How to Stop Obsessing Over Food While Giving Back to The Community
If I were to ask a room full of people what their definition of healthy eating would be, I would probably receive many different answers. The health industry has taken what it means to eat “healthy” to a whole new level of obsession. One cannot walk into a bookstore without paleo, vegan, low fat, toxic foods, keto, gluten-free, grain-free, and other how-not-to-die books displayed all over the store. I cannot imagine how overwhelmed the consumer must feel.
When consumers are bombarded with new diets and the latest research, they either eventually shut down—also known as decision paralysis—or end up creating an obsession on how to look their best. I feel strongly that we need to change the dogma of losing weight by asking the simple questions such as “How you are feeling?,” “How is your energy?,” “How is your sleep?,” or “How are your bowel movements?”
Often times, this healthy eating obsession forgets what it even takes for healthy food to end up on our plate. There are many political forces behind how our food is produced: people who work in the food industry are left behind in securing healthy food for themselves and their families, family farmers work endless hours to stay in an ever-increasing consolidated farming system, and not to mention the impact growing food has on our environment.
As a Nutritionist, it is essential for me to stay on top of the latest food trends, because they are usually created for therapeutic reasons to treat ailments. For instance, researchers are finding that the Ketogenic Diet is potentially beneficial when it comes to epileptic patients and following a gluten-free or grain free is necessary for Celiac patients and other autoimmune conditions. However, the health industry and social media influencers skew a lot of the information, often for reasons that aren’t beyond vanity.
I am an advocate for eating the way that feels right for the individual. Yet, often times, this could involve working with a real food dietitian to figure out a proper diet that works uniquely for them. I would call this a preventative care plan. We have to remember that food is more than just nourishment, food is about community, culture, and most of all food is meant to satisfy. Instead, it seems that most people are constantly battling over the perfect healthy diet. I do not think we will ever figure out the exact definition of an ideal diet because research is always evolving as well as skewed by the food industry. We are also dynamic individuals, whose needs vary person-to-person and individually through our lifetime. What may work for us when we’re 20 might not and often does not work when we’re 50. Likewise, something that works for someone who is a teenager might not be right for even someone in their 30s.
I am a huge proponent of eating mostly local and supporting my local farmers, but I also do not want to create any more dietary frustrations in our already overwhelming world of nutrition. I hope that more people will choose to spend a little more money on their family’s food budget, when an if possible, to give back money to the hands of a small farmer and support their local economy. This will also make food more accessible for those in need in return.
On average, farmers make less than $0.08 per $1.00 Americans spend when they sell their food. The rest goes to the food industry (i.e., marketing, wholesale, distribution, and retailing). Healthy eating is expensive, especially if you’re buying organic, beyond organic, sustainable, pasture-raised, grass-fed, etc. However, it is even more costly and harder to access fresh fruits and vegetables for those who are making minimum wage, live in a food desert, or have a disability.
The way in which our current agriculture system is set up, we are growing more crops for processed foods, animal feed, and biofuels, than we are growing fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S. Once we, as consumers and more specifically those who have the access & means to do so, start spending our food dollars with our local small diversified farmers, we will simultaneously help make healthier food choices available to all in our communities. The more demand, the cheaper healthier food will become, and small farmers and our environment will thank us for it.
If you have compulsive, overwhelming, and obsessive thoughts regarding your food & body, please reach out to a professional, such as a therapist or your medical care provider. You can find accessible ones at Better Help or reach out to National Eating Disorder Association.
About the Author
Bailey Mennona has a B.S Nutrition and Foods & is interested in Sustainable Food Systems. She’s also a military spouse and mother of two little girls. She can be found at A Nutritionist & A Cook.