Friday, February 02, 2007

Ewwww, Don't Eat That!

One of the most fascinating things I've observed about the individuals who choose to live and eat in a natural, whole, and conscientious way is the level of sheer smugness and sense of superiority they exude when discussing their choices and way of life (This of course excludes my two girls El and Allergic Girl.) It seems to me that many so called “conscientious eaters” somehow equate green eating with being a better, superior person. I have heard many a vegan and veg tsk-tsk when someone orders a meat-centric meal and have read countless blogs blasting individuals who choose to purchase packaged, shelf-stable groceries. A recent post by a fairly well known blogger describes a favorite grocery game she plays with her fiancĂ©e. The couple walk around their neighborhood grocery store and point out all the processed foods in the baskets of fellow shoppers and then snicker and whisper “Ewwww” to each other. Should this sort of food superiority be acceptable because the person wielding the judgement eats a supposedly healthier diet than you or I? How different is this game than the wayward glances and snide comments made by the popular girls in high school.

Is it an ingrained component of the human condition to degrade someone else in order to feel better about oneself? Is this the only path to self-actualization?

As a reformed vegan and a current holistic health counselor, I’m the first to admit that I’m one of those people who try to shop on the outsides of the grocery store, the place where they keep all the perishable, whole foods; fruits, vegetables, fresh meats. I believe that we should all eat more foods that we can actually recognize and we should eat smaller portions. However, does this make me a better person? Hell no. Does it give me the right to look in someone else’s basket, calculate the nutritional deficit and shudder? No. A person is no better or worse because of what they eat. I have met many an organic chomping, animal avoiding, vegan who spit venom and spite everytime they open their mouths.

In my opinion, the biggest flaw with the current model for changing American dietary habits is that it is based on shame and judgement.

“How can you eat that? It has trans-fats! You really feed your kid French fries and burgers for lunch? You really should eat more leafy greens and cut back on red meat.”

All these statements are voiced to invoke a sense of unworthiness, shame, embarrassment. They do nothing but make people more neurotic and shift their attention onto the wrong thing. It’s not really about what you can’t eat or shouldn’t eat. Shame accomplishes nothing but demoralization of the soul.

The dialogue about nutrition needs to move beyond just the food and focus on the individual and their life. It needs to move from “ewwww, don’t eat that!” to “Tell me what you did today? And why?” I’m a staunch believer that how we eat is a result of how functional (or dysfunctional) the rest of our life is. The healthier we can make the rest of our life, the more we are apt to want to put healthier food into our bodies. Make people feel good about themselves and chances are they will want to put healthier food into their body and eat in a healthier manner.

I realize this essay has kind moved from one topic to another. That’s okay. I think it’s all kinda related.

I leave you with wisdom from En Vogue:
“Free your mind and the rest will follow.”


Lucy said...

Hi Bo. I just followed the link from your comment left on the site you mention in your post. I agree with you. Wholeheartedly. Here in Australia we are facing equally challenging times re 'unhealthy' eating and it's about time we learned not to make judgments about other people. Education and ecouragment will, hopefully, help us all to win in the end. Great post!

Nicole said...

I agree with you, Bo. I think that we also need to examine the fact that "natural" foods are quite often more expensive than processed foods, and that in many areas of the country, access to a wide variety of natural and organic foods is limited. I'm experiencing that to a certain degree in Chicago. If you're working on a limited budget, and you have a family to provide for, your first concern is more likely to provide them with any kind of sustenance, rather than the most natural or organic food. --nrg