Podcast – Episode 0295 – Food Choices And Personal Growth

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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about the stages of food in our lives as humans and how each stage is an opportunity for personal growth.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Joel explains how a recent encounter with a bag of Doritos sparked the conversation for this week’s episode.
  • Joel talks about his overall relationship with food and his thoughts on the importance of personal choice.
  • A brief overview of the history of food within the USA.
  • Joel and Antonia introduce their ideas about the 5 phases of our relationship with food throughout our lives.
  • Phase 1 – about the relationship children have with flavor intensity and sweetness.
    • Joel and Antonia share their childhood experiences.
    • How our relationship to food shapes our wiring from a young age.
  • Phase 2 – the relationship between fast food and the growing independence of teenagers and young adults.
    • What makes you compromise on flavor at this stage?
  • Phase 3 – developing more sophisticated taste and learning to cook at home.
    • The power of cultural thinking at this stage
    • How the need for efficiencies can make us compromise on nutrition during this phase.
  • Phase 4 – when the pendulum swings towards nutrition.
    • What happens during the previous phases to propel us into this phase?
    • How militant thinking and obsession over nutrition can develop.
  • Phase 5 – achieving satisfaction and balance.
    • The point when you realise perfection is unsustainable
    • The importance of pleasure
  • Linking the cost of food and medical bills.
  • Touching on the broader societal factors linked to food.
  • Why have Joel and Antonia chosen to record a podcast about food? Some final thoughts on the thinking behind this episode.

In this episode Joel and Antonia talk about the stages of food in our lives as humans and how each stage is an opportunity for personal growth. #food #personalgrowth

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Showing 9 comments
  • Mary True

    Being 70 and an INTJ I find this subject fascinating. Thanks for your insightful sharing!

  • Fleur

    With you guys even food can be an insightful topic! I’m grateful you took the care to mention these are stages you encountered in your own life.
    Mine were a bit different because the country (France) and infrastructures are not the same: I didn’t go through the fast food phase because at the time the only choice was the school cafeteria.
    I also started having an obsession with food when I first started cooking and went vegan. That’s the stage when I got caught in diet culture and was so judgemental of food and exercise, it was constantly taking a great deal of mental energy and it derived in binge eating disorder. (By the way, the disorder involving obsession with food is called orthorexia).
    Now that I’ve recovered and I cook for my own, that’s when I’m interested in making large inexpensive meals.

    In any case, thank you guys for this podcast, I honestly had preconceived ideas about what I was going to hear (equating fat with unhealthiness, suggesting losing weight is the best we can do for our health -when in fact what’s important is not the body shape, but the sustainable habits we incorporate in our lives). I was really happy to see you explored deeper topics than just the poor food advice that’s everywhere.


  • Alex Soontiens-olsen

    This is such a cool topic! Thanks for starting it. It would be fun to speculate about how different types use food and how it interacts with these phases. Ie) those of us with inferior Se can often use over-indulgence of food as a way to cope/handle stress. It probably doesnt help that I’m in the earlier 20’s stage of also eating what is fast and cheap, and that as an INTJ, I absolutely hate how detail oriented cooking is and how much energy it wastes. I’d definitely listen to you guys give your general speculations of how types think about food! 😂

  • Carol Scott

    So much food for thought!
    I think that Many of us go through your food stages a different times in our lives depending on our health, our finances, or the health of someone we love, or politicization. I’m In my 60s I’ve just lost 30 pounds—And now that my weight is where I want it to be I’ve just come out of my obsessive phase, probably the third or fourth one I’ve been through in my life. One could call it obsessive or just focused, but it enabled me to lose that extra weight. And I loved that you talked about fat shaming—of course it isn’t necessary, but let’s be honest, we all feel better the less weight we carry. Both on our bodies and our souls!
    I’ve also been politicized about food several times during my life as well, the most recent being working at the local food pantry, and seeing the crappy nutrition-less food that is given to the socioeconomically deprived. Such an interesting thought of that 70-30 ratio of food expenses-medical expenses.

