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Friday, July 1, 2011

Are You a Food Retard?

Marcus T Anthony's new web site and blog can be found at:

It’s time to get serious.

Human beings have designed spacecraft to send people to the moon. We have developed an internet which makes our species potentially far more intelligent than our ancestors of a century ago could ever have imagined (I didn’t write wiser!). We have harnessed the power of the atom.

What then, is the next great cognitive frontier? Our next immense challenge is to answer one of the great unsolved puzzles of the age:

How do you eat food?

Now, I am well educated and have a PhD from The University of the Sunshine Coast, which is the most prestigious university within several kilometers of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. So, after a couple of decades of intensive research on the subject, I have developed a very sophisticated answer to the question, which can be broken down into the following steps. All you have to do is answer the following questions.

1)      Am I hungry?                yes/no
2)     Is it healthy?                  yes/no

If you answered yes to the two questions, put the food into your mouth and start munching. This may seem rather obvious, but my groundbreaking research (are the Nobel Prize people reading this?) indicates that the process is breaking down at step one. Yes, the question “How do I eat food” appears to be beyond the comprehension of vast masses of people on the planet today. In fact we are becoming food retarded. Sorry, that should be “gastronomically challenged”.

My research uncovered some astounding facts. People are eating way more than they used to, even as they are becoming more sedentary.

Then they get fat. 

On my last trip to the US (a decade ago, admittedly), I was almost fined while walking on the street for not indicating when I tried to overtake a sidewalk pedestrian in front of me. I got off by pointing out that there was no “wide load” warning on the “bumper” before me.

Research shows that Americans consume about 2,375 calories per day, which is nearly one-third more than they did thirty years ago. The reason why people are eating more and getting really fat is because they are eating more times per day, and snacking is the main culprit. Over the past three decades Americans have gone from consuming 3.8 snacks and meals per day to 4.9, on average. Further, the average portion size has also increased, by about 12 percent. The amount of time between snacks and meals has shrunk substantially since 1977, while the amount of calories consumed from snacks has risen dramatically.

In short people are eating more, and especially more often.

Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill blames food advertising and other marketing.

"It's all about making people think they want to have something in their hands all the time," he says. "Why are we snacking all the time and munching all the time? [Food] is there, it's available all the time, it's tasty. It's not very healthy, but it's tasty. It's sweet, it's salty, it's fatty—it's all the things we love." 

Christopher Gardner, PhD, the director of nutrition studies at Stanford University's Prevention Research Center, in Palo Alto, Calif., says that “frequent—and often mindless—snacking has come to seem normal.”        

Yes,  “mindless” is the operative word. And therein lies the essence of the problem. It is, I believe, one of the major problems of the modern day, and something that is absolutely vital to the development of sustainable human futures.

We are losing our connection with our bodies and with the present moment. Culture is becoming more and more disembodied. As I have long argued, an intimate connection with the body is absolutely vital to healthy psycho-spiritual well being. When we are connected to the body we ground ourselves in presence. Modern culture and education is exacerbating the dissociation of mind and body.

What does this mean for our eating habits? Just go back to my two step guide to healthy eating, above. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. Remember the master’s response, in the old Buddhist tale? The student goes to the master and asks him what the secret of enlightenment is. The master says:

“When hungry eat, when tired sleep.”

The simplicity of all this is distorted, of course, by dissociation, and the games that the ego plays as it attempts to maintain control over us. We often use eating and drinking to suppress emotions. A genuinely mindful approach to eating would see the person bringing the mind into presence before the fork is lifted, whereupon the emotions would be directly addressed, and we could be more honest about whether we are really hungry.

However, the problem then becomes the realisation that most of us are carrying around masses of unprocessed emotional energy: fear, grief, sadness, anger and so on. So we eat, drink and fiddle with gadgets to distract us from what lies within. Addictions and disorders are the result.

If you develop your Integrated Intelligence, your body will start to tell you what it needs, and warn you when there are dietary problems. I have had numerous dreams, visions and intuitive prompts where my body has told me quite bluntly what it needs. Once I bought some apples at an organic market. I ate one or two during the day, and that evening as I was about to go to sleep a voice from nowhere suddenly said: “Thanks for the organic apples.” It was my body talking, quite literally. I also realised a long time ago that I had a problem with gluten, when I had repetitive dreams of coughing up horrible, sticky glue.

I don’t eat if I’m not hungry. This means that as I have gotten older I often don’t eat much at all. I often eat very little for dinner, usually settling for a light salad. My body simply doesn’t need a lot of food in the evening. In contrast, I see some of my friends here in Hong Kong stuffing food into them when we go out for a drink on weekend evenings. Many of them are quite a few kilograms overweight. Personally, I almost never eat food when drinking alcohol. While a few drinks do not seem to do me too much harm, my body simply abhors mixing food and alcohol. So when some of my “mates” stop in at the kebab shop at midnight on the way home, I usually simply drink water.

Personally, I don't there's nothing wrong with enjoying less healthy food and drink in moderation.  I often drink alcohol on weekends, eat chocolate and ice cream here and there, and love a good pizza. But my body will let me know when that is becoming unbalanced, and causing problems.

The result is that my body weight has not changed much as I have gotten older, and my body fat level and clothes sizes have not changed. In fact my weight has declined slightly, mostly because I don’t work out at the gym as intensely as I used to (at 45 years of age, I don’t see the point in trying to impress the babes).

All of us are different, and each person’s diet and food choices will vary according to culture and personal preferences in taste. I’m not suggesting you eat what I eat. I’m suggesting you listen to your body, and give it what it needs. Mindful eating, if widely adopted, would do much to alleviate the obesity epidemic.


  1. Food = nourishment = mother = reassurance and security. There's a whole emotional tangle in there which you need a lot of mindfulness to resist - even if you're not susceptible to the marketing ploys of the fast food industry.