July 30, 2012

Stop Eating. Everything is Bad for You.

I read an article today warning consumers to be on the look out for rice syrup as a sweetener.

Apparently, rice syrup is bad for us too.

Conventionally-grown vegetable and fruits are bad. Organics might be bad too. Meat’s bad. Dairy’s bad. Soy’s bad. Grains—especially glutinous grains—are bad. Water is…also bad. Tap water is full of pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Bottled water isn’t any better. Juice is bad. Milk, oh we covered that. Milk’s bad. Soda…does anyone not know that soda is bad? High fructose corn syrup is bad.

I think most people agree that avocados and kale are good for you, but I’m getting scared to read anything more. If avocados and kale turn out to be bad, I don’t know what’s left for me.

And beets. I like beets too and so far, they are still on the okay list (as long as they are organic).

What the hell are we supposed to eat?

We are an obese society overwhelmed by food rules and regulations.

(We are also a highly sexualized society that doesn’t know real pleasure. I think there’s probably a correlation, but that will wait for another day.)

I love Michael Pollan’s take on it:

1. Eat Food: actual food our grandparents would recognize as food

2. But not too much: duh.

3. Mostly plants: duh part two.

So why do we get wrapped up in all this? Why the obsessiveness? Where is the balance?

When I was in my teens and 20s and immersed in dieting and disordered eating, my food rules became pretty elaborate. The constantly evolving strategies of what I would and wouldn’t eat defined me and occupied much of my thinking and time. Then, as I worked towards true health, I found that I had to let all of them go and start from scratch.

Still, it’s tricky. I have to eat gluten free (Celiac) so there’s rule number one. I am experimenting with a move from being vegetarian to vegan, for ethical (and curiosity) reasons. Rule two. And then other rules start creeping in like “avoid rice syrup” and “skip excessive packaging” or “buy local and seasonal” and they just keep coming.

So what do we do? Do we accept that we should devote a large portion of our time and thinking to obsessing about our food? Doesn’t seem healthy to me. Do we treat food as both fuel and celebration instead of friend, foe or all-consuming hobby? That gets my vote.

Let’s simplify.

We don’t need ten million rules about how to nourish ourselves. I don’t want to hear what’s “bad” this week. If it’s a whole food, it’s probably better than something in a plastic bag inside of a box with an ingredient list a mile long—even if it is gluten free, vegan and doesn’t contain rice syrup. I like Michael Pollan’s three rules. I think this is another great one:

I’ve reduced mine down to one:

Choose foods that nourish me (body and spirit) and do as little harm as possible (including to myself).

If you could reduce it down to one, what would be your food rule?


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