5 July 2021

Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

By Communication Media

Written by Dr Irine Runnie Henry Ginjom. This article was originally published in The Borneo Post, Campus & Beyond column on 26 May 2021.

Have you ever seen posters promoting healthy eating habits with the tagline ‘Eat to live, not live to eat’? What exactly does this phrase mean?

‘Eat to live’ can be translated as the biological need of every living organism to obtain food in order to survive. Physiologically, our body needs food so that we have sufficient source of energy and nutrients. This is generally signalled by the feeling of hunger (when we need food) and satiety (satisfaction of appetite).

However, we are beginning to see more and more people seem to ‘Live to eat’. Eating nowadays is beyond our basic survival need, possibly because there are so many different choices of foods available. Generally, people’s food preferences are also influenced by external determinants that include economic, social, psychological, and attitudes towards food.

Social media platforms have become exceptionally popular during this pandemic, allowing us to interact with friends and family even when we are in lockdown somewhere on the other side of the country or the globe. For some, the extra time has led to more screen time.

How many times have you found yourself suddenly craving for a certain delicacy right after seeing your friend’s posting on social media? Or raise your hand if you have tried new recipes after watching the step-by-step guide on YouTube.

Creative food presentations and endorsement of people that you follow or trust can create such an effect, for example, international chef and food influencer Gordon Ramsay who has more than 12 million followers on Instagram.

So, the next time you order food via Grab Food or Food Panda, it could have been prompted by those social media postings that you have just seen.

Digging deeper, all those factors are acted upon by your mind, meaning, you alone control what you eat. The psychology of eating is important to help you manage your cravings and to see through those marketing antiques the popular big brands use to hook you to their products.

Familiar with `It’s Finger Lickin’ Good’ slogan? Or the twisting and dunking of Oreo? Likewise, aromas can be used to skew your perception of food in incredibly powerful ways. Who have been guilty of buying bags of Famous Amos cookies at the airport after smelling the sweet aroma, only to regret spending too much on sweets that day?

So, do we ‘Eat to live’ or ‘Live to eat’? Personally, I see nothing wrong with both as long as you know what your body needs. Overindulgence can lead to several chronic diseases and can be costly to manage or treat. A balanced diet may not be as easy to prescribe and dispense as a pill, but it is admittedly the most powerful, accessible, and affordable driver for health that all of us should have at our disposal. Use it wisely.


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Swinburne Sarawak mid-year intake is now open for application. Classes for degree programmes will commence on 30 August and 27 September 2021.

For more information, contact our Education Counsellor via WhatsApp at 019-819 6353 or email to study@swinburne.edu.my.

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