How To Eat Like A Philosopher – The Stoic Diet
What did Stoic philosophers eat? Health, food and Stoicism are what we’re talking about today. The Stoic “diet” explained.
Stoicism is an ancient Greco-Roman philosophy, basically with a similar ideal (but different mechanisms and ideas) to Buddhism and that is equanimity in the face of adversity. We must also remember that Buddhism isn’t “one thing”.
To the Stoics to place health as “good” is foolish as it is external and despite how much control we do have, being subject to the external world means experiencing hardship, such as a terminal ailment, which can be completely out of your control.
Many of the Stoics recognised that food was one of the best tests of temperance/moderation. Why? Because it’s presented to us every day.
Musonius Rufus was a Roman Stoic philosopher. He’s one of my favourites when it comes to the topic of food. He writes a two part discourse on the topic alone.
This isn’t to say that lasagna isn’t pleasurable; the point is that the pleasure of food is not its true purpose. The true purpose is for digestion, energy, living and essentially surviving. When making dietary decisions, think about the implications of your choice on the true purpose of nourishment instead of its immediate pleasure. With this philosophy in mind, you’ll be temperate.
What did Stoics eat? Roman and Greece diets around the time of Stoicism had great similarities to the Mediterranean diet today.
Olive oil was the foundation, as with bread and although moderation was key, the Stoic didn’t abstain from red wine.
Mediterranean diet is mostly plant-based (fruits and vegetables) minimal meat and sweets, moderate amounts of dairy and eggs as well as frequent consumption of seafood.
Epictetus taught his students to be disciplined concerning food.
The scene he usually set was a banquet where all the delicacies of Roman society would be available to choose from. Epictetus didn’t ask that we avoid meat, he wanted us to avoid gluttony.
The Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus, a vegetarian, regarded meat-eaters as not only less civilised but “slower in intellect.”
Stoics were vegetarian, at least periodically — Seneca is a good example. He was vegetarian for 1 year until his father warned him of the social dangers of being eccentric.
We know that many Stoics had differing opinions and the philosophy is not a deontology (such as Islam where pork is prohibited, regardless of your “opinion”.
This is one of the great things about Stoicism, views and perspectives aren’t restricted. The opposition is embraced — opposition and debate are how the best ideas are born.
There’s no need for more meat production — abstinence isn’t necessary.
What Stoics arguably are more considered with is the well-fare of human beings — which eating meat does have an effect if you take into consideration the causation of heavy meat production and environmental degradation.
Therefore, abstinence is optional, free, range, grass-fed and moderate consumption should be embraced in order to improve efficiencies and reduce waste to minimise environmental impacts.
Seneca told us to “rehearse poverty”
Intermittent fasting is becoming popular for its effects on weight loss. Basically, it increases insulin sensitivity, lowers inflammation and overall physiologically and psychologically places people in a more optimal position to lose weight.
However, the benefits aren’t exclusive to the body. Fasting is an ancient practice, one which was carried out by Christians in order to get closer to God. Practice fasting for your temperance.
As Socrates said we should eat to live; not live to eat.
Food is a problem for us right now as seen with the obesity crisis and so I think both obesity and Stoicism needs emphasis on food and temperance as one key foundation for virtue.