Navigation bar--use text links at bottom of page.

(An Ex-Instincto's Guide to Instinctive Eating--continued, Part F)

How much does an instincto eat?

Probably too much! Since modern fruits are "too sweet"; since farm animals are "too fatty" (compared to their wild counterparts); since even today's veggies are relatively easy to eat compared to wild plants; since we are only limited by our pocketbook, not by availability of a food in the wild and the energy needed to hunt or gather food; and especially since many of the folks attracted to a fringe diet like instincto arguably may have some sort of eating disorder--the biggest problem of instincto is overeating. Indeed, instinctos are encouraged to eat their fill of any good-tasting raw food... and let me tell you, there are PLENTY OF GREAT-TASTING FOODS out there on this planet. ;-)

I don't want to generalize my experience to all instinctos, but from what I have seen, one of the big attractions to instincto is the "eat as much as you want" part. Instincto has been called "an excuse for gluttony"--and it may well be! There are some instinctos who are not feasting at every meal, and probably they do better as a group than the "if seven baby coconuts taste good, then I'm gonna eat seven baby coconuts" crowd.

Sorting out whether instincto causes overeating or simply attracts big eaters in the first place is pretty hard. But most instinctos realize, at least intellectually if not in daily practice, that they should not eat their fill of fruit. They realize that they can't eat it until the taste goes bad, or they will find other foods crowded out and they'll become unbalanced over time--just as those who are intentionally fruitarian eventually become unbalanced. If overeating is a common problem for instinctos, overeating fruit may be their Achilles' heel. And there is similar talk about overeating meat. Even instinctos must still eat all their vegetables. ;-)

Nevertheless, experience in the instincto community also seems to indicate there may be legitimate times and situations, especially in the case of illnesses or when first starting instincto, when the body is demanding lots of a particular food and it might be just fine to temporarily indulge. Deficiencies or great metabolic need must be reversed and fulfilled to be healthy. The problem is when overeating is an everyday, even every-meal, practice.

The quantities of an original food some instinctos have demanded can be surprising (to say the least ;-) ), as a few of these extraordinary examples from instincto lore will attest:

(Above examples are from the online translation of Guy-Claude Burger's book, Manger Vrai, part one.)

According to Guy-Claude Burger, none of these occurrences resulted in any kind of digestive distress. (Then again, who knows, it may be the individuals in question were not conscious enough afterward to reliably furnish an intelligible report. ;-) ) Persons attracted to such large quantities are often seriously ill. (Whether physically or mentally ill might be another good question. ;-) ) Once the metabolic demand for a particular food was satisfied, there was usually a noticeable improvement in their health. Such great need for a raw food can only be discovered by testing a large variety of raw foods on a continuing (and, dare we say, perhaps even fanatical) basis.

According to instincto theory, the organism expresses its need for a particular raw food by giving it a pleasing flavor. If your organism has no need of, say, oysters, then oysters will taste unpleasant, or merely bland. We can get around that expression of instinct by cooking, or adding cocktail sauces, or lemon juice, etc. If we denature the oyster to the point that it does not taste like an oyster, we can eat it--even against the intentions of our instinct. We have created a new, exciting taste that our instinct has not evolved with and cannot evaluate--again, according to instincto theory, at least.

So in reality, there is no way to answer the question of how much of a particular food an instincto might eat. (Perhaps another one of instincto's many attractions. ;-) )

As an illustration, let's imagine the following scene: Take ten hungry people in your favorite restaurant and present them with an unlimited supply of freshly shucked oysters on the half-shell. (Mmm-mmm-yow!) Probably at least five people will not try any oyster. (Yep, it figures.) They are grossed-out by the sight and/or idea of oysters. This is not an instinct but a learned response. For instance, if we present the oysters to ten hungry two-year-olds, we would likely find that some will be attracted and some won't--not because they think oysters are gross, but because they tested the smell and taste (and perhaps even threw a few hunks against the nearest wall to test the splat-quotient :-) ).

So, anyway... back to our scenario: Five people have left, perhaps for an upchucking session at the nearest ladies' or men's room ;-) , unwilling to even smell or taste an oyster. Of the five hugely daring souls remaining, only Marty and Barry have enjoyed oysters before. (In fact, just the night before, they were at a sports bar slurping them down with lemon and cocktail sauce between beers--that most original of all intoxicants. As a buddy of mine likes to tell me, "My instinct is telling me I need a brewski!") Amy, Anne, and Tony, however, have never eaten an oyster before.

