Why Eating is Like Packing a Suitcase

Why Eating is Like Packing a Suitcase

Packing is one of my least favourite activities ever, so it’s ironic that it’s one of my favourite analogies for eating. I know people roll their eyes every time they hear a dietitian say, “all foods fit” or “everything in moderation”, so this, to me, gives it a refreshing spin.

There’s no wrong way to pack a suitcase. (Marie Kondo may argue otherwise, but she can go “spark joy” somewhere else!) Most people pack the same “essentials” – underwear, a toothbrush, prescription medication, a change of clothes or two. Each person has their own “extras” that they like –
that shirt that never wrinkles, or a good book for the plane. Some people have hacks to fit as much as they can in their suitcase without going over the limit, or to make sure that everything is all neat and organized. Still, at the end of the day, there’s nothing stopping you from just stuffing your suitcase full of shoes and heading off on your way.


Of course, most people would probably rather see the sights than spend their entire trip shopping for new underwear or hoping that their hotel stocks toothpaste, but it’s your choice how you want to pack your suitcase.

Likewise, there’s no wrong way to eat. There are dietary essentials – carbohydrates, protein and fat are the macronutrients that give us energy (calories) and the vitamins and minerals we get from the food we eat perform different functions in our body. Even so, our bodies are diverse and resilient, and we are able to survive and thrive even when we’re not meeting the guidelines for the different nutrients.

Each person has their own foods that they like, including “extras” that might not have a lot of nutrients, but we still eat them because they taste good, or they serve some other purpose for us. Some people have hacks to get all the nutrients that they can in the most convenient way possible, while others put taste, cost, convenience or environmental impact first when it comes to their food choices. Still, at the end of the day, there’s nothing stopping you from just stuffing your face full of cookies and heading off on your way.


Of course, most people won’t feel very great after, but it’s your choice what, when, where, how much, how and why you want to eat.

If Eating is Like Packing a Suitcase, then Why Won’t You Just Give Me a “Packing List”?

What, you know that I hate meal plans so you think you found a loophole in my analogy? You think I don’t think my analogies through?

A packing list doesn’t do the packing for you. The most it does is give you ideas on what to pack; you still have to work out the specifics. For example, a list will probably tell you to bring “shirts”, but how many changes of shirts will you need for the amount of time that you’ll be away? For the activities that you’ll be doing? For the weather? Which clothes are the ones you like wearing the most? Which ones are easiest to pack?

While I could work out a meal plan that gives you X calories, Y protein and Z fat, it doesn’t do the eating for you. Sure, it might be a good guess at what your needs are based on your height, weight, age, sex and activity level, but you still have to work out the specifics. What are the foods that you like? When will you shop, cook, and eat? What types and amounts of foods will make you feel full and satisfied? What does your body truly need?

Just like your suitcase doesn’t hold the exact same things every time you travel, you don’t eat the exact same things every time you eat, and it still works. Sometimes it’s frustrating when we eat something that doesn’t make us feel good, just like it’s frustrating when we forget to pack something. It doesn’t make us wrong or bad, we just figure it out and move on.

What do you think of this analogy? Are there any other analogies that you like? Please share your insights in the comments below.


  • Janine on Jul 28, 2017 Reply

    This may be one of the best healthy eating analogies I have heard! Funny, but so real. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Vincci Tsui on Jul 28, 2017 Reply

      Thanks, Janine!

  • Lori on Jul 27, 2017 Reply

    I really love this analogy!
    I thought you were going to say something like if you pack your suitcase full of cookies first there won’t be any room for veggies so start with veggies and eat cookies if there’s room left. Nope – your analogy is much better. I do like lists – when you’re packing for a specific event, often they send a list – remember bug spray, no cameras allowed – which is helpful, but you’re right, it’s still up to me to choose which bug spray to bring and which to leave at home.

    • Vincci Tsui on Jul 27, 2017 Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Lori! I find it so interesting that you pointed out that I could’ve taken it in a whole other direction with a more “prescriptive” approach. That was so insightful! I might be the expert on nutrition, but you are the expert on your life – I like my analogy better too 😉

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