December 29, 2015

The Perils of Kitchen Spirituality

It's that time again when people start writing down or proclaiming their promise to eating well and getting more exercise.  As a health promoter, I love this time of year. I, too, take some time to sit with my journal and record the changes I want to make (only to forget them by Valentines Day...but that's okay).

Over the years I have witnessed so many people (fitness instructors, health promoters, and those that follow their every word) proclaim their commitment to a certain way of eating.  From cutting out the wheat to eating raw food, there are as many food theories as there are diets. Steven Bratman is the author of Health Food Junkies, a medical doctor, and the first person to coin the term "orthorexia" (an obsession or addiction to healthy eating).  In his book, he dedicates a chapter to the contradictions between a myriad of food theories.  His point is clear...there is not one way of eating that is healthier (or better or based on more research) than another.  That's right! For every study to support only eating foods that begin with the letter "a", there are the same amount crying fowl.

The most interesting observation I have made over the years is just how dedicated people are to their way of eating (and how judgie they can get defending their choices). The vegans hate the meatatarians, the raw foodies hate those cruel people who cook their food, and the whole food / 100 mile people look down on those that dare purchase from the grocery store aisle.  Bratman makes a point of suggesting that those people that buy into one way of eating (a.k.a. clean eating) tend to use it as a means to feeling superior to those that don't have the willpower or self-control to do the same. The sad fact of the matter is many of these diets restrict foods to the point of malnutrition.  Others will be so time consuming to adhere to, people lives are taken over by planning, shopping, and cooking (and there's nothing left for living).

A person with orthorexia is
one that may not fear fat as much
as fearing illness.  Food is medicine,
spirituality, and an identity for many.
It can also move quickly into an
eating disorder masked as a move
to eating healthier. 

After years of talking, teaching, researching, and practicing various food theories myself, I have come to three major points to consider if one wants to eat healthier.  I now teach these points in all my courses (both the physical and mental health related courses).  If one is wanting to make a healthy change in diet here are some basic tenants to follow:

1. Limit your sugar intake to between 4-6 teaspoons a day (the average Canadian eats ups to 24 Tsps per day).

2. Eat a diet rich in colourful vegetables. This means a half a plate for each meal but doesn't suggest you become a vegetarian.  Meat is a healthy part of anyone's diet - although many chose to avoid it or limit it for many reasons.

3. Reach for more whole foods (real food - food that your great great grandmother would recognize as food - food that has on 6 ingredients and ingredients that you can pronounce) than processed food.

For those with food allergies (real ones and not just the excuse to restrict) or other health concerns, this list may not pertain to you. Generally speaking...this is a list that is relatively easy to work towards, reaps the benefits of increased energy, decreased risk of chronic disease...oh, (and PS) weight loss or maintenance.  Depending upon your starting point it may be challenging, but it is completely achievable and can be taken out to dinner or on the road (something that cannot be said for many food theories / diets out there).

In short, may I suggest that you screw the latest food theory or diet and those that follow it like a cult. Screw anyone that judges you for enjoying "bad" food over "good" like it is a moral choice.  Life is too short to be spending it food focused (unless that food is chocolate...then it's okay).

K

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