The Nutritional Value of Fire

I live in Boulder, Colorado. As many of you may know, we’ve had some intense wild fires here in our beautiful state. Homes have been burned, lives have been uprooted, and for sure, many people in the community have worked hard to protect one another. Several years ago, a fire in this same part of the country came within 100 yards of my home. Needless to say, I took note. This time around, with the fire much further away, I noticed a strange, uncomfortable force that seemed to be impacting everyone:

The fire was cooking us all.

Normally we think of fire as the magical entity that does the cooking for us – it makes our food palatable, keeps us warm and fuzzy, and looks really good when you’re out camping and have nothing better to do than toast things that don’t really need toasting.

It’s time to give fire it’s due. If you’re like most people, you’ve had times in your life where things have gotten a little hot. I think you know what I mean. We can all agree that when we say, “the heat is on,” something in us and around us is about to change. In the tradition of Alchemy, the adept must go through various stages of challenge that lead him from his lowest self to his highest, most luminescent one. And many of these stages involved the element of fire. Fire purifies us. Fire burns away that which no longer serves us. The heat of the fire makes us more pliable and flexible so we can grow in the direction where the wisdom of Life is calling and crafting us.

Study the process of wound healing, and you’ll note that there’s a very specific phase called inflammation. Whenever you get a cut, a wound, or have a surgery, there’s literally a biologic fire that engulfs the site of the wound. A unique cascade of chemical reactions causes the tissue to become red, hot, and inflamed. Interestingly enough, this phase of inflammation is crucial and necessary to the healing of the boo-boo. In other words, healing is preceded by fire. There’s no way around it. Even if you can’t stand the heat, you still have to stay in the kitchen.

So, think of your life.

Consider all the times when you took a leap in consciousness, when you grew a bit, transformed, or simply became a better person. Chances are, to make that quantum leap, you went through some intensity. It might have been a divorce, a death in the family, a challenge with your parents, a drama with your kids, a bozo at work, or maybe your bank account took a hit.  You were going through the fire.

Of course, if you’re like most people, including me, when the fiery stuff comes our way, I want to call the fire department to hose things down.  We might put out the fire with overeating, binge eating, obsessing about food, distracting ourselves with worrying about weight, or obsessively trying to be perfect about this or that. We suppress the very fire that would have us grow and heal when it finally subsides. It seems like the right thing to do at the time, but it shortcuts our evolution.

As far as I can tell, when we truly welcome the fire, we’re allowing for the thing we want most. Liberation. Freedom. The burning away of everything that isn’t me – my goofy habits, my crazy thoughts, my emotional toxins, the unneeded poisons and waste in my cells, and all the old stuff that just needs to be torched out of existence so the real me can victoriously emerge. It’s easy to forget that chaos often foreshadows personal breakthrough. Birth can look pretty intense if you didn’t know what it was. If an alien from another world where live birth didn’t exist saw a woman lying in the street giving birth, it would look and sound like a horrible bloody screaming mess. Our alien friend would likely be shocked and phone home for some help. But you and I would know that something magnificent was really about to happen.

So remember this the next time you’re being cooked in the oven: Vitamin F, fire, is our friend. Can you welcome it?

Can you endure the heat without running away, or putting it out with food?

We spend a bunch of our time as the one who does the cooking. We cook and we eat. But I think we need to remember the Cycle of Life. Sometimes, we’re the meal. We’re the ones being served. You and I are spiritual food for the greater, hungry, cosmic whole. Yes, the world really does eat us – this will eventually be our fate. I apologize if you didn’t know this. The sum of your life will be as food for the grander life that created you.

So, if you’re really interested in nutrition, make sure your life isn’t junk food, so to speak. Make it count. Be a Super-food. Be super-natural. Be clean, be whole, be fresh and crispy, and like any good organic food, you don’t have to look perfect. Just make sure that you have real value and you taste really good. It’s what’s inside that counts.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you use food to try to put out the fire when life gets too intense? And what are the healthy strategies you use to navigate discomfort and challenges?

My warmest regards,
Marc David
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014

Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating


The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss

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  • Rebecca Walker

    Excellent post. I live in Castle Rock, so I can totally relate. Also still very interested if there ends up being a recording for purchase available after the “Soul of Metabolism” presentation in New York. Thanks!

    • KarnaN

      Hi Rebecca,
      Karna here – Director of Student Relations at IPE.
      Thank you for your interest in “The Soul of Metabolism” workshop.
      I’ll be sure to notify you if a recording becomes available, we are still looking in to making that possible.
      Warm regards,
      Karna Nau

  • Marilyn Aspen

    Love this post about FIRE. You asked, “Do you use food to try to put out the fire when life gets too intense?” When I read that question at the end, I burst out laughing because I’m going through the “fire” now, I can feel it working me … and calling me acknowledge it and let it do its work, rather than denying and trying to put it out … and I was eating part of a chocolate bar as I read. Gotta love it!

    Thank you AGAIN, Marc, for another fabulous message loaded with information and motivation. When I found and read THE SLOW DOWN DIET about 4 years ago, I had no idea how interesting and exciting my lifelong health and wellness journey was about to get…. Love, love, love knowing there are others out there that “get it” and have gone many extra miles to bring so much knowledge and experience together to share with the world. Life is good! 🙂

  • LiZa Bliss

    Hi Marc,
    Thank you for this article, it is the second time I have opened and read it. The first time was awesome but the second time was so much more meaning-full as I have just returned from a week long camping trip along the Flathead River in Montana where several years ago 2 separate wildfires burned parts of Glacier National Forest lands. The lands have greened up and some new trees are being planted but what struck me the most was the NEW (OLD) species of wildflowers and wild eatable greens that are abundant. Yummy and the positive knowing that renewal is alive was maybe one of the most treasured blessings of my trip.

    • KarnaN

      Hi Liza,

      Karna here. Marc asked me to get back to you.
      Thank you for your generous comment.

      It is refreshing to see that you are looking at the positive side of the situation.
      Sometimes all we need is just to get out into nature to obtain clarity.

      Have a great week,

      Karna Nau
      Director of Student Relations
      Institute for the Psychology of Eating

  • Deanna

    I’m the exact opposite. When the fire rises up in me I can’t eat. At one particular bad time in my life I was down to 95 lbs (ideal is 130). My problem w/food is when I’m feeling good I tend to over eat.

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.