Are You Eating In The Matrix?

by | Oct 12, 2011
Do You Think That's Food You're Eating?

Do you think that's food you're eating?

Or to put it another way, do you know the difference between real food and food that was designed to fool you into believing it is real?

It might not be as easy as you think.

(Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the original Matrix film yet, crawl out of your cave and go watch it real quick before reading. We’ll wait.)

In the classic film The Matrix, machines of the future create a sophisticated computer program that produces an alternate reality for their human slaves. The program, the Matrix, placates humans into believing they are living normal lives while their bodies are imprisoned in suspended animation.

The Matrix is plugged directly into the brains of humans. They live the Matrix, breathe the Matrix, eat the Matrix. They’ve grown up with it, and have never known any other world.

Now think about a Twinkie or a McNugget. Can you remember life without them? I can’t. These products have always been a part of my world, even though it has been a long time since I’ve eaten them. I have vivid childhood memories of both products–after school snacks with friends, my 10th birthday party–and my memories are happy.

But I’ve learned to refer to Twinkies and food from McDonald’s as products and not foods because, when you think about it, they really aren’t foods. Sure you can eat them, but that just makes them a novelty–something akin to beating up your friends in Mortal Kombat.

“Do you believe that me being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place?” -Morpheus

Real food nourishes your body by providing essential building blocks for your cells and organs. The human body evolved alongside real food and is adapted to digest it.

Edible products on the other hand were specifically designed to fool your brain and sensory perception, but your body, cells and organs have no idea what to do with them.

Twinkies and McNuggets are engineered. They do not come from the earth and are not food. Twinkies were created in the Matrix.

Do you think that’s food you’re eating now?

This may sound like rhetorical foodie fluff, but please humor me and entertain the metaphor for a little while longer.

Food should nourish your body and contribute to your overall health. Even foods that are considered fattening–bacon comes to mind–provide nourishment so long as they are based in reality.

But what is a Twinkie? What is a Pringle? What is a McNugget?

BigMacs may look, smell and vaguely taste like food, but if what you are eating is not sustaining your health and is possibly making you sick, isn’t it time to question whether it is food at all?

These are products that were created in a laboratory. They may have started as raw materials from plants, but the plants were never grown to be eaten. Industrial corn, soybeans and the cattle raised on them have been processed and redesigned to the point where they’ve been stripped of anything that allows for them to be reasonably classified as food.

Shouldn’t we then stop calling this stuff food?

Most people will initially reject this idea. Of course food is food. But I’d argue that this opinion is just another product of our environment. Haven’t we always lived in the Matrix of industrial agriculture?

We have coexisted with McDonald’s for so long it seem preposterous to speculate it doesn’t meet the definition of food.

But let’s take a closer look:

Food –noun:

1. Any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc.
2. More or less solid nourishment, as distinguished from liquids.
3. A particular kind of solid nourishment: a breakfast food; dog food.
4. Whatever supplies nourishment to organisms: plant food.
5. Anything serving for consumption or use: food for thought.

(emphasis mine)

With the exception of the last point, which is clearly philosophical, all these definitions include the word nourishment.

Nourishverb (used with object)

1. To sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth.
2. To cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.: He had long nourished the dream of living abroad.
3. To strengthen, build up, or promote: to nourish discontent among the workers; to nourish the arts in one’s community.

(emphasis mine)

If it doesn’t provide nourishment, it is not food.

But relying on dictionary definitions is both semantic and impractical. It also becomes confusing when companies market products that are not real food but have added back nutrients to give the appearance of nourishment.

The important question is how do we break free?

Being convinced that these products are not food is not enough. Like the Matrix, McDonald’s is so closely tied to your perception of reality that it can fool you even when you know it isn’t real.

Remember, when Neo makes his first attempt to jump across the building roofs. He doesn’t make it.

“Everybody falls the first time.”

That’s because the Matrix feels so real that not believing it is almost impossible. Likewise, knowing that edible products are not food and that they will in fact make you less healthy is often not enough to prevent you from eating them. Your senses are easily fooled.

