I would like to say a few words about nutrition and its place within the larger wheel or constellation of human health. After all, the fact that nutrition is an important component of our health and wellbeing is not yet to say to what extent it is so. As we all know, the ways that different humans on the planet view (or comprehend) the relevance of nutrition, varies tremendously. For many, nutrition, as an area of concern or focus is reduced to little more than a default survival setting, one that can be easily “switched-off” by the imbibing of food or “food-like products” that yield "sufficient enough" levels of energy or macronutrients. From the driver’s seat of such an outlook, our dietary preferences and decisions are predominantly decided by our aesthetic and appetitive impulses. Whether the food lures us in with its glistening sugar or fat content, or makes us salivate at the sight of plump, creamy starches or succulent, tender protein, we shall have our fill and carry on with our daily lives. German nutritional psychologist Volker Pudel articulates this widespread constitution very well: “[t]o begin with, the physiological aspect is of no concern to the eater. The better a meal tastes the more favourably will he judge it – and he will adjust his behaviour accordingly. Taste is a factor which can lead to human behaviour which is contrary to biological requirements” (Schmidt: 1987).
If this sounds like you, then, while you may put food, and the concomitant pleasures of eating food, high on your value system, you will put nutrition, as an art and science aimed at preserving, imparting or maximising health via conscientious dietary intake, at a lowly position. You will tend to be apathetic to the notion of “improving your diet” because you view the effects as being too inconsequential, or the road to results too complicated or arduous. In many instances, the health benefits of improving your diet are not even denied, but your default stance interprets “healthy eating" as an unnecessarily stoic thing to do, and, as you sometimes remark to those that challenge your position: “you only live once, so you might as well enjoy every morsel”. Your diet is predominantly dictated through the bias of your tastebuds, prior consumption behaviours, and your sociocultural background. For example, the “essentiality” of the morning coffee, the “incompleteness” of a main meal unless drizzled with tomato ketchup, or the “necessity” to follow dinner with an ice cream dessert. Healthiness, as a consideration, is simply not a factor. Aside, from being (almost always) at basic odds with the genuine needs of your body, habituated, or unchallenged dietary choices like these can often endure a lifetime. When this common dietary perspective becomes just a little further pathologised, excess eating or gluttony is usually the result.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are many who view the role of food as the dominant means by which health and vitality is managed and/or achieved. For adherents of this dietary outlook, mealtimes and food slots provide the primary opportunity to maintain, fine-tune or overhaul one’s current state of health, and foods and recipes are often selected and planned zealously. Some partisans “live in” the kitchen preparing and concocting the “perfect” dietary set-up. Natural foods, herbs, beverages and supplements (natural or synthetic depending upon the ideology of the person), are viewed as the most powerful harbingers of health and healing, and usually other activities, disciplines and modalities are pushed out to the periphery. In many respects, this position is highlighted rather nicely through the pen of German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach when he wrote "Mensch ist was er ißt" ("Man is what he eats"), over 150 years ago. Think about it for a moment. The more literally that his phrase is interpreted, the more strictly that we embrace the notion that “we are what we eat” - that our qualitative expression as an individual is made material by virtue of the quality and perfectitude of our diet, then, the more likely we will place food and nutrition at the highest point of our hierarchy of concerns.
This being said, it should be noted that a hyper-honing in on diet, does not necessarily mean that what the proponent has deemed to be “good” or “highly optimal food” is in actual fact objectively health-giving. There are (and have been) countless millions of motivated individuals who have passionately adhered to specific dietary philosophies and regimens, utterly convinced of their incredible properties, that in reality, had been disastrous from a health perspective. So human error is an important factor to be cognisant of. My main thrust, however, pertains to the issues that come with tunnel vision. As this can happen at a few different scales.
