Ten Steps to Eating Perfectly.

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The path to starvation?

They said that fast food executives were turning fat profits by making us fat, so I stopped eating fast food.

They said that killing animals was wrong, so I became a vegetarian.

They said that fertilizer run-off from industrial farming is killing the Gulf of Mexico, the pesticides are killing honeybees, so I started only eating organic.

They said that shipped food is too carbon intensive and not as fresh, so I started eating only local, in-season food.

They said that it was wrong to punish a cow by milking it twice a day, or to steal a chicken’s eggs, so I became a vegan.

They said that the paleo diet would restore my body and make my teeth healthy, so I stopped eating anything cultivated.

They said that cooking food destroys its nutrients, so I starting eating only raw food.

They said that following a macrobiotic regimen would prevent cancer, so I followed it.

They said that I should follow a zero-waste diet, so I stopped buying anything with packaging.

And when I showed up at the farmers market in December with my reusable bag looking for local, certified-organic, vegan, unprocessed, uncooked, uncultivated, whole foods, without packaging, that would fit into my macrobiotic diet, I realized that the best thing for the planet, the animals, and my health would be to just stop eating altogether.



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About Alden Wicker

Alden Wicker is a freelance journalist and founder of EcoCult.com, a blog about all things sustainable in New York City and beyond. She also writes about electronic music, personal finance, and yoga for publications such as Well + Good, Refinery29, LearnVest, Huffington Post and Narratively.


53 Responses to “Ten Steps to Eating Perfectly.”

  1. Blake says:

    But then you run the risk of killing the bacteria in your gut! You heartless monster!

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Thank you, Alden. ~ Angela R.

  3. Keith says:

    Haha — I love it. Reminds me a truism we all need to embrace: Life feeds on life.

  4. Butt then we'd be devoid of your pithy posts and be lesser beings for it. Simply eat mindfully, because we're perfectly imperfect beings.

    Cheers for the smile.


  5. elephantjournal says:

    I loooove Alden, but am not sure I get this. The implication seems to be that if you try to be mindful about your diet, that's ultimately pointless. Obviously we don't have to follow fads…that's not what mindful diets are about. ~ Waylon

    • Hi, Waylon. I just took it as a very funny joke, like a verbal Saturday Night Live Skit!

      Like any good spoof, it has a point, too, which I would describe as "Anything can be taken too far".

      But don't look too hard for deep meaning. It's just funny! (Right, Alden?)

      Bob W.

      • Alden says:

        Yup! I try to eat mindfully, but I was just being overwhelmed with all the different ways to improve my diet! All good ways too, I might add. (Notice I didn't include the South Beach Diet, or the model diet-coke-and-lettuce diet.) I'm going to keep trying!

    • elephantjournal says:


      Adenia L orthorexians unite!

      Brian A: LOVE

      Jenn Breckenridge Remember what you said about Twitter? Better follow this shit to a T. =)

      Shaun H I don't get it. Is this a might as well just eat McDonald's slippery slope argument?

      Kathy S No, just that there's no such thing as a "perfect" diet.

    • dkb says:

      I don't like it. If we don't try we might as well hang it up…this implies that we should not.

  6. yogi tobye says:

    Just goes to show that if you listen to others instead of listening to yourself, you will go "radio rental"!!

    I tried that Caveman diet….after a few weeks I started dragging women around by the hair and chasing hairy mammoths!

  7. Sabina says:

    Haha, awesome post :)) I'm in the same confusing times right now, as eating healthy just seems like mission impossible sometimes!

  8. Marilyn Wann says:

    Great piece of writing! Try this… http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/the-rule

  9. […] remembered this as I was reading Alden Wicker’s blog on Elephant Journal, which playfully points out how mindful eating can easily turn into unhealthy […]

  10. Daniel says:

    It seems to me that, Alden, you touch on a subject that we don't like to face. That life is cruel. Any action has a reaction and what is good for one is bad for another. When a lion makes a kill it is cruel to the victim but it is healthy for the greater system. Likewise, in our diets, we run into the paradox that at some level we cannot avoid the cruelty. For myself to exist I must accept that something else cannot because there is a finite amount of organic material. It makes me think of the stories I read about native Americans or the Aborigines in Australia. After making a kill there was a process of asking forgiveness from the animal for taking its life.

    It would be nice if we could exist and not have it at the expense of another being.

  11. […] realize why we eat the way we do, but it’s certainly a deliberate action. And, whatever it is we choose to consume, it catches up with us in one way or […]

  12. Tai says:

    The overabundance of choice and excess that leads to waste in Western Culture is really at the root of this "Diet Dilemma". Organic, local, vegan, lacto/ovo vegetarian, omnivore, raw, unpackaged, hundred mile, cruelty free, conscious eating are all choices and luxuries that 4/5Th's of the world will never know.
    Perhaps a trip to San Paolo to pick your food out of the garbage heaps at the dump along with thousands of others who live and eat there every day of their life might give you to a sense of gratitude for all these seemingly frustrating choices you face on what and how to eat. I find this condescending and so typical of new agey yogis.
    Feed yourselves and quit whining at imagined difficulties. I know you find yourself glib and amusing. You're not.