But better decisions are not impossible and your food world doesn’t need to be 100% black and green. Even small steps in the right direction, back into reality, can improve your health.

The first small changes you try also make subsequent steps easier.

Unplugging from the industrial food Matrix does not need to happen all at once, but you can extract yourself from it eventually. The first step is starting to see it clearly.

“I’m trying to free your mind, Neo, but I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

Are you eating in the Matrix?

For your viewing pleasure: Morpheus is fighting Neo!

This post was inspired by commenter Martin Levac who gave me permission to roll with his awesome idea.

Originally published November 11, 2009.

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31 Responses to “Are You Eating In The Matrix?”

  1. jeff clark says:

    Brilliant post! I can’t add anything other than I am doing what I can to break free of the food matrix.

  2. Ben Hamill says:

    I like this analogy. Well said. Now if only we could learn whatever metaphorical “kung fu” would be via a download. 😉 Also of note: I think there was a law in the 70s that required imitation food to identify its self as such, but that it has since been repealed, making the distinction harder to make and allowing marketers of these products to lie to us.

  3. Peggy says:

    Awesome post. I’ve been using The Matrix to teach concepts in several classes, and now will add it to Nutrition. Brilliant. Thank you!

  4. Nick says:

    Nice Photoshop Skills!

    Love the analogy. It’s spot on and sometimes very hard to tell.

    Too bad the second and third Matrix movies kind of sucked…. The first one was awesome.

  5. arvind says:

    Nice photoshop skillz on the first icon. Way cool.

    I’m sure you must’ve heard of the meatrix, but just in case you didn’t or for other readers of your blog:

  6. Tana Butler says:

    This is honestly one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. I’m adding it to my Facebook page. Very, very well done!

  7. Another fantastic post, and SO true! I touched on this in my last post (sans the clever matrix comparison). Some people seem to think that fat-free or “fortified” foods are better for you than things like real bacon because they have less fat. But really, would you rather eat something conjured up in a lab, or something natural and whole?

    And seriously, what is a twinkie?? Does anyone really know??

  8. Here is a great observation. I just returned for Food Buzz Festival, where 250 food bloggers gathered to eat for three days. What I noticed was a population of people thinner than the world they live in. Most were thin to normal weight with just a few a little plump. My take on this is that they eat REAL food and good amounts of it too. For a group that drools over food the way only a food blogger can, you would think everyone would be a fatty. Food should be enjoyable and enjoyed. Real food that is

  9. Matt Shook says:

    Hahaha…great image and wonderful article. Homegrown strawberries are my “red pill”…

  10. Karen B. says:

    I love this post and it’s so, so true. A couple of years ago we were on a car-trip back from California to Arizona and driving through a lot of empty desert. We were all hungry after a few hours in the car and didn’t bring food from our vacation spot to eat in the car. All that was available was Burger King so we stopped there. I got a spicy chicken sandwich and was amazed at how incredibly well manufactured it was to have just the right shape, flavor, consistency, crunch, sweetness, etc. It was very perfectly manufactured and delicious, actually. Of course, I know it wasn’t food but was just meant to fool my body into feeling like it had received nutrition.
    I don’t think it’s a terrible thing for these places to be available but I certainly don’t want to be putting that into my body more often than once every few years.
    The rest of my family got full meals there with large sodas and french fries. I honestly don’t know how they fit it all in, those sandwiches are very big and filling.

  11. Fred says:

    I’d be interested in hearing your feedback on what this guy did with his Twinkies diet, in relation to this post.

  12. FasT says:

    Great post and don’t forget the side effects of this ‘great’ food.

  13. Kazza says:

    Love this article thanks!! (as always)

  14. David Gans says:

    Great post, Darya.

  15. Vince says:

    awesome post. good writing.