Firstly, by placing food on a pedestal like this, one can easily diminish the importance of other forms of nourishment (albeit “non-edible” forms), for example sunlight, grounding and air quality. Secondly, it can undermine the importance we give to a myriad of other environmental factors which have the capacity to deeply affect our health status, from dampness and mould, to EMF and geopathic stress. Thirdly, it minimises or obscures other domains of health generation and healing, from physical exercise, intentional linguistics, lymphatic stimulation, visualisation, meditation, authentic expression and relationship dynamics, just to name a few. In any case, and more besides, adherents within this relationship to nutrition are in danger of not seeing the forest for the trees. When the pendulum of this relatively common dietary perspective swings too far, becomes too one-sided, excessive or counteractive, there is potential for obsessive compulsive food pathologies to form, such as: anxiety, nervous exhaustion, depression, social isolation and interference with drive, purpose and ambition.
I have just painted two extreme relationships to nutrition. In their own significant ways they are found to be wanting, and, it is probably apparent that I do not wish to promote either of these positions. As an art and science, the role of nutrition, at its most refined and efficient, addresses the optimal way to satisfy every one of our nutritional requirements. Necessarily, this also includes keeping all relevant channels open and free from obstruction so that full cellular/physiological nourishment can actually take place. Most of us all naturally intuit, that to achieve optimal functionality, or get close towards our (hypothetical) maximal potential, we must have a fully satisfied system behind us (or inside us). Enjoyably, this is a project, something wonderfully tangible, genuine and wholesome, that all aspirants of vitality (and vital living) can attend to.
That said, I am not insinuating that good nutrition is a sufficient condition for prosperous health. The exogenous (i.e. externally derived) factors that we receive through food are not the only factors in town, and certainly not the only ones affecting our private physiology at this very moment. Right now, as you are reading this, mediated by undeniable intelligence, a steady stream of endogenous (i.e. internally derived) messengers fluctuate to the tune of subtle changes from inside and outside of your body. Your entire temple is a profoundly active and elaborate “processing house” for the messages of trillions of electrical, chemical and photonic instructions per second, with an astonishing intensity of exchanges occurring every minute, more than enough to make the head swirl. Every event, no matter how seemingly insignificant, gets the chance to contribute, to communicate, via photons, electrons, hormones, neurotransmitters, pheromones, redox molecules and many more besides. Your thoughts and emotions, climatic exposure, nervous disposition, physical movements, muscular activities, breath, posture, levels of external or internal stressors, level and consistency of sleep quality, social and recreational balance, determination and purpose, just to name a few, are all contributing to your physiological wellness, to the wellbeing of your whole being. They all have a profound affect on your health (or lack thereof). Whether a particular contributor produces a constructive or destructive input in the medium to long run, depends upon the degree that we have acknowledged and awakened (as a habit) the balancing, regulating and healing potential that naturally resides within that particular sector of vitality generation. The sum total of this entire assemblage of different (yet always interconnected) contributors of vitality I have labelled the cosmology of vitality. The cosmology of vitality is the entire wheel work or constellation of the the different strands of vitality generation, whether known or unknown. Depicted simply, imagine a blueberry pie, cut into different slices. Every slice of the pie represents a different area of vitality generation (a pie chart, if you will). Only in reality, they are always connected - you pull on one slice, one sector, you pull on all the others. There are no isolationist disciplines to be found here.
We take a slice of the pie from the plate, to ours. It is labelled with the word nutrition. And so it is, we return to nutrition once again. Just like all the slices of vitality generation, nutrition is a fundamental section of the cosmology of vitality pie that affects and influences all of the other sectors. After all, who can deny, nutrition quality affects your thoughts and emotions, climatic tolerance, nervous disposition, physical and muscular capacities, breath, posture, interpretation and response to stress, level and consistency of sleep quality, affinity for social and recreational endeavours, determination and purpose, even your voice and your relationship to sound. This is especially so, when the nutrition in question is insufficient for normal, or rather, I should say: for desirable functionality. Perhaps we really are only as strong as our weakest link.
“All the hemispheres in existence,
Lie beside an equator,
In your heart.
In your thousand other forms,
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
All the hemispheres in heaven,
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
(from All the Hemispheres by Hafiz -14th Century)
Kyle Vialli (2024)
Artwork (at very top) : "A Roman Feast", by Roberto Bompiani (1890s).
Final Artwork above: When the Heart is Young by John William Godward (1902).