  • Becky Eason

    So many thoughts after listening to this podcast! I have training as a Nutrition Coach and I’m also a Fitness Instructor (neither of which make me an expert on our lifelong relationship with food, by the way). But it does mean that I’ve also given a lot of thought to the role of food in our lives in a broader sense.

    What I’m pondering most right now is a potential Stage 6, which I have titled Recalibration. And here’s what I theorize: When you get into your 50s and beyond, you have to revisit your relationship to food AGAIN. Your body is changing, your metabolism slows down, you go through menopause (and the male version of this hormonal change), you start storing fat in different places. And you may find yourself easing into an additional 15 pounds or so, not sure how you got there. AND, the health industry may well have changed their minds about what healthy eating looks like. Again. So you have to Recalibrate.

    What’s your relationship to food now? You’re well past growing babies and chasing toddlers, so what’s the appropriate intake level for you? Does your body tolerate food the same way it did 20 years ago? And perhaps most interestingly–what matters most to you about your relationship to food? Is it being thin, being healthy, being happy, or some intersection of these? Welcome to Recalibration.

  • Ty

    My food journey was a bit different than this because of my circumstances and personality (INFJ). I did the cooking in my household starting at around age 10 so the priority at that point was whatever was easy/quick for me to make. Boxed instant mashed potatoes, rice a roni, chicken on the bbq, etc. I just wanted to get back quickly to my own room and my own world.

    In my late teens I spent more time around my aunt, who was an excellent cook and made everything from scratch. The meals and feelings she created in her home inspired me to pursue that path.

    When I got married (at 20) my husband worked nights and so I found myself with a lot of time alone. I channeled that energy into making elaborate meals. I was lonely, stagnant, and bored- so the food I made centered around creating a feeling of comfort, exploring cuisines from other cultures, or challenging myself to do something that seemed difficult. Fried chicken. Lasagna completely from scratch (meaning I even made the noodles and ricotta cheese). Arepas. Curries. I focused on things that were challenging, novel, or ridiculously indulgent- depending on my mood.

    We both gained a lot of weight.

    At 25 I got divorced and was shunned by my family and essentially everyone else I had known up to that point.

    I was self-conscious about my weight and so I started to pay more attention to diet and nutrition advice. I was never very good at the militant thing though. Maybe I could last a month on some kind of diet, and even then, I still cheated. I’ve never been good at being 100% about anything. I always decide I’d rather be happy than thin.

    But I did start to notice that those two things didn’t have to be entirely mutually exclusive- I realized that I really enjoy most vegetables, fresh fruit is delicious, I love whole grains, and that good quality cheese is easier to have in moderation. I still wanted comfort, but my mind shifted from finding pleasure in cheesy casseroles to finding it in perfectly seared salmon with white wine lemon pan sauce and grilled asparagus. The shift to health has been about mindfulness and creating dishes that feel both extremely comforting and extremely nourishing. Food that really, truly feels good for the soul on every level.

    My main motivation in cooking has definitely been my love for other people for the most part. When my partner started complaining about low energy and weight gain, that’s when I started to make the biggest changes in the kinds of meals I was making. If I’m cooking only for myself I’m likely to make a bean burrito or a grilled cheese and tomato soup and call it good enough.

    Now I’m trying to love cooking for it’s own sake by transforming it into the kind of experience I personally enjoy. I’m focusing on every step of the process. Enjoying picking the perfect lemon. Savoring the smell and the way it makes me feel- how the smell makes me feel suddenly awake. The sound of my knife hitting the wooden cutting board, the way the garlic slightly burns and numbs my fingers. Popping a piece of raw red onion in my mouth to enjoy the crunch, how it makes my mouth water, the spice. Chewing a bit of parsley and really paying attention to the earthiness of it. When I’m at my best cooking has become a meditation, a sort of spiritual exercise in awareness of my senses and in gratefulness. “I am nourishing my body, I have a healthy body- thank you. I am nourishing my loved ones, I have loved ones to share this meal with- thank you.”

    I think the next natural progression for me (and it’s already started to some degree) is to start including more choices that are made for the sake of sustainability and ethics into my daily life.

    • Antonia Dodge

      What a great evolution of your relationship to food, and very INFJ of you. Thank you for sharing!


