You’re invited to dinner this weekend. I’m hosting. I’m preparing my favorite dishes for you. First, an exquisite blend of miracle-health omega-3 fat droplets, medium rare morsels of cancer-fighting vitamin D, braised to perfection with a low-glycemic marinade of blood pressure reducing sodium-free minerals, followed by a perpetual youth potion of rainbow antioxidant sorbet and potassium sprinkles. Here’s a napkin. I see you’re drooling.
Do you ever feel like food is being incrementally reduced to less than tantalizing biochemical nutritive vs. life-compromising constituents, and by extension, that our increasingly restrictive diets require instructional manuals? When and how did what to eat become such a complicated decision on which our very life was said to hinge? Most importantly, how do we get back to a more balanced relationship with food?
Let’s start by acknowledging that none of the above flavor-of-the-day miracle food constituents on their own make you healthier, thinner, or prevent disease in a vacuum. It is quite possible to be a trim and religious devotee of Weight Watchers or veganism and yet consume a diet that significantly contributes to your risk of cancer or other disease. You might be looking lean on the outside, but the view on the inside can be something other. “Vegan” does not automatically equal thin or purist, not if your approach to veganism is oodles of white bread, french fries, and Coca Cola. A low-sugar diet with multiple diet sodas each day supplemented with religious devotion to fish oil may help control blood sugar spikes but is still a diet heavy on chemical sugar substitutes, topped with fish oil supplements.
My goal, take twelve steps back from the microscope and reenvision a relationship with food that is big picture rather than small compartments. Fats, carbohydrates, even sodium, my body needs them all. I suspect that small amounts of natural sugars, caffeine, or alcohol in my diet does not bring down a healthy lifestyle. Give me the corn, but keep the maltodextrin, dextrose, and corn syrup. I eat as many vegetables and whole grains as I can. I avoid the multitude of “edible food-like substances” that are the basis of processed foods—preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and fractionated corn and soy food substituting fillers. I don’t avoid food, be it of the fat, carbohydrate, sweetened, or salted variety.
I remember when food was just food. We ate and enjoyed it. We didn’t analyze it. Half a grapefruit per day with my breakfast had nothing to do with cancer. Do you remember?