Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why do eat what we eat?

I think asking ourselves WHY we chose to eat a certain way is just as important as deciding WHAT we are going to eat.  Do we feel that we have to eat a certain way, that it is necessary to gain or lose weight?  Does it provide a sense of control, by severely limiting what we put into our body?  Do we think we can somehow avoid every single illness by eating certain foods and avoiding others?

Nutrition needs to be put into context.  There are many valid reasons to eat a certain way, and many reasons that do not lead to improving health.  My food choices have often been a source of identity.  This was especially the case when I was eating a vegetarian/vegan diet.  I felt that others were blind to the pain of animals, and to all the unhealthy animal fats (which I now love) that were killing them.  I felt somehow superior, that I was special because I had enough will power to eat a diet that would save the planet and my own health.  Was I healthy during this time?  Far from it.  I was underweight, depressed, horrible complexion, and generally not well.  Was it because of the diet?   I don't know, I think I was probably in quite poor health before becoming vegan.   I do doubt the lack of animal products helped the situation.

I always felt pressure to maintain a certain weight, ever since I was in high school.  I was a bit on the chubby side and felt the need to cut down on calories back then, about 12 years ago.  That's when my dietary explorations began.  So really the original reason for my entry into the world of nutrition was  insecurity.  A comment from one person that I was "fat" and all of a sudden I had to fix that or else I wouldn't be good enough.  I wasn't even really overweight, maybe a bit on the soft side.  But that doesn't change the fact that my original reason for following a certain diet was not to improve my health but to become acceptable.  Now I'm quite slim but I feel that my decreased appetite combined with poor digestion are part of the reason for that.   I would kill to have the digestion and level of energy that I had back then before paying any attention to nutrition.  I loved food but it wasn't a huge issue, I ate and then got on with my day.  I didn't have bloating, stomach pain, blood sugar crashes, anything.  Ah, the good old days.

On the other hand, many food choices can be made with health in mind.  The reality is that I do have digestive issues, and food is one of the main ways of working on that.  Is gluten the problem?  I don't know, I've played around with cutting that out but maybe not long enough to fix the problem.  Food is a powerful tool for dealing with health issues, many of which are caused or at least aggravated by a poor diet.  I want my dietary choices to be based on my health, not feelings of inadequacy or the need to have an identity.

I see so much bickering about what people should be eating.  I enjoy the science of nutrition and following the arguments between different sides, but I often get frustrated with the whole thing because everybody seems to think they are right and wants to prove the other people wrong.  Why is this necessary?  Is intellectual superiority a valid reason to support and follow a specific diet?  What's your reason?

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