The Skills Of Eating

I just finished reading the book “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

This short book is packed full of insight into how to be a better writer.

Since I am either writing articles like this one, writing posts for social media, writing messages to clients in email or messenger form and, at the very least, crafting text messages, it never hurts to learn more in efforts to improve.

In the foreword, Roger Angell wrote a line that stuck with me:

“Writing is hard, even for authors who do it all the time.”

I thought about that for a few moments.

If the skills of writing are hard for authors, especially those who make a living with the written word, consider how challenging it is for those who don’t do it as frequently or struggle outside of oral communication.

Of course, the next place my mind went was with the skills of eating.

We’ve been eating since we were first brought into this world.

We often eat several times a day.

Most of us have access to an overabundance of foods; from minimally processed, whole foods to ultra-processed, easy-to-overeat foods.

And yet, many people have absolutely no idea “how” to eat.

So, we hire dietitians and nutrition coaches, we order meal-prep services, we buy cookbooks and search endlessly online for calorie plans, macro splits and healthy food options.

We invest in diet methodologies that resonate emotionally with us.

We join online groups so we can be a part of a community of like-minded eaters and still, we struggle to know how (and how much) to consume.

I’ll take my own liberties with Angell’s thoughts:

“Eating is hard, even for those of us who do it all the time.”

Allow me to give you the terribly unsexy tips about what to eat (none of which should seem revelatory to you):

-Consume lean sources of protein

-Eat several servings of fruits, vegetables and legumes

-Moderate alcohol & caffeine consumption

-Drink enough water

-Consume some healthy fats

-Limit hyper-palatable foods in the diet

If that was as unsexy to read as it was for me to type, consider that this is why much of this advice is ignored.

It’s not glamorous, flashy or eye-catching.

It hits no emotional buttons for you.

No food has been excluded or demonized.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that you already know this information, the how and why of consuming these foods remains something of an enigma for most people.

This is not completely your fault.

Over the decades, we’ve been taught, at one point or another, to fear every type of food, to eliminate or drastically reduce the occurrence of each of the three macronutrients (four, if you count alcohol), and even if all we wanted to know about food was how MUCH to eat, every calorie calculator is an estimate, every method of measuring food available to the public is fraught with errors, and sometimes all we want to do is curl up on the couch with a pint of ice cream and say: F–k it.

Yes, hormones influence how you eat.

Yes, some people express their love language with food.

Yes, you may have an intolerance to certain foods.

Yes, it is possible that what you once may have been able to eat in abundance you can no longer do so without discomfort.

Yes, the style of eating that works best for you may not work best for your spouse, your children, or your parents.

Yes, lack of quality sleep can correlate to higher food cravings.

Yes, chronic exercising can increase your hunger (for some, it can be an appetite suppressant).

Yes, there is a genetic link to your hormones and how they affect your hunger/satiety levels.

Yes, your food environment (what you have easy, direct access to) influences your diet adherence.

Yes, high stress can make you want to overconsume food (for some, high stress has the opposite effect).

Yes, some people need food rules (more rigidity) and some people need fewer rules (more flexibility).

Considering all of these factors, every aspect of eating requires a skill.

Cooking is a skill.

Managing stress and sleep so that you are less likely to overconsume food is a skill.

Measuring portion sizes is a skill.

Calorie/macro tracking is a skill.

Losing body fat is a skill.

Gaining muscle mass (with minimal fat gain) is a skill.

Long term maintenance of your body weight is a skill.

Allow me to reiterate: Eating is hard, even for those of us who do it all the time.

If this seems overwhelming, don’t be surprised. We are a nation of highly-stressed, sleep deprived, hustle-and-grind individuals who are trying desperately to make all the pieces fit.

Practice frequent moments of grace and forgiveness if you’ve been on this planet for decades and you can’t quite solve the riddle of how to eat in a manner which best serves you.

Stick to those basics, those unsexy tips above, as a reference point.

Be willing to constantly polish your skills of eating.

You don’t need another diet book.

You don’t need to be scared away from foods or food groups (unless you are allergic or otherwise intolerant).

What you may need is reminders that something as automatic and intertwined to our lives as eating is more challenging than we give it credit for.

When I read a book about being a better writer, it’s because I genuinely want to improve and educate and inspire. I’m willing to learn those skills.

When you read about eating, be willing to learn the skills it takes to eat in a way that improves your life, not in a way that diminishes.

Lastly, you are worth the time it takes to develop those skills.