Nutrition, Food, and Love in Turkey

The more I travel, the more I fall in love with the world, and the more I notice that America has a fascinating way of exporting not only it’s way of eating, but also the way it diets, obsesses about food, and stays locked in an endless, emotional battle with weight. As the world gets smaller and more connected, our nutritional habits become increasingly global – more fast food, less time to eat, decreased food quality, and a sense that despite the glories of a computerized world, we can easily fall into the nutrition dark ages if we don’t stay awake at the plate.

To this end, I just returned from a life-changing visit to Turkey. I was invited, along with Emily Rosen, IPE’s Chief Operating Officer, to deliver a keynote speech at Turkey’s first Wellness Day.  Turkey is a gem. The country has a sense of simplicity and humility that’s refreshing for a high speed American like myself. Approximately 96% or more of the Turkish population is Muslim. But unlike the fanatic images of Islam portrayed in our media, the Turkish people have a very sweet, secular, and relaxed approach to their religious values. I was struck with how so many people there exude a sense of spiritual connection that felt inclusive, genuine and generous. Stated simply, the Turks are a refreshing people, and I think we have a lot to learn from them. Sometimes I think I need to move to a completely different country for a few years and call myself a “recovering American.”

My hosts in Turkey were the owners of the beautiful Richmond Nua Wellness Spa about 90 minutes outside of Istanbul. This destination resort is worth a special visit – amazing healthy food, outstanding service, beautiful lakeside location, and a unique and memorable collection of Turkish saunas, steam rooms, and treatments. They really wanted a noteworthy American nutrition personality to jumpstart their event and bring some inspiration from overseas. I felt very honored.

Somehow, when I was asked to come to Turkey and give a keynote speech, I imagined I’d be talking to a group of people who needed some basic holistic nutrition advice because surely, they must be so far behind us nutritionally sophisticated Americans. However, what I discovered was that the Turks are fascinated with health and nutrition, they love Dr. Mehmet Oz – he’s a Turkish American, and they can hold their own when it comes to nutrition smarts. In addition, the Turks have an amazing cuisine – a huge variety of healthy vegetables, creative vegetable dishes, some fish, healthy meat, fresh cheese, olive oil, tea, vibrant fruit, a variety of nuts and more. And the majority of it is great quality – it tastes so different than the equivalent foods in the USA. If there’s such a thing as the “energetic” value of food – and I know that there is – then the Turks have a great thing going. They should be giving us lots of advice in this realm.

But here’s the Turkish challenge: they’re becoming more like us. Fast food, Burger King, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, sugar, long work hours, late dinners, easy access to junk food for the younger generation, and as so many Turks shared with me, they face the big challenge of “emotional eating.” And emotional eating means weight gain, which means more dieting, which means low calorie eating and high-powered exercise, topped with a large serving of guilt and body image woes. Mix all these ingredients together and we have the recipe for slowly rising national obesity, and rapidly decreasing happiness about weight and shape.

Maybe countries around the globe are joining together because of the worldwide web, but I sometimes imagine that our main common bond will someday be our shared challenge around weight and our nutritional/emotional distress. I wanted to somehow stop the Turks from going down the same dietary road that Americans have traversed, a road that has a “Nutritional Dead End” sign conveniently hidden from view.

The majority of Turks I spoke with who were dieting for weight loss were having some eating experiences that for them, were unusual  – they were binge eating, overeating, craving carbohydrates – and still not seeing the results they wanted. Welcome to the club called “this is how Americans have been dieting since the 1960s without success, yet we still do it and we still keep failing.” The dues for this club are very high, but the benefits are lousy.

At the Institute, we understand that low calorie, low fat, and high protein diets, though often useful in the short-term, are not a sustainable long-term strategy when it comes to weight loss. Binge eating and carb craving are absolutely predictable with such strategies. Such diets inevitably lead to inability to lose weight, and a decreased calorie burning capacity due to the stress response that’s activated in the central nervous system whenever the brain senses “starvation” conditions.

It’s a very human activity to look for and expect a quick fix. Our world is filled with quick financial fixes – the lottery, quick health fixes – miracle supplements, and quick weight loss fixes of every possible variety. A Turkish magazine editor informed me that one of the most famous nutrition personalities in Turkey was some random man who lost a large amount of weight using just cayenne pepper.

Who wouldn’t want to jump on such an instantaneous weight-loss opportunity?

I laughed when I heard this, and secretly hoped that the quick fix disease would not infect the Turks as it has my fellow Americans.

Suffice it to say, my talk went well, I had my 15 minutes (actually much more) of fame in Turkey, and I answered many questions on how to not emotionally eat. Fortunately, because humans seem to be the same everywhere, I told the Turks what I have told Americans, plus a dozen other nationalities, and anyone else who would care to listen – we’re all emotional beings, and we all eat, so that makes us all emotional eaters. How perfect. Bring your gusto to the table, your desire, your passion, your loneliness, your hunger, your boredom, your sadness, and your zest for life – all of it.

