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Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

When it comes to eating most people tend to fall into the Eat to Live camp or the Live to Eat camp.

People in the Eat to Live camp divide into those who generally think of food as fuel, and those who think of eating as a task that has to be accomplished but is pretty much a waste of time.

Food as fuel people tend to be athletic or “health-food” nuts and their food choices are either (a) tailored to maximize performance for their workouts/athletic competitions or (b) tailored for nutrients regardless of taste – kale, acai, beet, raw egg-white smoothie anyone?

Those who think of eating as a time wasting task can be food as fuel people but they aren’t always. Take my husband for example. While Jim has a long list of foods he won’t eat – mushrooms, eggplant, artichokes, shellfish – he will indiscriminately consume fast food at an alarming rate, generally when I’m out of town. Food is ok, fine or good, but I’ve never seen him blown away by a dish and he would rather poke out his eyes then sit through a 5+ course meal. He also only eats one meal a day. How did I marry this man?

In the other camp are the Live to Eat people. Food bloggers (but not necessarily healthy food bloggers), restaurant reviewers, food journalists, chefs and your friends who will willingly go with you to try every new restaurant in town fall into this camp. For these people, food is a hobby or profession and often, an obsession. They spend serious time contemplating such things as new ways to use chocolate and whether sous viding mushrooms is better that sautéing. They are the force behind bringing molecular gastronomy almost mainstream and are responsible for a lot of really amazing web content.

But what determines which camp a person will fall into? Is it genetics or environment?


My husband grew up in a household where most meals were eaten in and the person cooking the meals (his mom) was generally reputed as being phenomenally bad in the kitchen. Salmon with tomato soup and black pot roast are two dishes frequently groaned about. In contrast, my parents liked eating out and often took my sister and me with them, even to the “nice” places. By age 12, I was obsessed with Chinese food, taken with lobster, and a sucker for steak tartare.

Brain Trauma

On the other hand, maybe all foodies merely suffer from Gourmand Syndrome – a condition whereby the brain, generally in the right frontal region, suffers trauma and damage that transforms you from a non-discriminate beef-filler consumptionist to a French wine swilling, triple-cream brie connoisseur.  I don’t remember suffering from brain trauma ever – but maybe I was dropped on the head as a child and my parents have been engaged in a serious cover-up ever since.  That said, in the initial study only 36 of the potential 723 candidates with known or suspected brain lesions actually showed the signs – “unusual behaviors manifesting as a sudden compulsive interest in thinking about and eating fine foods” – of Gourmand Syndrome.

So, I would say the differentiating factors between Eat to Live and Live to Eat people are fuzzy at best.  To me, the more important question is, can we co-exist, especially in the same household?

Where do you fall?  Live to Eat?  Eat to Live?  Or somewhere in the middle?


8 Responses

  1. Yeah, I believe they can coexist. I am an athlete who is gluten intolerant. I lead a busy life, and often have to reject food I want to try. At first, I lost weight trying to adapt. As a foodie and aspiring chef, I am always thinking about food, even if I cannot try most dishes. So in a sense I live to eat gluten-free, and often I still find myself eating, to live.

  2. Well…I think I exhibit both behaviors. I’m ALL about high quality food. I savor each and every bite. But I’m also a health food nut. We eat lots of veggies and fruit each and everyday. This was such a fun post to read…and to spend a few minutes classifying my family and friends. Thank you for sharing your creativity with me! I hope you have a blessed Sunday. You make me smile 🙂

  3. I used to eat to live…and then I started gaining weight after my daughter was born and I started to live to eat! But now my obsessiveness about food is under control and I once again eat to live.

    I think the best way to adapt this is to develop 100 food intolerances like I have…again, I’d like to blame my daughter for this!!

    My husband has always and will always eat to live. He has zero interest in food. It always amazes me! I guess it’s a guy thing?

  4. I definitely flip around and trying to find the balance is a real challenge. My food blogging hasn’t been friendly to me in the last 6 months, something I am working on changing.


  5. Gourmand Syndrome, huh…? I definitely fall into Live to Eat – and know how fortunate I am to be so! One meal a day? Goodness. I’d be happy if I could stick to three.

  6. I have been in both camps, and now I like to think I have found a balance of the two. While being a chef in the restaurant biz for 21+ years, it was my business to eat, and my 5+ lb. per year average weight gain during that time is pure evidence that I did not hold back much during that period. Now, having been out of the production side of the biz for about 11 years now, I have found a balance. You can still enjoy any ingredient, cuisine, food, preparation, you just have to maintain portion control. Instead of the 18 ounce ribeye, you can have a 4 ounce portion of flank steak, Still beef, just a leaner cut, and 85% less weight.

    Bon appetit!

  7. i wonder about this all the time!! David could eat once a day and not think twice about it… me I’m wondering what I will eat next as soon as i finish that meal, not good 🙂

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