Recently, I asked this question to several people and they all agreed that Good Health is definitely a need. When I posed a follow-up question: What´s the difference between a want and a need? I found that there were differences of opinions.
To distinguish the difference between a want and a need I decided to investigate and came up with the following:
• A need is something that is extremely necessary for a person to survive. If a need is not met, it would lead to suffering, the onset of disease, the inability to function effectively and efficiently in society, and even death. Also, needs are the same for everyone.
• Wants are desires that are optional, meaning that you will be fine and can still go on living, even if the want is not met. Wants are not the same for everyone and often change over time.
As I found out, we often confuse the two, saying that we “need” something when what we really mean to say is “want” (i.e., I need a new car vs. I want a new car or I need to make more money vs. I want to make more money). As a result, in our daily lives we get used to interchanging these words without giving it a second thought.
There are certain needs that are very obvious, clear and vital to us, and without them death is imminent. These needs follow the law of 3:
1) Air – Death after approximately 3 minutes
2) Water – Death after approximately 3 days
3) Food – Death after approximately 3 weeks
So, is “Good Health” a Want or a Need?
Although it may not be so obvious as the “Big 3”, according to the definition above it is a need, because if we´re deprived of Good Health, “it would lead to suffering, the onset of disease, the inability to function effectively and efficiently in society, and even death”.
A Question of Tastes
We all “want” the food we eat to taste good and that´s wonderful because that´s what our taste buds are made for…to satisfy this “want”. However, “tasting good” is in fact very short lived. It ends once we take that last swallow. The flavor of the food we eat lasts only a few minutes…while we´re chewing. The food is then passed on to the rest of our body, which responds to the “need” to be nourished. There are no taste buds from the throat down and therefore no taste experience beyond our mouth. Unfortunately, we can get stuck so much on the flavors of the food that we completely forget that for the next few hours our bodies and our immune system will be working incessantly trying to keep us healthy. One example of this is the craving that millions of people around the world have for fast foods, even though they know how unhealthy they are. The want for flavors overshadows the need to be healthy. This craving for taste is so dominant that many people, even those who switch to a plant based diet for health reasons, find it very difficult to give up the cravings for hamburgers, cheeses, pizzas, KFC, etc. They constantly try to find substitutes for those tastes, substitutes that are often highly processed, requiring additives, salt, sugars, trans-fats and artificial coloring, just to mimic the tastes that they are missing. These highly processed substitutes are often not much healthier than the original unhealthy food that people are trying to give up.
In my experience, losing the cravings for different foods takes a while, similar to giving up smoking. Because our taste buds are constantly being renewed, they will eventually adapt and even thrive with the new tastes. We just have to be patient. For example, if we completely refrain from eating salt for one week and then eat something salty, it will taste “too” salty. My suggestion is to not focus on the foods we think we´re missing but to focus on the new world of flavors that are awaiting us.
In conclusion, once “Good Health” becomes the priority for us and is recognized as a “need” we will become more aware of the positive or negative repercussions of what we put into our mouths. We will realize that taste, although important and satisfying, is only a small part of the digestive process and that we need to be more diligent and more pro-active by choosing the foods that respond to our body´s needs. By the way. By consuming more Whole Food Plant Based foods combined with exercise and stress management we will not only lose weight but also reap in the benefits of excellent health. In other words, “we can have our cake and eat it too”.