Although a gift to appreciate and not take for granted, our ability to eat wholesome food is not a ‘recognized religion’
At the core of our ability to live (and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) are a few basic requirements: air, water, food, safe shelter. Love and being connected to others are among those basic requirements too. Once these needs are met, should we choose, we can pursue a world of possibilities, self-actualization, that nourish our soul so meaningfully that they may become requirements to us too – music, art, careers, religion, travel, volunteering, parenting, solving world problems, sports, reading, pet ownership…heck, even vitamin supplements and every other subject on the planet.
Like other mammals, most adults on earth have the task of hunting for (sourcing), gathering and providing food for themselves and their family. The range of what is consumed varies greatly based on many non-food factors not the least of which are geographical location and available funds. Although food plays a significant role in many religions, in and of itself it is not a religion. I’m for keeping it that way.
Many people are quite quickly turned off by the idea of religious beliefs being pushed upon them. I’m never excited when the ‘church salespeople’ ring our doorbell. I politely decline and try to end the transaction before it starts. I have beliefs I’m confident in. I also don’t love when someone comes to the door, or inbox, selling anything I didn’t ask for. Yet, somehow, the basic need to eat and the freedom to choose what we want based on our likes, dislikes, values, health needs, budget, culture, traditions, location, season and circumstances has become seemingly everyone’s busine$$. A vocation that some have become evangelical about with a new religion of sorts.
While it’s not considered kind or politically correct in any way to push values regarding personal choices, race or religion on others, although snake-oil independent consultants have always existed, we’re in a particularly troubling time where ‘cleansed’, protein powder, supplement-fueled disciples seem to be on a mission to convert us all to, or at least attempt to intimidate us with, their ultra clean (and sometimes even mean) food religion.
There’s a big difference between being a passionate source of interesting, helpful, credible information and being a rude, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer salesperson. There’s also a difference in opting to look for nourishing food ideas you may wish to try with your family versus feeling judged harshly for not being vegan, organic or raw enough, for example. Where I come from, part of being a healthy person is to be kind to yourself, the earth and others. If clean, raw and/or vegan eating is super healthy, and I don’t disagree with being any of those should a person choose, why are some of the comments coming from those circles so extreme, judgmental and mean? I understand they are very passionate about their chosen energizing eating style and want to spread the word. But, mean-spirited comments, about food and eating, becoming commonplace deeply concerns me. Too frequently I come across tweets and posts making statements like “if you really loved your children, your family would be vegan” or “calling oneself vegetarian and still eating eggs and fish is a cop-out”. If a person opts out of eating eggs and fish, isn’t that their own very personal choice? If others opt to eat those foods, they shouldn’t be made to feel terrible or guilty. If they have no problems with gluten and choose to eat it, should they have to hide in the closet to enjoy a sandwich or bowl of cereal? Some would say no one makes you feel anything. How you react and feel is up to you. I must emphasize that I am all for eating a wholesome, plant-based diet. And, there are gifted thought leaders out there getting folks excited to adopt this eating style. Still, there exist a few too many mean, unproductive, unfounded and/or inaccurate comments about what we choose to eat. That won’t move people in a positive healthy direction.
In his book Cooked, Michael Pollan suggests that perhaps the more specialized we’ve become in society, the more we’ve lost confidence in our own ability in the areas we don’t specialize in, such as cooking. Increasingly, we feel we need to look to others to guide us, even in the most very basic tasks like food selection and eating. As we seek the way from the ‘experts’, resulting in the number of their loyal subjects increasing, some become the new high priests and priestesses of clean eating – increasingly forceful in their advice. The more shocking or controversial the statements they make, evidence-based or more often not, the faster a certain sector of their congregation grows while others want nothing to do with what they see as ‘healthy eating’ nonsense.
I’m for each adult, who is able to, taking ownership of feeding themselves and their family and feeling great about it. I’m also for growing and cooking as much food as you can for yourself. Something I’ve been saying for years, I agree with Pollan that rates of obesity and chronic diseases rising at the same time that entire TV networks and endless healthy cooking resources exist is a truly strange paradox. If you never learned to cook, it is worth developing even basic skills. It’s never too late to start. And it is not a competitive sport. If you know how to cook, hone it, celebrate it and most importantly, use it. Respectfully share your recipes and healthy living ideas to inspire others. Feel proud of your high I.K. (Intelligence in the Kitchen). But please leave food religion, unhealthy and hurtful judging, the kind that even causes some to get sick physically or emotionally with orthorexia, out of it.