Diet Dogma vs. Real Nourishment

In a culture caught up in brand name diets, and “detoxifying” lifestyles, it’s quite easy to get sucked into the latest low-fat diet or sugar-free fad. All of us want to be healthier, and all of us want to feed our families the optimal, nutritive foods. So how do we sort through the mind-numbing array of choices, and how do we know what’s best for us individually? Rebecca is already doing a series on Common Sense Eating and I don’t plant to overlap her too much, but this issue has come up SO much for me lately in conversations, consultations and my personal life that I just need to take this moment to say a few things.

  • As Rebecca pointed out in a recent post, we’re all different, and so we most likely all need somewhat different diets. We can’t expect to eat just like our best friend or colleague and have the same results. Looking to ethnicity and the land we live on can both provide us with valuable clues to what might be helpful for us to eat.
  • Although it’d be nice to go completely with the “if I want it, it must be good for me” approach to eating, we sometimes have to face the hard truth that food allergies, insulin resistance or less than quality food can negatively effect our bodies, even if it tastes good or comforts us emotionally. In my practice, it is most often the area of nutrition where people just refuse to comply, going so far as to say they’d rather remain chronically ill than give up bread, or dairy, or soy, or whatever they happen to be having trouble with. Even if that means life-long lower quality health, or even a quicker death in the cases of some people. Having watched a family member slowly kill himself with food, I’m terribly intimate with the reality that no one can initiate change for us, it’s choice we have to make for ourselves. However, being honest about refusing to change is better than denial of the whole situation.
  • Of course, it’s equally harmful to cling to our carefully created food plan and freak out over any variance. Calling ourselves bad people because we just at a two foot pile of pancakes with syrup on top is probably not nourishing on any level. And it’s usually better to have the pancakes, than to become so neurotic and obsessed with pancakes that we eventually have a junk food binge. Beware of becoming a diet dictator for yourself or other people.
  • Food itself is neither good nor bad, of course. However, some of what we call food doesn’t deserve its title. Avoid all “foods” that come in boxes or have ingredients.
  • Adapt with your body and the situation. Things change, bodies change. Sometimes even the “facts” change, allowing our perceptions and ideas to adapt as well will make food a far less painful subject.
  • Enjoy the process of creating food. Even if our diet is severely limited by health or finances, we can make the cooking process a beautiful and enjoyable one. Cook with the best ingredients and finest kitchenware you can lay your hands on, and put your heart into it.
  • Once you actually decide what to eat, turn off your brain. Sit down, be quiet, light a candle and say yum.

Ah, I feel better now.

2 Comments

  1. Rebecca
    Jan 25, 2008

    Yay, Kiva!

    The enjoyment of food is such an important part of nutrition… it’s definitely going to merit a “Commonsense Eating” post.

  2. Tesa
    Mar 29, 2008

    I loved this post. There is a wonderful book by Charles Eisenstein called The yoga of Eating which is a fantastic discussion of this theme of “diet dogma vs. real nourishment.”
    The book totally challenges our culture’s deep distrust of the body’s requests and signals and our tendency to either discipline ‘for its own good’ or silence its emotional cries with numbing types of food or overeating… without ever really listening to what ‘it’ actually wants. It suggests that we instead learn to access and trust our body’s great intelligence, and its messages as to what we really need which involves removing the blocks — physical, emotional, and conceptual — that separate us from these messages and have us prefer to trust the prescriptions and advice of all kinds of external authorities or traditions over our own inner authority.

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