... Lo-Fat Thinking

WITHOUT minimizing people's rightful concern about the safety of the food they eat, we believe health, as it applies to food, is not simply a matter of organic chemistry. There's a mental dimension here, as in all issues of health. To put it bluntly, too many Americans - as well as people elsewhere - are obsessed with their bodies: how they feel, how they look, and what they ingest.

Watching a recent television program that included both news and ads about food - the former warning of contamination, the latter warning about salt, sodium, cholesterol, fats, preservatives, additives, calories, and you-name-it - a friend sighed and said: ``Sometimes I think the only thing I should be eating is bran.''

All this fretting over food, a late-20th century fetish, almost certainly is itself unhealthy. Call it intuition, call it the innate wisdom of millennia of human experience, or just call it common sense: It's evident that much of the modern alarmism over food not only is unnecessary, but that it can actually depress the body's natural, health-inducing processes. Food-related disorders such as anorexia and obesity are, in all likelihood, only the most extreme manifestations of mental fountainheads.

The apochryphal gourmand, advised he could prolong his life by avoiding the table, replied, ``But what would be the point?'' This is a facetious reminder that distrust of food, carried to an extreme, deprives us of a normal pleasure and, at a deeper level, is a quest for a kind of empty immortality that isn't the be-all and end-all of human life.

Jesus said, ``Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink.'' Here, as in all his teachings, he wasn't advocating monastic extremism, but healthy moderation; and he was reminding us that there are more profitable mental vistas than absorption with the body.

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