Think of a time when you stopped at your favorite fast food or restaurant after a frustrating day at work and enjoyed a delicious meal. Then you got home and stared inside your refrigerator, looking for something else to eat, even though you had just eaten. You couldn’t decide what to eat, then you moved to your pantry, staring inside for a couple of minutes. Finally, you went back to the refrigerator again and ended up on your couch with a large bowl of ice cream in your hands. The TV is on, and the remote control is at reach.
Why did you spend all that time trying to find something to eat though you just ate dinner? Well, you will probably answer because you were hungry.
That is absolutely true. You were hungry, but not hungry for a food that comes on a plate. There are two types of foods that nourish us, and one of them is known as primary foods. And the second one is what we usually know as food, what we eat every day. Spirituality, enjoyable work, meaningful relationships, enjoyable physical activities, hobbies, self-care, are all things that give us joy and satisfaction.
“When primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary.” – Joshua Rosenthal
Primary food is anything that nourishes you at a deeper level but doesn’t come on a plate. Remember when you were a child playing outside with your friends? You could go on past lunchtime and didn’t feel hungry, right? I see that with my kids. When they are really engaged in playing, I have to remind them it’s lunchtime; if not, they won’t feel the need to eat until the game is over. That’s because, at that moment, they are being sustained by primary food.
Another example if when you are at the beginning of a romantic relationship. You remember how everything was so exciting, and you could spend hours talking with your loved one and didn’t feel hungry at all? Imagine when you are working on a project that you really enjoy. Usually, you don’t feel hungry and can go for hours without even thinking about food. That’s the power of primary food. It gives you joy, meaning, and fulfillment.
When I learned about this concept of primary foods during my holistic nutrition training, it resonated with me so well because I could see it also in the Bible.
Let’s look at two scriptures:
“In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” John 4:31-34 (NKJV)
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy. Psalm 63:5 (NLT)
We can clearly see the concept of primary foods in these scriptures. As the disciples are pressing Jesus to eat, He let them know that there is another type of food that nourishes Him more than the food on a plate. In this case, He is talking about life purpose. Very often, people feel unsatisfied with their lives because of the lack of purpose. If you want to enhance your wellbeing, it’s crucial to be clear on your God-given purpose and live it out. In the second scripture, King David talks about how His relationship with God is more satisfying than the most pleasurable foods that we can eat at a party. The satisfaction that comes from our relationship with God is a type of primary food and a key one for us believers.
Going back to the first scenario described earlier, what you were really hungry for was maybe a hug, or to talk to a good friend, or just to do something that relaxes you and makes you feel content. You needed encouragement and comfort after your frustrating day. But because you didn’t have this understanding, you turned to food trying to satisfy that hunger. You can’t satisfy a hunger for primary foods with food on your plate. Unfortunately, that’s what most people try to do, which could somehow explain the high rate of obesity and depression in our society.
Next time, how would you prevent ending up with a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips in a similar situation?
Take a piece of paper and make a list of all the things that make you smile, laugh, or feel relaxed. Things that are fun and give you a feeling of joy and satisfaction. Next time you are facing a similar situation, go on that list and pick one thing that you can do right away. You will feel much better and save yourself some unnecessary calories and guilt.
Being able to understand what you are really hungry for at each given moment is crucial to achieving a healthier and more fulfilling life. We need both primary and secondary foods to feel whole. So, whenever you are not feeling well or feel like something is off, make sure to check your primary foods.
The Bottom Line
What nourishes you go way beyond the food on your plate. Primary foods nourish you at a deeper level. They include spirituality, meaningful relationships, enjoyable physical activities, purpose, hobbies, self-care, and doing the work that you like. Proper nourishment from both primary foods and the food on your plate is crucial for optimal health.
Want to learn how to properly nourish your whole being for optimal health? Check out my personalized holistic health coaching program.
Let’s get healthier together to advance the kingdom of God!