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Eating by values not calories

25 Feb 2019 6:35 AM | TCME Admin (Administrator)

by Konstaninos Zervos

This article was originally posted at ME-CL. It is reprinted with permission.

Values are central to a person sense of self. They work as standards that guide thoughts and actions. We might define values as verbal descriptions of what people are personally invested in, regard highly and seek to uphold and defend.

Where do we get our values from?

Our values develop out of our attitudes. They are expressed in behavior, through preferences based on beliefs about objects, persons or situations and are accompanied by feelings of approval or disapproval.

For example, we each have beliefs about how we should take care of our health. Health is a value in its own right, affecting both personal and social aspects of life and is important to make human nature flourish. As Plato states “Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree which requires to grow and develop on all sides according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing”.

What are the values that are components of a flourishing human life?
  • Self-determination, the ability to be able to choose and formulate one’s own plans. That means a person to be able to know what he wants, to have aims in one’s life and to be able to make decisions for himself.

  • Self-governing, the ability to be detached, to stand back and to take into account one’s own needs and the needs of the others.

  • Self-responsibility, which make people responsible for their own actions.

  • Self-realization or self-development acquiring life skills. The ability to make decisions and to take control of one’s own life rather than be at the mercy of circumstances.

Values like creativity, friendship, health, love, peace, simplicity, success, autonomy, understanding and much more are parts of the above bigger pillars.

What can help you lead yourself and live a life according to your values?

You can develop a relationship with your intuition or inner wisdom and have the courage to follow that guidance. The mindful self, is feeling, sensing and experiencing, as opposed to the place where we are being driven by our narratives, our conditioning, and our critical voices. When we are judging we separate from ourselves and from the others. Through understanding we grow.

So how do values relate to food and eating?

In one of my mindful eating coaching sessions I asked the coachee to share her personal life values and how those those values are connected to her eating behavior. She mentioned:

Vitality: eating foods that give me energy and make me feel good

Positivity: eating for pleasure and satisfaction

Balance: less guilty, eating according to my stomach hunger

Honesty: willing to recognize and respect my true needs

Freedom: eating without following certain rules but in a frame, I will create

Kindness: eating better as a form of self-care

And she summed up saying: “I would like to eat whatever I want without feeling guilty or worries. To be able to regulate my motivation to eat and regulate the food portions. My body weight is not a primary goal anymore!”

Is eating a chore or can it be enjoyable?

Many people think of food in terms of ticking off boxes: milk for calcium, orange juice for vitamin C, steak for iron or protein, fish for omega 3, tomatoes for lycopene, broccoli for antioxidants, capsicum for . . . etc. Eating become a chore.

As Gyorgy Scrinis’ critique: “Not that nutrients are unimportant, but that focusing on them undermines other equally valid, commonsense ways of understanding food, such as flavour, culture, tradition, levels of processing, seasonality, locality and freshness.”

The emphasis in calories take people away from the ingredients, processing methods, and the overall quality of their foods. It’s a barrier for creating an authentic relationship with the food because, knowledge usually creates criticism.

Finally, what really satisfy people is not getting slim or rich, but feeling good about their lives. Attention shapes the self and it is in turn shaped by it. If a person can be aware of his instinctual desires not because he has to, but because he wants to, he can enjoy himself, his life and his food.

Health, is the outcome of living well and finding a balance in your life.

So, take a moment to think:

What are your personal values? Why do they matter?

Does your way of eating reflect your personal beliefs?

~ Konstantinos Zervos


Downie, R. S., Fyfe, C., & Tannahill, A. (1991). Health promotion models and values. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Pr.

Kashdan, T. B., & Ciarrochi, J. (2013). Mindfulness, acceptance, and positive psychology: The seven foundations of well-being. Oakland, CA: Context Press.

Scrinis, Gyorgy. “Big Food and the Calorie Trap | Gyorgy Scrinis.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 July 2013,

About Konstantinos Zervos

Konstantinos holds an ΜSc in Ηealth Promotion and Health Education, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens/Greece, is a registered Nutritionist-Dietician, Master Practitioner on Eating Disorder and Obesity, Certified Wellcoach, and International bodyART instructor Level 1&2.

His work focuses to inspire and motivate people to make sustainable changes in their eating behaviors by improving their holistic wellbeing. He has twenty years of working experience with specialization in obesity and disordered eating behaviors. The last five years he specializes in the field of mindfulness and its application in eating behavior. He is the founder of the program “EATT*”, a scientific and evidenced based mindful eating intervention who has helped more than a hundred of people to change their relationship with food and their body.

You can find Konstantinos at




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