I learned a new word yesterday.
An ironically unhealthy obsession with healthy or “clean” foods.
When I was a vegetarian, I was a fastidious vegetarian. For over 20 years. It’s how I learned to be an astute reader of labels. It was my first (& failed) attempt at healthy eating.
But looking back, my vegetarianism was also an attempt to exert control in any situation involving food. I was dramatic. I was dogmatic. I was, in a word, annoying & likely insufferable. (My only redeeming quality was a lack of preachiness.)
That word hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew what it meant before reading the definition.
Sometimes I think I would have discovered healthy eating years, if not decades, sooner, had the Internet been around when I was still a teenager, eating no meat but not quite sure what to eat in its stead.
But today, I simply think I know too much. Too many diets, philosophies & factions. Too many sources, recipes, opinions & anecdotes. Too much. Yet not enough.
Thankfully, I don’t think I have orthorexia, just orthorexic tendencies. Even toward the end of my vegetarianism, I was less dogmatic as I began to listen more to my body. I ate fish when I felt I needed to. I let myself enjoy it. When I quit vegetarianism, I vowed to leave the dogma behind for good.
… But then I read about “Traditional Food” & “WAPF” & “Paleo” & “GAPS” & “SCD” & etc.
I mentally globbed on to one & then the next & then the next. Luckily, I haven’t had the time, money, or energy to commit to any of these in reality.
Eating sausage that is not from a local, pasture-based farm, hoping to do better next month: moderate.
Eating sausage three times a day with no intention of diversifying my diet: immoderate.
Not eating sausage, or much of anything else, because I can’t find the perfect source for it: extreme.
I’ve taken a hard look at my own motivations & thoughts about food since I read that piece. I am suddenly grateful to not believe in gurus & to not feel aligned (in life & on this blog) with a single diet or “food belief system.” Passionate about certain aspects of food? You betcha. But “unaffiliated” with any single way of eating.
But those tendencies are there & they’re strong. (Particularly when you’re doctor has recently put you on an elimination diet & food is all you can think about… dreaming of a day when you might actually figure out what to put & what not to put into this body…)
And herein lies the danger (for me, at least) of food blogs. They make it seem so simple. So easy. So straight forward. So right.
If so-&-so writes a Traditional Foods/WAPF blog, then that’s it. If so-&-so writes a Paleo/Primal blog, then that’s it. These are presented as complete systems of eating &, gee, they do it so well, &, oh my gosh, every damned meal at so-&-so’s house must be awesome & follow rules X, Y, & Z!
But figuring out what or how to eat in today’s world is anything but straight forward. And it’s a shame that more of these blogs don’t engage in a more active engagement in the gray areas. (Is that much butter really good for me? … Won’t eating that much meat kill me, my family & the planet? … Isn’t it a good idea to cook at least some of my food?… Will I drop dead if I eat raw nuts or if my butter isn’t from pastured cows or if my chicken previously ate some corn?!)
Plus, many food bloggers are doing the blogging (& cooking & image management thing) full time or for profit. This doesn’t cancel out good intentions. But it should make the rest of us stop & question a blogger’s motivations & sincerity & credibility. Any blog written by a full-time blogger should feature a prominent warning: Check your reality at the “about” page because you will never accomplish this, at least not on a daily basis!
And yet I care about food. I’m learning that putting some things into my body feels better than other things. Blogs written by folks who dedicate they’re days to food can be great resources. But the sheen of perfection & “rightness” (& sometimes righteousness) is unmistakable.
So I’m trying really hard not to measure myself against so-&-so’s perfect food blog. And I’m trying not to get hung up on “pure” or “clean” foods. And I’m trying to accept that the human body can adapt or cope with a few (or maybe even a lot) of indiscretions.
Which isn’t to say that I won’t still seek out direct-from-the-farmer meats & eggs. Or that I won’t buy certain things organic (Dirty Dozen list) or only in season (tomatoes). But if I want an apple out of season, I’ll buy one. If I don’t feel like operating the salad spinner, I’ll buy packaged greens. If we’re out of eggs, I’ll buy them from the grocery store.
And I won’t feel bad… I think.
And, I vow as a sometimes-blogger, sometimes blogging about food that I will do my due diligence to not make it seem easy (it’s usually not) or “right” (because who can really know).
Real food is a topic near & dear to my heart. I’m committed to cooking wholesome & whole foods. I’m committed to local foods. Blah, blah, blah. But perfection & dogma are hereby banished.