ColumnThere are so many things we know we should stop eating, but we don’t. Why?
We’re going to get into a tough discussion today.
It’s one that I am sure is going to elicit a lot of comments. We are going to talk about what we eat. “But I love talking about what I eat!” you think. Nope, we are going to talk about the things that we eat when we know we should be doing otherwise. We are going to talk about the “I know better, but…” syndrome.
I thought of this as I was researching an article on the sustainability of cheese production. Without getting too far into it, large scale cheese production is pretty bad for the planet. On an Environmental Working Group list of different foods and their greenhouse gas emissions, lamb comes first, beef second, and in third place is cheese.
It’s these kind of articles that I read, feel overwhelmed, sigh, and then question everything I put into my body for the following week.
It’s hard to write about food without thinking about your own personal actions. I eat cheese, it’s something that I struggle with, having cut out meat from my diet. But I do try to buy cheese from small scale producers, and I try to eat smaller amounts of it. Enjoy the good stuff in small quantities so to say.
There are a lot of people out there that don’t have a choice in what they eat, the majority of them because of economics. But for those of us that do have the choice, and read all of the various articles looking at the impacts of all of the foods we eat – meat, cheese, coffee, quinoa etc – what is it that leads us into the “I know better, but…” syndrome.
“I know better, but I am going to eat this anyway.”
That is essentially what we are saying every time we are standing in front of an aisle at the grocery store, or sitting in front of a dish in front of a restaurant, and our emotional self wins out over our rational self. Our brain says no but our stomach says yes.
This is not to get on a soapbox. I know better too. There are things that I eat that I know I shouldn’t, be they for health, sustainability or ethical reasons, so I try to keep them in moderation. Smoked mackerel, I am looking at you. Ocean activist and all around wonderful human being Sylvia Earle doesn’t eat fish, and I always think of her. As she once said, “We have choices; they do not.” To really stick to one’s morals is admirable, most of us will choose convenience and comfort. I have yet to get there, and I am very aware of that.
What we eat is a process. You don’t wake up one morning miraculously having committed to the healthiest, most sustainable diet out there. No, it’s a work in progress. You give up one thing here, add another ingredient in there. No matter how we eat, we can always do better.
But doing better means letting our brain win out over our stomach. It means truly accepting that our choices do in fact have an impact.
It also means being accepting and sensitive to our peers around us. It means not passing judgement based upon what their choices are. The best thing that we can do is to lead by example, and to walk our talk. We are all human, none of us is perfect.
Are you truly willing to stop eating the things you shouldn’t? Maybe you aren’t, and that’s ok, as long as you accept it, and take the small steps to get to a place where you maybe might be. There are things that all of us could consume less of, without entirely eliminating them from our diet. Also, you should definitely give bananas the kick to the curb, as well as those out of season tomatoes and strawberries. Being a year-round locavore isn’t as hard as you think.
We are emotional beings, what we eat, or don’t eat, is sometimes a tough question. But let’s be sensitive, and keep our eyes open. Let us at least acknowledge our imperfections, and that we are working on improving them.
Choose to be better tomorrow, and the next day and the next day. That’s what we can do, no matter where we are at.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Thomas Hawk