A consistent healthy diet is not the social norm. It seems bizarre to many that I do not eat processed foods or anything with added sugars. I have thought about the differences between my choices and the common perspective on eating. I have concluded that healthy eating is uncommon for the following reasons.
- Diet Trends Are Misunderstood.
- Processed Foods Profit Business.
- Unhealthy Eating Is Overlooked.
- The Social Norm Is Prioritized Over the Self.
Diet Trends Are Misunderstood.
My recent post discussed the Nordic and Mediterranean diet trends. This section will overview two others: the Vegan and the Paleo diet. The vegan diet recommends eating plenty of grains and no meat. The Paleo diet recommends eating minimal grains and plenty of meat. Some would bet their life on the health of the vegan diet, and others would bet their life on the Paleo diet. In my opinion, both of them have positive qualities, yet both of them are also somewhat extreme.
I do not follow the vegan diet because I value the fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals which are readily available in meat. I do not follow the Paleo diet because I value the carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals which are readily available in grains and beans.
The Pegan diet was a trendy introduction that meets somewhere in the middle, but still discourages most dairy products (vegan) as well as most starches (Paleo).
I could continue this list for another day or so, and each trendy name makes a persuasive case against all diet opponents specifying why that practice will lead to human demise. Some are valid points, but the extremes without a religious or legitimate health purpose are narrow-minded. Unfortunately, this constant battle can be overwhelming for an individual trying to make some diet changes.
Processed Foods Profit Business.
Businesses strive to make money, and enough people consistently buy their processed foods. Personally, I do not see the end to a large demand for foods modified to fit the newest diet trend, foods that are conveniently packaged, or foods that taste better than actual food. Businesses profit when their product is inexpensive to produce, appeals to the customer, and has a long shelf life.
Large-scale crops yield the cheapest grains and large-scale farms yield the cheapest milk and meat. These cornerstone calorie sources are then modified and enhanced with cheap additives to yield the highest profit.
The food itself cannot decompose within the package so it will be preserved with additives such as Brominated Oils, Potassium Bromide, BHA, and BHT, and Azodicarbonamide. Although these ingredients are banned in the EU and most other countries, the FDA of the US is still waiting for more evidence. The metal can, the packaging seals, the plastic container, and the internal lining all need to withstand the test of time. We will continue to overlook the PFOA, PFOS, phthalate, and BPA additives which achieve this goal until there is plenty more evidence of immediate health consequences.
Some will intermittently buy these foods. Some will live primarily on these foods. Businesses will continue to profit by selling the artistic presentation of blatantly over processed ingredients in soft drinks, chips, candy, cake, cereal, and ‘nutrition’ bars to name a few.
Unhealthy Eating Is Overlooked.
Unhealthy eating is overlooked because long-term toxicity is overlooked. If the processed food does not cause an immediate health issue, it is approved by the FDA. The FDA makes 4 assumptions:
- The modified junk food contains enough food-like substance to call it a ‘food’.
- The modified junk food is not addictive.
- The modified junk food will not be eaten in high quantities.
- The modified junk food will not be eaten consistently.
When the deep-fried chicken, packaged foods, and the lowest priced Mac and Cheese options are eaten consistently over a 10-year period, other factors will also play a role in the potential development of obesity, oxidized cholesterol buildup, high blood pressure, and clogged arteries; therefore, the product is defined as a food which provides the food energy necessary to the human body. And everyone who buys the product agrees with that assumption.
Many children experience candy and cake as the focal treat of desire and a primary purpose of living for the first 10 years of life. From the age of 5 to 18 the ‘healthy’ cafeteria meal often consists of a hot dog (meat?), corn (vegetable?), and jello (fruit?). After years of physical and psychological reinforcement, it is hard to break the habit. The intermixed processed food eating habit is healthy enough since it topically appears that many friends are healthy, and they follow a similar diet trend.
The Social Norm Is Prioritized Over the Self.
When part of the family celebration includes eating deep-fried chicken it feels ok to eat some deep-fried chicken. When the group of friends is drinking beer with chemical additives overlooked by the Tobacco and Alcohol Trade Bureau, it feels ok to overlook the additives and enjoy the beer. When work colleagues are enjoying a celebratory cake, it feels ok to eat a serving of the cake. The trend was ingrained within you since childhood, and those trends are hard to break.
The trend is hard to break, but here is why it feels impossible to break:
When part of the family celebration includes eating deep-fried chicken, you are perceived as rude and disrespectful to not eat the meal that was prepared for you. When the group of friends is drinking beer with chemical additives, it is perceived as stuck up, insecure, and/or uninterested to deny the beer. When work colleagues are enjoying a celebratory cake, it is perceived as antisocial and arrogant to deny the cake.
The trend feels impossible to break with unending and relentless force. Here is a brief snapshot of some key days within the first half of the 2018 calendar:
- Jan 1, New Years Day: Family Meal at Grandma’s with traditional food, wine, and cookies.
- Feb 4, Super Bowl Sunday: Friends gathering with hot dogs, fries, and beer
- Feb 9, Winter Olympics: A few weeks of friends gathering with burgers, fries, and wine
- Feb 13, Mardi Gras(Fat Tuesday): Church celebration with cookies and punch
- Feb 14, Valentines Day: Chocolate and Sweet candy for everyone
- Mar 17, St. Patrick’s Day: Green icing and beer with family and more beer with friends
- Mar 23, Spring Break: One week of unregulated vacation food and alcohol intake
- Apr 1, Easter Sunday: Family Meal at Grandma’s with traditional food, wine, and cookies
- Apr 14, NBA Playoffs: 1.5 months sports bars and beers
- May 5, Cinco de Mayo: Friends gathering with burgers, fries, cake, beer
- May 13, Mothers Day: Eat out with both sides of the family, wine with both grandmothers
- May 28, Memorial Day: Hot Dogs and Burgers cookout with plenty of beer
….We are half way through the year, and I have not included date specific:
- Birthdays (yours, friends, family, colleague): more cake and beer
- Anniversaries: more cake
- Work Celebrations: more cake and beer afterword
- Family Traditions: more beer
You have a few options:
- Follow the social norms and ignore your long-term health
- Move to an isolated retreat in Alaska where living is prioritized over questionable norms.
- Claim a health issue as your excuse for bypassing full participation in the social norm, but still attend the event (I am about 50% this option)
- Talk some scientific jargon about the food processing industry and chemical additives until people become disinterested in offering you junk food (…and this is my other 50%)
Here is the best option: Prioritize yourself and your well-being over the social norm. If the group denies or ridicules your choice, find a different group. If it is family, consistently apply options 2-4 from the previous list.
Leave a comment, and let me know if you have a few other ideas!