ColumnWhat does my diet plan consist of? Nothing, it’s not really a plan at all.
We’ve discussed diets before on Foodie Underground, but we’re going to do it again. Because it’s a conversation that’s worth having more than once.
A while back, a friend asked me, “Are you ‘gluten-free’ or just ‘good bread only’?”
I loved that question. I am for the most part gluten-free, but as my friend assumed correctly, if there’s good bread, made with good ingredients, I’ll eat a little of it. Call it the “no crappy flour” diet if you want to.
It’s so easy to slap on labels, both on food and ourselves: I’m gluten-free. I only eat organic. I am dairy-free, salt-free, nightshade-free. But unless we’re severely allergic, eating isn’t such a black and white issue.
Just like buying everything in sight with an organic label actually makes you a fairly unconscious shopper – because hey, you just skipped over the vegetables Farmer Lucy grew using zero pesticides because they weren’t marked “organic” (the certification is too expensive for her), and went for the creepy organic baby carrots from god-knows-where instead — sticking to certain eating regimes can have just as bad of an impact as a positive one.
Let’s say you have decided to eat gluten-free. If you don’t have Celiac disease, there’s a chance that eating breads made from heritage grains and not overly processed, white flour, might actually make you feel pretty good. But if you stick to a “gluten-free only” policy, then chances are you end up buying the packaged rice flour bread at the supermarket instead. And did you take the time to look at those ingredients on the back?
Diets give us labels, and labels make us buy foods with labels. Which means we fork over money to an industry that creates food products simply to satiate the cravings of the market. And that market is constantly shouting “we’re on a diet! give us things we can eat” and so the food industry just comes up with more products.
In response to a a great piece in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert, I saw a conversation taking place on Facebook as to why we’re so focused on eliminating things. Can’t diet plans be inclusive, allowing us to talk about all the things we love to eat?
We should eat what we love. But here’s the thing about eating what you love. It means listening to your body and knowing what your body loves. Your body doesn’t love shitty food, processed junk food loaded with high fructose corn syrup. It hates it actually. But your mind plays a trick on you because it gets addicted to all that sugar and fat, despite that it makes your body feel horrible.
It’s interesting that to eat healthy we need a diet, instead of a smart approach to eating that includes eating a variety of things in moderation. But I guess explaining that to someone isn’t as sexy as saying “I’m on the Paleo Diet” now is it? It’s also not very profitable for food companies. There’s no marketing label for “you choose to eat well most of the time and sometimes you indulge and you really love chocolate and coffee and you know that those come from far away but you have chosen to pick your battles and gave up bananas instead” diet plan.
When it comes to eating, there’s going to be a counter argument for everything; remember, eating isn’t a black and white topic. And as such, coffee is great for you, but it’s also awful for you depending on who you ask. Olive oil is where it’s at, no wait, cold pressed rapeseed oil is where it’s at. Don’t eat grains! Do eat grains! Go Paleo and say no to all the processed stuff. But as Kolbert wrote in her piece, “from an environmental standpoint, paleo’s “Let them eat steak” approach is a disaster.” If you read industry funded studies, then you’ll even think that drinking diet soda will help you lose weight, and we all know how ridiculous that sounds.
And so, you know what we need? The No-Diet diet plan.
The diet and lifestyle that’s about embracing food, not demonizing it. You can feel free to demonize junk food though, but let’s embrace real foods, not take ourselves too seriously, indulge a little here and there and eat the things that we know our bodies love, and that the planet loves too.
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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: With Wind