"Hey, where's the sauce?" Marty says. (Sorry, Marty, but we're eating oysters here, not oysters with lemon juice, or oysters and sauce, or oysters Rockefeller.)

All five people now smell the various oysters in front of them. Marty finds that they smell "yuck, sour, like rotten seaweed or something. These must be a rotten batch or something." He does not want to taste the oyster, and why should he? They smell unattractive. (And you ask if it should take the instincto approach to tell him this? Well... maybe. ;-) )

Anne and Barry cannot smell much of anything.

Both Amy and Tony think it smells good, "like the ocean."

So the four people taste their first oyster of the day; not slurping it down their throats quickly, but savoring the flavors, chewing, then swallowing. Barry does not swallow but spits the oyster into a napkin. "Ugh--it's acrid! Not for me."

"Hey, not bad," says Anne, "kind of sweet, but salty too."

"Yeah, the flavors go good together... very interesting," says Amy. "I can't believe I actually ate a raw oyster!"

"Good? This is fantastic! I never imagined a flavor like this in my life! It's sweet and salty, but rich too?! Gimme another!" raves Tony.

So out of our original ten, three are now eating oysters au naturel with pleasure.

Anne stops after the fourth oyster and asks for some lemon to make it taste better. (Sorry, but no, Anne.) After eating one more, she stops and won't eat another.

Side by side and still going at it, Amy and Tony continue eating oyster after oyster (after oyster). Finally, after perhaps 23 oysters ;-) Amy at last opines, "You know, they were quite heavenly--and oceanly--but I must say, I now believe I can intuit what Barry meant about tasting acrid. They got less sweet and more acrid as I ate more. Every one tasted different. But now they're too salty. No more for me."

Tony, not to be outdone by a mere female of the species, ends up eating several dozen oysters before getting his instinctive stop and having to undo his belt five notches.

So... back to a bit more serious discussion, what does an oyster, a berry, a melon, a tomato, or banana, taste like? Who is to say? The instincto viewpoint is that it depends on the person's overall biological state as expressed by the senses of taste and smell. Further, if we take the five (hugely) daring souls the next day and let them eat their fill of oysters again, experience in instincto-land has shown there is no way to predict who will eat how many oysters. Marty, who spit out his first oyster, may enjoy dozens of them the next day, or he may spit it out again. Tony may not enjoy them at all the next day, or may again eat a large quantity. Who knows? Not even Tony knows. (Though reportedly his hairdresser will know for sure. ;-) ) This is not just a quirk in the nature of oysters, but an example of the expression of our alimentary instinct. The story could be retold using any part of any plant or animal in its raw, native condition.

BUT, if the story were retold using watermelon or bananas or any other way-too-easy-to-eat supermarket fruit, if we are being honest, everybody would probably overeat it. And the next day they could (over)eat some more. Not because fruits are humankind's best and only food, but because due to centuries of breeding to cater to the human sweet tooth, modern fruit is simply too attractively sweet. (See Wild vs. Cultivated Fruit Table on this site for particulars.)

Oysters, on the other hand, are not about to let you overeat them. ;-) Though usually cultivated, oysters are still "wild enough" that the taste-change is strong and quick enough that you'll have a hard time overdoing it. Yet, still, if you had to pry each oyster off some half-submerged tidal rock and open each one yourself, even with a modern oyster knife you might stop eating them a little sooner than if someone presented you with them already harvested and shucked a dozen at a time on a pretty silver plate...


...And that brings us back to the guy in our introduction: the one over there on the rocks by the seashore smashing open crabs and sucking out the innards--that fellow... that fellow who we know is an instincto for sure. Did he truly just get out of the loony bin? Only you can decide, of course. But I already know what my own answer will be... I think. ;-)

--Kirt Nieft

Before writing to Beyond Veg contributors, please be aware of our
email policy about what types of email we can and cannot respond to.

Return to beginning of article

Back to Re-Examining Instinctive Eating / Instincto

   Beyond Veg home   |   Feedback   |   Links