Université du Québec à Montréal / Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

bilan of food habit making

bilan of food habit making

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Not addicted so far!

It has been more than sixty days that I have been eating an apple each day -except for three days which forgot to have one- to examine two factors. First, Is the saying" an apple a day, keeps the doctor away" a myth or is it real? And second, having an apple which is considered to be healthy, can it result in food habit making or in harsh case, can it bring on a sort of food addiction?

There are (at least) three ways to have apples; raw, different cooked forms like in pies, sauce, etc., juice or cider. I have chosen to have them raw for my project and there are two reasons for that: First, according to the culinary triangle introduced by Lévi-Strauss (1964,1965), three vertexes of this triangle correspond to the categories of raw, cooked, rotten. the category of raw differentiates itself from two others by being natural and unmarked. Secondly, in cooked servings of apple like in apple pies or in apple crumbles, big amount of sugar is added to such deserts. Sugar itself is proved to be addictive. In rotten forms like cider, alcohol can be considered as the addictive element. Then I chose to have them raw as some natural and unmarked food.

Over 7500 cultivars of the apple are known, some are perfect for cooking, some are used for making cider and some are great to be eaten raw-these are the ones you can find in supermarkets. When I go to supermarkets, I can see there are five to six diverse types of them and for this project I have tried to buy and have all these types. I prefer some like the honey crisp, which is crunchy and juicy, and I enjoy having them, but for some types which are not so juicy I am reluctant to have one and it has been sometimes like torture to have one. Here in Quebec there are some apple types that I hadn't seen in my home country-Iran- and some types I used to have in Iran but they are not cultivated here.

The first couple of days my diet, I had very slight stomachache which I suppose was the beginning of refining my gastrointestinal system. My digestion system started working much better and it got regulated. Two weeks ago, I decided to go to the gym, after not having worked out for over a year, but to my surprise, I was on the treadmill for thirty minutes without any pain in my cardiovascular or respiratory system or any other problems I used to have when I began to exercise. Weeks ago, once I felt I was catching a cold and honestly saying I was pleased that I could get sick and prove the saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" wrong. But the day after, the day I was expecting to get sick, I was feeling well.

Throughout these days, I have had apples at various times of day, the first thing in the morning as my breakfast while running to work, in the afternoon, in the evening while watching TV, before going to bed. Then I decided that I should choose a certain time in day to have my apple so that I can give it a feature of habit to examine what may happen if I pass that time without having an apple. To see if my body would crave for that apple? So, I decided to have my apple in the morning, but I encountered the original phrase of the saying which said: "Eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from eating his bread". Then I decided to have the apple before going to bed.  

 Once, I had a long and difficult day. I had walked a lot and at night when I arrived home I realized that we were out of apples, but I refused to go out to buy apples. In the middle of the night I woke up with a killing pain in my shins. the first thing that came to my mind was that I hadn't had an apple that day. Though, there were other possible reasons for this pain, like having walked a lot, not having proper shoes on, the bone freezing cold, I attributed that pain to not having an apple. What I wished that moment was to find an apple to eat to soothe that pain. Most probably the apple was not the cause of that pain and it wouldn't sooth the pain, but it seems to me that apple could have the role of placebo to me.

For two other days, I forgot to have apple, but nothing bad happened to me. I didn't crave for that, which means my body didn't need it. In fact, when I say: "I forgot", it means I didn't feel any need to it. I hadn't become addicted to that. I have the experience of becoming addicted to chocolate-milk and there are people who are addicted to some sorts of food like coffee, etc. it seems to me that those foods are marked by some components which are so high in the food like the caffeine content in coffee. It seems that the components of apples are moderate so not addictive.

So far, having an apple a day has worked for me, the doctor is away, and I am not addicted to this fruit. On the other hand, whether apples are really healthy or not, we have believed that they are healthy-even it is a placebo for us- and having them has made me health conscious that beside having this healthy food, I have started working out to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

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Jonathan Hope's picture

Thanks for these reflections Mohsen. I have a few comments.

My first comments pertain to the health issues relating to your apple consumption. I wonder how we can link common knowledge to experience. How can we determine the truth value of sayings like “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and “eat an apple when going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from eating his bread”? Should we be wary of causal relations between your consumption of apples and the state of your health? Or, more precisely, what kind of causality is at stake? What kind of relationship between language and action is implied? I think we could also reflect on what common knowledge is exactly. Shared, community- or context-dependent knowledge is at the very foundation of semiotics (I’m thinking here of American pragmatists). How could this be addressed?

The other set of questions concerns the addiction issues. I understand that you did not want to put your life in danger for a university project! Nonetheless I see something in your experiment that reminds me of Morgan Spurlock’s binge-eating at McDonald’s. The objectives are obviously different. His film was a denunciatory report on the lame state of America’s food industry, and a kind of in-your-face reaction to obesity – I would like to hear Roxane Gay on this! Your project is not as radical, but it does provide us with an opportunity to reflect on habits and their uncontrolled states, addictions. What theoretical tools could you use to elaborate on this? You could definitely think with Peirce – but who else? You could maybe think with socio-semioticians, because many addictions are social (smoking, for instance) and also because addictions are behaviours of “depraved” and “unruly” people; thus addict is frowned upon because that person shows no self-control, an affront to individualism. What does this importance of the individual self imply? And could a more caring understanding of addiction and addicts make us reconsider the value that we spontaneously assign to self-control, auto-description, autotelicity (which are all rather crucial concepts in semiotics)?