  • Erik Bland

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve been interested in food for a while from a nutrition, performance, and sustainability standpoint. At the start of your podcast, my first thoughts went to the Graves Model, and your talk made me appreciate that there are so many different complex facets to food that even approaching it from this model is only a single one of them.

    Regarding Spiral Dynamics, I considered how someone at each stage of development might approach food. Of course, people are really diverse regardless of their Graves level, so I can only give examples right now, and these won’t apply to everyone:

    At stage red, I think of children, tyrants, and historical aristocrats or monarchs. At this stage, I think nutrition is not a concern. Food is primarily about pleasure, when possible. A king will feast on a grand spread to savor a diversity of well-prepared and seasoned dishes that those with fewer resources don’t have access to.

    At stage blue, I think there’s a bit of revulsion to the opulence and hedonistic perspective on food that occurred at stage red. I think food at this stage can be nutritious, but it’s primarily by coincidence, not by design or intent. There’s also a lot of identity and pride in food. “My grandmother used to make this”, or “I’m part Italian, so I take pride in making quality Italian food”.

    At stage orange, I like Joel’s description of food as a product. This can be either positive or negative, depending on how it’s used. At early stage orange, I think of the cultural identity or ‘coolness’ factor of food being a big priority, with splashy bright green drinks and trendy brand names like Starbucks. At later stage orange, food can become very performance or objective-oriented. This can be something simple (and not necessarily healthy) like fast food to save time. But it can also be energy drinks for improved productivity, nutritional supplements, protein drinks, or engineered athletic diets for higher performance.

    At stage green, I think there is typically some focus on nutrition, though it’s not always the highest priority. There is more concern with the global ecology and morality of food. At early stage green, “feel good’ food ideologies are supported, with keywords including veganism, free-range, organic, locally-grown, and small farms. At this stage, there is a focus on sustainability, but at an abstract level that prioritizes how the food makes one feel more than effectiveness. At later stage green, I think there is a greater focus on sustainability. Solutions at this stage might include protein alternatives (e.g. cricket flour, algae, in-vitro meat), and high-tech farming solutions like satellite surveillance for efficient spot-feeding of crops, and vertical-farming indoors. There is probably more openness to controversial ideas (when performed responsibly) like GMOs to improve food nutritional quality and productivity.

    There are just my thoughts. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Drew

    So many thoughts on this one! I was eating breakfast while listening yesterday morning, and I realized that even in the act of eating while concentrating on my relationship to food made me feel like my oatmeal was suddenly sickeningly sweet, and my coffee overloaded with cream. It harkens back to a lot I’ve figured out in the past year—that simple mindfulness and listening to my body will tell me a lot about what I need to do or consume.

    I’m in my mid twenties and definitely feel like my relationship to food has progressed on a timeline similar to the one you laid out, though probably with fewer McDonalds and Little Debbie snacks in the mix. I had to laugh when Antonia mentioned the “beans are healthy” mentality, as I’m very much there right now—I mean, they’re 90¢ a can, and not mac & cheese, right?

    What really struck me was your conversation about nutrition obsession. My oldest cousin almost definitely experiences this in the clinical sense, which most clearly presented itself when she was my age. At the same time that I was rapidly gaining weight from depression, medicine, and early college life, she was experiencing psychosomatic food allergies, losing what little fat she had, and running obsessively. I remember being so angry at every holiday gathering because she would bring her own tiny meal to prepare while the rest of the family ate whatever my mom or aunts had made. Apart from my own insecurities about my body, this behavior made my Extraverted Feeling alarms go off like crazy. We were by no means in regular contact, but I think the ways in which our illnesses bounced off each other made those times extremely hard despite our love for one another.

    In my own relationship with food I always find hope in my incremental shifts in preferences. I feel like most people most obviously experience this with coffee. We start out drinking frappuccinos, then a coffee with two creams and two sugars, and the sweetness just tapers off from there.

    If you get the chance, I’d love to hear an episode on people’s relationships to exercise. I’d suspect that that would have more to do with personality types than with age, but it would be great to get your perspective. I’ve struggled with anxiety around exercise for a very long time, but am working hard to overcome my internal roadblocks.

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