift to processed foods is contributing to an epidemic of obesity and related diseases. If we eat more fruits and vegetables, less meat, and whole grains (as in the Mediterranean diet), and exercise for an hour daily, that would be great news for our health and for the planet
Recently, believers heard so much about the dangers of indulging in sin. Were they once warned about the sin called indulgence? Gluttony (overeating) was once listed among the Seven Deadly Sins.
Overeating is not merely an indulgence; it is a profound rejection of self. It is self-betrayal and punishment, and those who overeat are doing so on behalf of a morbid self (a discouraged child, an ostracized teenager, an insecure young adult) which no longer exists.
If you are in a battle with food, it is easy to spiral downwards and be stuck in a food prison because bad eating habits emanate from an unconscious place. If food is your substitute for love or self worth, please call a cease-fire.
Like good sex, the more you have the more you want. An incredible amount of energy and resources go into growing and preparing food – it deserves your respect.
It is hard to binge when you’re in attendance with your food; a phenomenon called mindful eating. The key to healthy eating is to start avoiding any food that has a TV commercial. Keep no tempting food in the house either. If you love ice cream, rather than have it always calling your name from the freezer, go out and have it.
The writer is a consultant psychiatrist and visiting professor based in London
Published in Daily Times, July 1st , 2017.