And while we’re at it, let’s remember that our relationship with food is a doorway, and that emotional eating – when it starts to get us too fat or too unhappy – is nothing less then a beautiful opportunity to see what’s really going on. Our relationship with food is literally here to help us grow, evolve, and transform.

So emotional eating may be pointing to unspoken words in our relationship, to unfulfilled needs at work, to hurts that go unnoticed, to power that goes unclaimed, to needs not met in the bedroom, to love not set free from the heart, and so much more.

Oh yes, and drink more water, eat more healthy fat, consume less soda, and stay away from the artificial sweeteners.

The Turks understood it all. They know we have a lot to teach them, and they know they need to avoid a good number of our complicated nutritional messes. Like it or not, we’re all in this together. After a long flight from Istanbul to Chicago, I sat in the airport and had an airport burrito. It had rice, beans, salsa, vegetables, and guacamole. The man who made it put it together hastily. No smile, no artistry, no care. I couldn’t finish it. Bellyache. It was good to be back in America.

We teach what we need to learn, and we learn what we need to teach. I shall look forward to returning to my Turkish friends, enjoying Turkish tea and hospitality, and remembering a few things about how life should be lived.

I’d love to hear about any of your travel adventures that “opened the door” and made a profound and positive impact on your view of food, health and nutrition.

My warmest regards,
Marc David
Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating

© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014

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    • soshy

      This email makes me sooo happy. My journey with food and my body has been so incredibly powerful and you were the one that helped me on the path to feeling free on many levels..Your work has touched my soul on such a deep level that i now find myself feeling like this is what i want to teach the rest of the world. Thanks for it all!

    • LiZa

      We are all one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Magically written Marc! I felt I was there with you. In fact, let’s plan a retreat at that lovely location in Turkey. Thanks for taking the t-i-m-e to make the words on the page taste as delicious as the food on my plate.
      From my bones to yours,

    • E. Banu Gurel

      Hi , I just read your post about your vacation to Turkey. I am living in Istanbul and graduated from IIN , in April 2011,know you through IIN and your book ” Nourishing Wisdom “, which I found very helpful and suggested to my several clients. I work on areas Life and Health coaching for 5 years ,and relate them with Gestalt Therapy .
      I would like to meet you and share the Turkish hospitality if you would like too on your next visit .
      Kind regards,
      Banu Gürel
      09216 405 10 15
      09532 234 02 43

      • KarnaN

        Hi E. Banu,
        Thank you for your comment! This is Karna, Director of Student Relations for the Institute. I am glad that you are implementing what you have learned from reading Marc’s book. Also, your work seems very interesting! Marc is already talking about his next trip to Turkey – I will let him know that your hospitality is waiting for him and will pass on your contact information. We very much appreciate all of your support.

        Warm regards,
        Karna Nau

    • Isabel

      I have problems with overeating and emotional eating. When I read your blog posts it all makes a lot of sense to me and your words really speak to me, I see everything so clear at that time. But then, I can’t really seem to make a change in the way I eat and do things! 🙁
      Where should I start?

      • KarnaN

        Hi Isabel,
        Thank you very much for your reply. This is Karna, Director of Student Relations for the Institute. A great place to start is to sign up for our free video guide called ‘Secrets of an Eating Psychologist – the 9 Challenges We Face with Food and How to Transform Them’ by following the link below:

        For me it was also very helpful to read Marc’s books ‘Nourishing Wisdom’ and the ‘Slow Down Diet.’ By reading these books I got insights on how to heal my relationship with food. I hope this will be helpful for you.

        Warm regards,


    • Hello Marc,

      I would like to share with you my own impressions of these different cultures of eating.

      Sharing your passion for travelling, I came back from Europe and I was completely astonished: Most people in different cities of North of Europe does not seem to have any weight problems (actually they are thin). Although big meals they could have (personally we had tremendous dinners in Paris), and certainly high caloric menus. But many of them (most in Amsterdam, Copenhaguen or Norway) have a healthy habit: biking.
      Besides the relationship between eating and physical activity I have been interested in other topic: who you are with when you are eating. I am reading some articles about that, e.g. the value of family dinners for a sicilian society. We all know how popular is also mediterranean diet, but now I could see people from North of Europe ( not in Germany) looks in a normal weight.

      What are your thoughts about it?



      • KarnaN

        Hi Claudia,

        Thank you for your perceptive insights. My name is Karna Nau, Director of Student Relations at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. The topics you are interested in are exactly what we explore here at the Institute.

        I highly suggest that you sign up for a free video that will provide more depth for you:

        Also, I highly recommend that you read the other articles on the website, as these cover a range of topics, including those that are of importance to you.


    • Dear Marc.
      Thank you so much for your share. “fall into the nutrition dark ages if we don’t stay awake at the plate.”
      resonated with me so much. My plate is full right now but you’re on my path. Soon.

      Again, Thank you so much.

      • KarnaN


        We are more than happy that this post resonated with you on a deep level. And we thank you for your kind words!

        Warm regards,

        Karna Nau

    • Marc David

      Hi everyone,

      Thank you so much for your comments and wonderful words. We very much appreciate your support!

      Warm regards,

      Marc David

    About The Author
    Marc David

    Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.