Since the discovery of the vitamin, scientists have hypothesized the existence of a previously undiscovered species, Homo nutritiocus. Homo nutritiocus or Nutricons, as I like to call them, eat for one reason and one reason alone: optimal health and nutrition.
Nutricons are completely rational about their food decisions, which is why they are so insanely healthy. They eat three balanced meals every day and always include five to seven (depending on the current health recommendations) servings of fruits and vegetables.
Green leafy vegetables and lean protein are their favorite foods, of course. They never add extra salt to their food, because flavor is irrelevant. They do treat themselves to dessert every now and then, but only in moderation.
For Nutricons, deciding what to eat is easy. They simply eat the healthiest food available, while factoring in the other foods they have eaten and the ones they plan to eat so as to achieve balanced nutrition according to the rate at which their bodies utilize different nutrients. They eat these healthy foods when hungry, and stop when they are full.
Nutricons have really good memories and know how much nutrition is in all the foods they are offered. They are also very good at math. Since most biological processes are non-linear and depend on a large number of variable factors, the ability to do complex calculations while perusing a menu, or shopping at the grocery store, is an essential skill. Nutricons don’t mind the extra work though, nutrition is their top priority and extra math homework is just a bonus.
As you can imagine Nutricons are excellent at estimating portion sizes, but are sure to carry a portable food scale and measuring utensils in case there is ever any doubt. They are never too tired to cook a healthy meal, or too distracted to pack healthy snacks for unexpected emergencies. Nutricons always have time and energy for good nutrition.
Naturally the spouses and children of Nutricons are also Nutricons, so they too love to eat for optimal nutrition and never complain about a meal that is healthy (unless it contains too many calories for their body size––Nutricon children are frequently offered too much food by normal humans, so simply ask to be served less or leave what they do not desire).
When feeding a Nutricon, humans often try to sneak sugar, processed flour, and extra salt into salads and roasted vegetables, since they cannot understand how Nutricons survive on so little calories and flavor. Nutricons find this amusing, but are not offended by the silly, flabby Homo sapiens. Nutricons know that humans are driven by primitive desires for pleasure, ease and satisfaction, and therefore forgive their irrational habits.
Nutricons almost never become overweight. However if such an unlikely event occurs, they simply eat less and exercise more until their optimal weight is achieved. Once there, maintaining their ideal weight is as easy as low-carb carrot cake.
Homo nutritiocus is closely related to cousin Homo economicus, the rational consumer who thrives in a free market by weighing the objective value of every spending decision to achieve his financial goals. Homo economicus, or Econs, have their eyes on the long-term prize of retirement, just like Nutricons have their eyes on a long, disease-free life. Similarly they have no trouble with maintaining a budget, properly allocating their investment portfolios, and never, ever buy anything impulsively.
You’ve probably never met either a Nutricon or an Econ in real life, since they don’t actually exist. In fact, they are nothing like the temperamental, impulsive, lazy, and easily influenced Homo sapiens we all know and love.
So why is virtually all health and diet advice directed at Nutricons and not real humans?
Why are we treated as if we are even capable of eating solely for fuel or optimal health, when getting dinner on the table at all is a challenge for most of us?
Nutrition knowledge is meaningless unless we can actually implement it in our daily lives.
The good news is that you don’t need to be a Nutricon to be happy and healthy, but you do need to stop pretending that you are one. Unless you acknowledge that your actions will never be driven by nutrition knowledge, you’ll continue to spin your wheels and blame yourself––instead of the bad advice––each time nature shows you that you’re a human and not a robot.
To get healthy you need to understand what really drives you to eat, because hoping that you will one day be motivated enough to make salad instead of ordering pizza isn’t very rational.
I really hope health professionals figure this out one day too.
Have you ever secretly hoped you were a Nutricon?
Originally published June 18, 2014.