    • SP9 says:

      Easy there. The author doesn't live in a 3rd world country. If she was picking food from the garbage heaps, she wouldn't be a writer, would she? Who are you to make her feel badly because she doesn't? Your comment is mean-spirited a just a tad sanctimonious. Maybe you should go and read really deep articles by old agey yogis who are practically starving so you can feel better about your reading material. Geesh.

    • kris says:

      Everything is relative. As people living in 'privileged' society we strive to make the best choices possible for our health and the planet and lives of other creatures within the terms of our reality (in USA that mean shopping at farmer's market, Whole Foods, Co-ops, growing your own etc.). It can be incredibly confusing and difficult to do this- and lack of gratitude is not at all involved.
      The problem is we are so out of touch with our needs, so very far from our roots. If you look at ingeniousness cultures (who haven't had their land/way of life stolen from them yet) you see that they do not have any of these issues around food. They know what to eat, when to eat, and I pretty much guarantee it is local, sustainable, and ethical. In mass culture/society we have lost access to this knowledge and have to fumble around trying to discover what works. The answer will be different for all of us, and it may never come. I know I have personally gone through every single one of the issues/diets the author listed, and I am still unsure.
      Once again, not about a lack of gratitude, it is about a confusion of what is best for ourselves, the earth, and other living beings in this modern, out-of-touch world.

  13. ARCreated says:

    Sister I am so there…so so there… and don't even get me started on how if you try to always do the right thing you end up being sort of a boring PITA!!! Life is still meant to be joyful in my opinion so damn it sometimes my food will be cooked and bad for me 😉

  14. Jessie Paul says:

    It is the dilemma behind ahimsa. There is always some amount of harm inflicted someplace. The goal is trying to choose the lesser…..

  15. HollyShabtai says:

    Love it!~

  16. rick haesche says:

    thank you… thought provoking, but i sense you are taking it to the extreme for the sake of illustration? When i became a Buddhist i realized that even mowing my lawn is a violent act where innocent beings suffer at the whim of my idea of and need for beauty and order.

    Upon close examination, we have to understand that just existing in this world (as a non-awakened sentient being) we incur karma and there is no way around it. My humble advice is to listen to become aware of your body's needs and respond responsibly and in line with your deepest convictions. We get into alot of trouble when we listen to what others have to say about what we "need" or should do.

  17. West says:

    Logically, this BLOG is correct and following it throughout to it's CONCLUSION you get the answer to a PARADOX which "I believe" is a UNIVERSAL LAW………"In order for me to exist, something else must die."

  18. praecurvo says:

    <—Conscious Foodie. I do not discriminate as long as it comes from love. With grazing, moderation, balance, and understanding of my body's needs and wants, I live one of the most amazing live's of a Passionate Omnivore. Rock on eater's, rock on!!

  19. Brandon says:

    Indeed the mind/ego tries to make us feel bad for what we eat. The truth is that the soul needs nothing to fill bliss. If we look within (meditate-separate the mind/body from the soul) we will know what we should eat at the given moment. Our time in the body is to experience all of the creation and to continue to create. When the body "dies" we become whole again. Enjoy your day. Namaste.

  20. […] we eat junk food, healthy food, only fruit, high protein, low fat, raw food, vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic. We use food as a substitute for love, as a way to win love, to fulfill desire, as a means of […]

  21. […] don’t need ten million rules about how to nourish ourselves. I don’t want to hear what’s “bad” this […]

  22. SOFLY_Anna says:

    Funny! I've changed my food habits by observing my own patterns, eliminating foods which were making me sick. Eventually my diet included healthy grains, veggies and fruit and no animal products…I didn't know anything about vegan-ism or any other trends back in the day.

    Anna. <a href="http://www.streamoflifeyoga.com” target=”_blank”>www.streamoflifeyoga.com

  23. Crystal Dawn Webber says:

    I get the point. But I just feel a need to say something….You've got the issue with cows and chickens wrong and I think that way it's written makes light of the truth…….. It's not that it's terrible to milk a cow or to take a chicken's eggs. It's what is done to be able to do those things. The bigger issue is with keeping cows trapped and constantly pregnant, stealing the cow's babies year after year so that we can milk them, and then turning the babies into veal. And the other bigger issue is killing all male chicks (often ground up alive in meat grinders, for god knows what purpose) because we've genetically modified chickens into grotesquely fat meat chickens or intensely skinny egg chicken (to allow for smaller cages), leaving male egg chickens useless. Also keeping them trapped and killing the females when they become too old to lay eggs.