  16. Andrea says:

    I am a huge Matrix fan and love the movie references.
    ‘Do you think that’s food you’re eating now?’ awesome! 🙂

  17. “Twinkies and McNuggets are engineered. They do not come from the earth and are not food. Twinkies were created in the Matrix.” Loved the statement!It actually made me laugh.
    I completely agree,food is nourishing,does good to our bodies and minds,and hence,eating healthy is very important.A popular saying clearly states this fact – ‘We are what we eat’.Fast food or rather matrix food,is good once in a while,but an overdose simply acts as a slow poison,gripping the body with diseases such as obesity and heart problems,as we all know.

  18. Dani says:

    LOVE the analogy. Why is it that something so simple has become so complex to so many?! Now I have to crawl out of my shell and go watch the movie!!! LOL

  19. Dennis Groves says:

    It is a happy day for me, I now know that I am not alone in my thoughts about food. Most people think that I am crazy!

    But couple what you have just said with the words of Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And it is my conjecture that the modern “matrix food” processing industry is a primary cause for the health problems of the USA.

    Add to this the advice of Hippocrates “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
    Medicine does not seem to have advanced much since 370 BC; diet & exercise remain the primary mechanisms of health.

  20. Alec Stewart says:

    Once you have stopped eating from the franchises for a while, it’s noticeable that the smell of the fat fryers is not very appealing any more, in fact they smell pretty noxious. The smell of really good food is always much nicer. Mangos are in season in Australia, so I have been treating myself!

    • Melanie Hobby says:

      I agree with Alec. After you even stop eating fast food, not necessarily even the perfect diet, just fast food, and smell it again….. ugh you feel sick to your stomach and it is NOT appetizing. X(

  21. Satyakant K. says:

    I am wondering how difficult it can be to break free of such a ‘Matrix.’

    1] Eat vegetarian (at max lacto-vegetarian for the animal protein required).
    2] Eat only what you yourself cook from produce i.e. never eat out, don’t use processed foodstuffs/ingredients unless you know how they were processed and whether that is good/necessary for your health. (You can say this is for religious reasons; let someone try to challenge THAT.)
    3] Fast once a week i.e. drink ONLY WATER AND ELECTROLYTES for a 24-hour or 36-hour period, during which you keep your physical activity level the same as all other days (if not more). This calibrates your appetite and informs you of two things: what level of hunger to take seriously and satisfy, and what happens to you if you don’t eat even if you are hungry (almost always, NOTHING).
    4] Don’t spend money; have a budget limit for food expenses and stay within that.

    Over 10 years ago when I was in Baltimore as a grad student with a funds crunch, I stuck to 2 and 4 rigorously, and back then I was an ovo-lacto-vegetarian and didn’t fast at all. My monthly food expenses were typically $80 (minimum $68, maximum $90).

    If you do stick with those four points listed above, then the ‘Matrix’ element still left is the pesticides etc. in the vegetables. For that you’d have to eat only organic foods, and that will push up costs.

  22. Jan Piller says:

    I just discovered your blog/webazine tonight because I have been eating in the matrix for 54 years. I love the idea of eating lovely fresh veggies and legumes and am making slow steps forward to a healthier lifestyle. I don’t mind preparing veggies but I only own frying pans coated in teflon or some other non-stick surface. I enjoy frying my veggies with a bit of olive oil but I would love if you could tell me if this is a healthy way of doing it. I also stick them on a cookie sheet drizzled with oil and put them in the oven. Should I be buying a cast iron skillet? I also own a stainless steel one. What should I be using? Thanks!!

  23. Just came across your blog and have been reading through your posts… Love this one! I emerged from the food matrix a few years ago a will NEVER go back. Thanks for sharing this, its a great way to consider processed foods.
    I look forward to continuing to follow your blog!

  24. Boo says:

    Hallo Darya,

    Great article. Any easy way of knowing that Matrix food is junk is to monitor your poop the next day.

    The majority of Wholesome foods leave our bodies in an orderly manor.

    Junk food on the other hand, will gurgle, boil and burst out of our body’s.

    The intestines are not meant to process Matrix food.

    We monitor what goes into our bodies, and by understanding how to read ones poop, we add to the knowledge of what makes and doesn’t make us healthy.

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