Eating Well According to the Stoics

A student once asked Epictetus how he ought to eat. This, Epictetus replied, was simple. The right way to eat is the same as the right way to live: be “just, cheerful, equable, temperate, and orderly.” He meant that meals embody the principles and the disposition of the person who eats them. Food means choices and choices mean a chance to fulfill our principles. [So think: being thankful, eating just what you need, tipping generously, caring about where it comes from and how it got there.]

Epictetus was not alone. Philosophers have been experimenting with food for centuries in hopes of finding the best ways to be healthy and to enjoy life. (Seneca, for instance, was once a vegetarian for a year.) They sought to curb the impulse to gluttony just as strongly as they fought the urge to obsess over their weight and appearance. They looked to minimize harm and to live in accordance with nature—just as we wonder about animal cruelty or shop organic today. Ultimately, they understood that everything we do—especially something with life or death implications like diet—is a platform for philosophy, that something you do at least three times a day is worth doing well.

Remember that as you eat today!