  24. Syn Zyn says:

    Ah, breatharianism. Living off light is the new black.

  25. This rang true for me–I enjoyed going to our farmer’s market until the news came out that much of the produce being sold there wasn’t from local farms after all. Sigh~

  26. Sarah says:

    Love this post!

    I became vegetarian when I adopted the Buddhist lifestyle and took refuge to the Three Jewels. Preserving our body to ensure our good health is the most important according to Shakyamuni Buddha himself. In his quest for enlightenment, he realized the starving himself will bring no realizations which is why He amended his ways half way through. The emaciated Buddha have great significance to us, it shows us that the middle path is the way, and everything else that goes to extremities will not lead us to the path of enlightenment.

  27. Paula says:

    I tried looking at CleanHippie.net. There's nothing there.

  28. oz_ says:

    Clever – nice work. 🙂

  29. See, that's what happens when you listen to "them". Mom was right–next "they" will tell you to jump off a bridge.

    I appreciate the intended satire, while agreeing with some of the other commenters that this is very much a developed-world set of choices. Simply thinking about our food and where it comes from is a first step.

    My own choice is to eat vegetarian, buy and preserve locally grown food as much as I'm able to given all the other choices in my life, cook from scratch, and not judge anyone who doesn't do these things. When I became a vegetarian I recognized immediately that I'm able to get enough nutrients to survive without meat because I live in a rich nation, and because I'm at a certain income level I can afford local foods that may cost more. That doesn't make me more virtuous than anyone else.

  30. Victoria says:

    First world problems at their finest!

  31. kilayaciriello says:

    Thanks for raising a vital topic of life: eating!
    If you solve this one you'll be on your way to solving all of life's problems together. lol.
    Don't give up, however, and use your anger and frustration as an excuse to give in to laxness, gluttony or callousness. There are effective solutions to this problem given in many spiritual texts. One that I am focusing on right now is explained here : http://www.BhagavadGitaInFocus.com
    But there are others as well. The Buddha talks about eating extensively in the Diggha and Majjima Nikayas (the original sutras of the Buddha). But the Buddha's teachings are mostly directed at those ready to live as monks whereas the Bhagavad Gita gives all encompassing instructions for people living regular lives within the conventional world.
    Best of luck to living a happy and contented life.

  32. Trin says:

    Clever and funny and so relevant. Most people do the best we can each day to live life as kind conscious beings. The fact that a person cares is an amazing thing in this materialistic society. We need to pat ourselves on the back, stop beating ourselves up and have a laugh while we're having a panic attack at the contents list of a favourite food product 😉

  33. Barb says:

    Some tips on eating raw vegan during winter in cold climates 🙂 and yes, there's food! Greens grow abundantly in indoor greenhouses. Root veggies and squash store nicely through the winter, as do many other veggies when kept carefully in a root cellar. Nuts and seeds and dried fruit are filling and make rich dishes of all sorts. And cereals and some grains can be sprouted or just soaked. Yes, this is different from the standard American diet. And it's perfectly ordinary and satisfying for those who eat this way. http://www.thebestofrawfood.com/raw-uncooked-food

  34. Scott says:

    Such a bummer…
    …you educated yourself. 🙂

    You made rational decisions from the knowledge "they" provided and you realized change is hard. In your frustration, you felt the need to find company in your misery (writing this journal style blog). Looking at the thread of comments it seems your misery is shared. You have now setup a way to communicate with the masses and you have reached a small portion which is no easy feat.

    Stay strong in what you believe and know that what you believe can change. Find balance in your actions so you don't feel so frustrated. CHANGE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE OVERNIGHT BUT YOUR INTENTIONS CAN. Humanity is and will always be a shifting, rotating, evolving consciousness and as it grows we will slowly open our eyes to the unintended atrocities we have committed against nature (usually from our laziness and unawareness). Hopefully we have the time and recognition to alleviate the burden of our ego. Be the light! We have too many shadows.

  35. We ALL learned what to eat, long before we learned to ask, why we eat. Bravo to her for asking why! On a planet with over 7-Billion meals per day, even the tinniest change in what we each eat can have a massive cumulative impact on the world… especially in the highly processed, wastefully packaged, genetically modified, pesticide laden, innately abhorrent factory farmed food parts of the "first world"!

  36. Sam says:

    That is funny. The only real healthy way to eat is to just avoid all junk and processed foods. The foods with all of the chemicals in them, like all of the processed foods are really messing with our bodies. I know very healthy people who eat a lot of meat and vegetables and I know very healthy vegans who only eat grains, beans and vegetables. Whatever your body feels good eating. If you get a stomach ache, arthritis or some other health problem, do not take a pill, change your diet to what makes you feel better.

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