I've realized that there are two types of bad diets. The first is the kind that I see every single week in the grocery store checkout line, where the perpetrator is either completely oblivious or just doesn't care about the fact that what he's eating wouldn't have passed as food a hundred years ago. And before I get into this post too deeply, lets cover this first: the word 'diet' is always associated with 'someone trying to lose weight'. I like 'lifestyle' or 'WOE' better. WOE = Way Of Eating. Like 98% of the time yo. ;o) The people in this post (who have not been harmed in the writing of this post...) are not on 'diets' by any stretch of the imagination, but falling into a deep, dark pit of clogged arteries and a vessel for chemical storage...
She eats fat-free cheese, skim milk, low carb bread, Omega-3 fortified eggs, Gatorade, protein bars, and organic candy. The problem is that this isn't food either. This is techno-food. Fit for the Terminator perhaps, but not for people. Why are people adding shit to food? Or taking it away? I have said it before and I will say it again...'If you have to add shit to the 'food' to make it 'better for you' (as marketing execs would have it), then it was shit to begin with...
Now I am not holier-than-thou and have tried EVERYTHING for all of my young teen/adult life (always succeeding though when I ate better than other times and incorporated the right amt of cardio/strength)...This newfound WOE and WOL for me has peeked in and out of my life over time, but as you know (hopefully by now) that its now been um...about 7 months...and a 'diet' as opposed to a 'lifestyle' is completely different...the weight/fat loss has simply been a wonderful by-product of it all...
My guess is that if you're reading this blog, then you're either of the second type or of neither type (or the type that might be a friend of mine and you read because you're a blog stalker. Totally kidding).
If you're of neither type, congratulations. I was of the second type as recently as seven months ago, and I still find artifacts from the techno-food mindset in my diet. I also am no saint, nor do I plan on giving up social time because of food choices that may or may not be available to me at [insert restaurant or bar name here]. I also still buy some things that are in a can or a box because hey, I am not going to buy tomatoes and make my own sauce (for one example) unless 'Bobby' DeNiro is coming to dinner.
Where did all this fake food (and all these fat people) come from if everything is so damn good for you? I believe that the answer is reductionist science and the consequential practice of making single nutrients the scapegoats for our health problems.
In the seventies and eighties, we decided that since fat is called "fat," it must be bad. It was removed from food and replaced by carbohydrates and chemicals, giving birth to the stuff I'm referring to as health food. But somehow we kept getting fat. In the nineties we decided that carbohydrates were the culprit. Not surprising, considering how many we ate in place of fats. So carbohydrates were banished from health food, and more chemicals were introduced to make what no longer resembled food at least taste like food. And, since food should probably fill us up, we added protein. Lots of protein, to build muscle of course. Because muscle is made of protein! And this millenium, now that we can't possibly be just as clueless as we were before, we're adding Omega-3 fatty acids to our health food. Hooray, we've found our savior! Heavy sigh. Followed by a deep sigh.
Here's the problem. To our bodies, food isn't just the sum of its parts. Foods have a wholeness to them, a wholeness which somebody or some force (God, evolution, whatever you want) doesn't want us to mess with. When you take things away from foods, they aren't foods anymore. Even when you enhance foods with what we've decided are healthy ingredients, our bodies don't absorb them well. Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to optimally handle the foods that occur on this earth. When we mess with that, the results cannot be anything but bad. And the growing waistlines and unprecedented obesity numbers that characterize these times certainly support this claim.
You can take this argument to extremes and claim that our bodies aren't really designed to handle dairy products, wheat products, or even anything cooked, since from an evolutionary standpoint these are rather recent developments. I believe this, but for me such extremes are not practical at this point in my life. We probably weren't designed to run 26.2 miles at once either, so I'm doing what I can diet-wise to support this unhealthy marathon habit of mine. Snortgiggle.
We can't all be perfect, but we can do one simple thing. Eat real food. Eat food that doesn't come in packages, food that doesn't have a nutrition label... food that doesn't make health claims. These ideas, by the way, aren't just mine; I've learned most of them from books like In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in this stuff.
The good news, from my perspective, is the health food eaters are reading this blog. And if this post has been your first exposure to the idea that health food might not be as healthy as Oprah makes it out to be (come to think of it, why are we taking diet advice from Oprah?), then I've done my job. As for the frozen pierogi and fast food eaters, I'm at a loss. I don't know how to reach them. If they just don't care about what they eat, fine; that's their decision. But if they're oblivious because they grew up eating like that and don't realize there's another way. Or they know it and are just too lazy and come up with all the usual (and way tired) excuses of why they can't. Which means the horror scene in the grocery store checkout line isn't likely to get any better, barring a cultural change.
In response to this lament of mine, a friend reminded me to heed the advice of someone who knows a thing or two about cultural change. As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
And I think that's all we can do.