The body inhabits the physical universe. A tangible entity that exists in time and space, the body is temporal and mortal. Composed of matter and powered by energy, the body obeys the laws of nature. It is subject to powerful instincts and drives, particularly survival and sexual reproduction. The human body is equipped with five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell) in order to navigate the material world, maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.
All living creatures are programmed with a survival algorithm. All life forms die if deprived of food to eat, water to drink or air to breathe. Even single-celled organisms somehow know they need nutrients to fuel life-giving energy. The simplest life forms, lacking a brain and a nervous system, somehow ‘know’ that they need to ‘eat’ and they are able to differentiate between food sources of varying nutritional value. Single-celled organisms do not indiscriminately scavenge whatever nutrients are available. Amoeba behave as if they ‘know’ that a sugar-rich diet, even if easily accessible, is not the best fuel for them. Surrounded by dozens of options, they will choose the nutrient source that provides twice as much protein as sugar. This is a hard-wired survival instinct.
Abraham Maslow, the psychologist best known for his theory of health predicated on how humans fulfil their needs in ascending priority, created a hierarchy of needs. All living creatures share the physiological base needs of food, water, air, shelter, sleep and reproduction. Lacking the first five, the individual will die. If individuals do not reproduce, the species will die.
Human creatures have evolved to seek out calorie-rich food sources to ensure their survival. These are sugars, naturally found in fruit and honey, and fats, naturally found in nuts, meat, eggs and dairy products. Humans are strongly attracted to sugar and fat because our ancestors lived in arid environments where calorie-rich foods were scarce or seasonal. A physiological mechanism evolved to store calories as body fat, which could later be converted to energy during periods of famine. When the human body is able to ingest large quantities of these formerly scare food sources, the excess calories are stored, but if no famine occurs, the body fat continues to be stacked in layer upon layer until morbid obesity becomes a life threatening condition. The body’s ‘natural’ appetites can become detrimental to heath and well-being if the brain/mind, understanding the problem, does not intervene.
A deregulated appetite can cause obesity, and an uncontrolled sex drive will manifest itself in offensive or criminal behaviour. Addictions can cause normally kind, compassionate people to behave like monsters. The body is often compared to a large beast and the mind to a small rider. The rider cannot control the wild beast by brute strength or willpower alone. The intelligent rider (mind and will) needs to outwit the more powerful beast (body).