Do you live to eat?


How would you respond if you were asked whether you live to eat or eat to live? Just like the Greek philosopher Socrates said 2,400 years ago, many people believe that they should eat to live. Also, there are many who believe they live to eat. These people do not say it out loud but show it through their actions.

If your body mass index (BMI) is below 25, it is likely you are at a normal weight. A BMI of 25 or more indicates you are overweight. Obesity is when BMI is 30 or more. There are many people who fall in the two latter categories.

A survey taken two years ago reported that one in five Mongolians (15-64 years old) were overweight, and one in ten were obese. UNICEF also produced a report which said that one in every five children in Mongolia under the age of five was obese. The only Asian country that had more obesity among children than Mongolia was Indonesia.

Unfortunately, obesity has become the sixth leading cause of death, and it can increase the risk of developing heart and lung diseases, strokes, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It does not matter how you answer the question about whether or not you live to eat or eat to live. What matters is whether people fully understand how to live a long, healthy life and what actions they are taking to do so.


I had the opportunity to visit Igelosa Center, a life science community in the Swedish village of Igelosa, and meet with the well-known doctor Stig Steen, who has done cardiothoracic surgery on approximately 10,000 people in the last 40 years, mostly lung and heart transplants.

Dr. Stig Steen, who originally comes from Norway, is 68 years old today and has five children. He speaks with humility and smiles frequently. Stig has made great contributions to medical science. For example, a fluid he invented is used for transporting human organs and has saved thousands of lives. Stig says that although being overweight is said to be caused by eating too much and moving too little, it is also related to eating disorders, such as eating at irregular hours, or going without food for an extended period of time. Eating disorders are triggered by emotional instability. He illustrated the point by noting that the top three reasons why people go to the doctor in Western countries are sleep disorders, emotional stress, and being overweight. Being overweight and dealing with obesity are not only related to the food we eat. Stig noted that maintaining a normal weight greatly contributes to having a long, happy life.

In order to live such a life, he advises that a certain set of principles should be followed. These principles are: having the purpose of your life set, exercising, having good relationships with others, getting enough sleep, saying no to harmful habits like smoking, getting proper nutrition, and keeping a positive attitude. The set of principles are referred to as “PERSONA”, where “per” in Latin means “to send” and “sona” means “sound”. Stig emphasizes that the joy of life is felt through relationships where sounds are sent to one another and messages are communicated. He says that a person who can love and understand others can bring light to the dark.


I also heard the unbelievable story of a man named Matt. At the age of 27, he weighed 150 kilograms, and when traveling by air he had to ask for extensions for his seatbelt because the standard seatbelts on planes would not fit him. Despite being a chef, he never made meals for himself and only ate fast food and drank carbonated sodas. All he did was sit on his couch and watch TV, because he did not have the desire or the energy to do anything else.

When Matt was telling me the story of his life 10 years ago, he looked happy, well-dressed, and kind. His current weight is 85 kilograms. Matt now works as a chef at Igelosa Center, and offers not only catering services but also emotional support for those who come to the center. He has become a true example of what one can achieve using PERSONA principles.

In 2007, Matt left the United States with his mom and came to Igelosa. He started consuming good quality food and began walking for exercise. However, he still could not lose weight. Almost a month later, daily blood tests finally showed positive changes in his body. In a single day, Matt was consuming a lot of vegetables, 100 grams of black rice, 100 grams of protein-rich fish or lean meat, and was eating twice a day.

If he felt hungry before his next meal, he would have Natural Balance Soup containing protein, fat, and carbohydrates set at appropriate levels. The soup was invented by Stig for people with respiratory diseases. Matt gradually increased the 10,000 steps he was walking every day. When he first arrived at Igelosa, he had to take two breaks when taking the stairs to the second floor. Matt continued to make progress and his sleep improved. The people around him congratulated him and gave him encouragement. Most importantly, Matt liked himself and felt the good in doing his job and helping people.

The ancient Greeks measured life in three different ways: biological, psychological, and existential. People who eat well and control their emotional stress levels have a better mental state and live longer than those who do not. Stig wrote in his book, “Igelosa: Home of Wellness”, that patient and kind people who forgive and trust others are more likely to live longer.

It seems that that almost all the people who are living a long, meaningful, and happy life are eating to live, just like Socrates said, and are following principles similar to those of Stig’s PERSONA. It is for us to decide whether we live to eat or eat to live.

Trans. by B.Amar