Labeling diets has always sort of bothered me. Vegetarian, vegan, paleo, pescetarian, fruititarian, lacto-ovo…they drive me a little nuts for a few reasons. The first reason, is that they put us into boxes. They create a sense of “us” and “them”, “mine” and “yours”, “right and wrong”. This can turn us away from eating things that could be beneficial to us simply because it’s labeled “paleo” or “vegetarian”.
Labeling also creates false ideas as to what is healthy and what is not, because not everything that falls under a label is truly healthy. For example, eating vegetarian can be very good, but if all you are eating is rice and cheese, you are hurting yourself. Paleo may sound great and is touted as healthy, but if you interpret that as frequenting Burger King and eating crappy meat while giving yourself credit for throwing the bun away, you aren’t doing your body any favors, either.
If we really want to be informed about what we eat, we have to work hard. Fast-food companies, marketers, and even supposed “natural” food distributors hold a tremendous amount of power, and make it all-too-easy for us to be disconnected with what we eat and how our food becomes…well…food. If we’re not careful, stuff like this happens:
Of all the things we outsource, our food probably shouldn’t be one of them.
I never understood it when I’d be with a group of people, such as co-workers, who, when it came lunchtime, would call me “high maintenance” because I didn’t like fast food and I read labels. I like to eat food in its most natural form, with minimal processing. The people poking at me would only purchase and eat food that was packaged, marketed, processed, full of tons of ingredients – and they’d want it fast and cheap, too. And I was the high maintenance one?
The Evolving Diet
For about five years before becoming pregnant, I did not eat much of any kind of meat other than fish. I did this based on my thoughts, feelings, and things I read, for many reasons involving personal health, animal welfare, and understanding where our meat comes from. I read many books and watched many videos that truly opened my eyes, and it made me want to become more aware of how our food gets to our plates. I did not think I’d ever eat “land meat” again.
Not long after, I came across another book that hit this topic at a different angle. Even though the premise didn’t jibe with my diet at the time, I decided to read it anyway. I was so glad I did, because it wound up being one of the best food books I’ve ever read to date, and I feel that anyone who eats ANYTHING should read this book. It’s called “The Vegetarian Myth,” by Lierre Kieth. (I will post a review of this book in a separate blog entry for those who may be interested.)
What Did I Learn?
I realized that being open to different angles of information didn’t have to equate to believing everything I read. That taking this approach allows for us to make the best decisions for our bodies and overall health. Although I was repulsed and upset with the treatment of animals for human consumption, I learned it wasn’t a black-and-white issue. It gave me a great respect for small farms that care for their animals and allow them a natural and full life, and raise them on nutritious diets and without antibiotics. It seemed to me that learning about these farms and supporting them was a better step toward a solution than becoming bitter and hoping everyone would just stop eating meat.
It also led me to the conclusion that food is a journey, and a very personal journey, at that. I’d argue that discussing food is right up there with religion and politics. And, while difficult, we don’t do our bodies any favors when we become too attached to diet labels and shun material that is outside of our boxes. I think, in big picture terms, we all need to curate the information we receive about food and, more than anything, pay attention to how our bodies feel when we eat.
My food philosophy has become simply this: eat food in it’s most original state, minimally processed, and seasonal and local whenever possible, and pay attention to how my body feels after I eat. While food shopping, most of my time is spend in the perimeter of the grocery store, avoiding too much time in the aisles. And, if the ingredient list looks like war and peace and involves a bunch of crap I can’t pronounce, it goes back on the shelf.
Conclusion: most food providers want to “Snookify” us. Let’s not become Snooki. And so, my food journey continues. What’s your food journey?