What We Learn About Food And Eating Habits

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From its beginning as a science of observation, anthropology has showed great interest in the subject of food and eating habits; hardly any other behavior attracts the attention of human beings as much as the way one eats. What, where, how, how often we eat, and how we feel about food ends up binding us directly to our sense of selves and our social identity. As human beings, we are fostered in very specific environments, surrounded by very specific people with specific beliefs and social habits. Although Boyd-Eaton & Konner (1985) attempted to discover what humans are hard-wired to consume by analyzing the daily nutrition of Paleolithic human beings, the truth is that the way human beings eat is socially, culturally and environmentally inscribed — there is no ideal way to eat, because these socio-cultural dynamics keep changing throughout history. What we learn about food is encompassed in a body of materials that are culturally and historically derived from others, and thus, food and eating habits assume, in this manner, a central position in our social learning. Further, because we need to eat in order to live, no other non-automatic behavior is linked so intimately to our survival. In fact, at times the urge to eat is even stronger than the urge to engage in sexual activity, which — if we are to assume a heteronormative standpoint — is crucial to the reproduction and survival of the human species. Yet, food, sex, and gender are more intimately linked than most realize.

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