Home » The Nutritional Psychology of Protein

The Nutritional Psychology of Protein

Written By:

Image of Marc David near a table full of healthy fruity breakfast.

Protein is one of the most basic building blocks of our diet, and of our own bodies, but it’s also the focus of some serious controversy within the field of nutritional science. How much protein do we need to be healthy? Where should it come from – animals, plants, or both?

Should protein be the centerpiece of a meal, or more of an accessory? With all the competing viewpoints, each with an expert to back it up, it can be quite challenging to figure out what’s best for us as individual eaters. In this straight-shooting video from #IPEtv, Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, offers a fresh perspective on our ancient relationship with this mighty macronutrient that can help you find the protein balance that’s right for you.

Below is a transcript of this week’s video:

Greetings friends, this is Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Today’s Topic: The Nutritional Psychology of Protein

What does that even mean?
The Nutritional Psychology of Protein?

I’m going to discuss and explore the different ways that the human mind thinks about protein. Meaning, what does it represent to people, what is the symbolism, the underlying beliefs, and the hidden associations that we make. In addition, I’m going to give you some ideas of the nutritional energetics of protein – meaning how this macronutrient impacts us on the level of energy psychology.

So here goes:

If you look around at the nutrition landscape, there are lots of systems that are high protein. There are all kinds of beliefs about how much protein people need for health – what percentage of the diet, or how many grams per body weight. Lots of wonderful controversy exists about protein, as some experts say that we need animal protein, other experts champion vegetarian sources of protein, while other scientists say that protein is protein and it doesn’t matter where it comes from. People can become extremely passionate about the topic of protein needs. It’s a topic in the nutrition world that creates some fantastic differences in opinions.

What I would like to suggest is that the way we see protein, and what we believe about it, is closely tied in to how we see the world, and see life.

First, on a level of nutritional energetics:

Protein creates a sense of grounding.

It roots us. It makes us more earthy, earthbound, dense, protected, secure, strong, and even confident.

Protein is the very substance of our muscle. And it is our musculature that indeed is our armor, our protection, and our strength in the world. Many people, whether they realize it or not, make the unconscious association between protein in our food, and muscle on the body.

Often times, for this symbolic reason, protein is associated with men, with the masculine polarity in us, with our desire for more power and strength. Protein is for the strong. Protein is for helping us survive on a tough planet.

In evolutionary history, for our early hunter-gatherers, their main source of protein was animals. Hunting. Stalking. Killing. Working collectively to capture animals. Protein, for this reason, has a very ancient and primal meaning in our genetic and cellular memory. Protein meant we were successful hunters. The best at physical feats.

In this regard, think of all the protein products aimed at weight lifters and athletes.

Now contrast this to our development into more agrarian and farming societies. When protein sources started including plants, there’s a more gentle nature to tilling the land. It requires more time. More forethought. More planning. More nuances in terms of working with the sun, seasons, water, fertilizer, harvesting, preparing, and so much more.

So, for the vegetarian mindset, protein from vegetable sources is more humane. It’s more thoughtful. It’s less aggressive. It’s seen as cleaner. As more gentle. More considerate.

That’s why energetically, animal sources of protein will literally contain the archetypal energies of that animal.

And it’s also why energetically, vegetarian sources of protein will literally contain the archetypal energies of those plants.

Traditional western science does not have a language for this.

But the energetics of food has been described in a deep and elegant way in systems such as Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and Macrobiotics.

And, the best way to prove to oneself the energetic nature of any food or substance is to begin to educate your own body and make it smarter to such distinctions. It means tuning in more, listening more, and doing your best to sense more.

Do you notice that protein-dense foods ground you more? Do you notice the difference in your own body between the animal protein you consume, and the plant sources of protein? If you’ve ever gone off of meat, did your energy change? Were there any subtle or obvious shifts? If you’ve ever been on a longer term vegetarian or vegan diet, and then ate animal protein, what happened? How did your body feel? Did you notice any differences in your personality?

These are some of fascinating distinctions that we teach here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

I hope this was helpful my friends, and thanks so much for your time and interest. In the comments below, please let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you and we read and respond to every comment!

Image of Marc David near a table full of healthy fruity breakfast.

Become a Mind Body Eating Coach

Now enrolling for October 2023.

Make real, lasting change - in your life and the lives of others using eating psychology coaching tools.


Subscribe to The Psychology of Eating Podcast

Get notified when new episodes go live.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Listen to The Psychology of Eating Podcast

Follow Us

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.