As outlandish as it may sound, I have been working on these few pages for months. Translating feelings into thoughts is harder than I imagined. Anyway, I wanted to have a look at the religion behind our current Health Inquisition because, although they appear as one to name, shame and aim for the destruction of the likes of me, they are also akin to all mainstream religions: made of countless little sects, each with its own mind-set regarding how we should all be absolved, find solace and eventually salvation in the form of body-shape uniformity.
Let’s look at the different sects within the Food Religion, shall we?
Normality – Needs to be converted!
Atkins diet – Next, please.
Low calorie diet – What’s a calorie? Can I grow them myself?
Low fat diet – Sounds good but the pasta is pretty bland.
Low salt diet – Fish pee in sea water!
Low carb diet – My brain can’t concentrate for more than 10 minutes at once.
Low fibre diet – Hello, bowel cancer.
South Beach diet – Getting ready for Spring Break.
Gluten-free diet – I feel like gasworks.
Vegetarian diet – Are cakes alright? There’s butter and eggs in there…
Vegan diet – Look at my Instagram! I look great naked!
Organic diet – Is “fair trade” the same?
Locavore diet – It’s all about tending to my neighbour’s wallet.
Palaeolithic diet – Because life was so good back then, tape worm especially.
Juices cleanse – Eating is for weaklings!
Just cleanse – Let the settlers invade you and kill everything. Very popular in the US and Australia.
What do preachers, or “food experts”, say?
Fat is bad for you – I knew that.
Sugar is bad for you – Don’t care!
Chocolate is bad for you – F*** you!
Bread is bad for you – What about toasts?
Milk is bad for you – Can I milk rice?
Water is bad for you – But…aren’t we made 75% of it?!
Alcohol is bad for you – Yeah…My mum said the same about my boyfriend.
Fruits are bad for you – My doctor said that about apples.
Meat is bad for you – Even?…you know…
Fish is bad for you – Sharks don’t even eat them.
Vegetables are bad for you – What’s in guacamole?
Cooked food is bad for you – Too expensive to heat up nowadays anyway.
Raw food is bad for you – No mini sushis?! How not 2015!
Vitamins supplements are bad for you – Vegans are gonna die?
Proteins are bad for you – So I can’t swallow?
Products without the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what Glamour says.
Products with the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what the Guardian says.
Products without the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what my local farmer says.
Products with the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what his neighbour says.
What are the pillars of these sects? – Super Foods, with a big F…for fudge!
Superfruits – Scomiche! 😀
Supervegetables – Mister Peanuts for the win.
Superfat – Rude!
Supernuts – Starring Rocco Siffredi.
Supervitamins – Always buy one get one free.
Supermen – If only!…
Seriously, does anyone actually know what they are talking about?
Because frankly, it seems to me that we are living a world, the Western World, where we have completely lost touch with the reality of what food and eating is. Is it our living in endlessly-sprawling urban spaces where the only wild nature visible is in cages and the rest is constantly unrooted to make place for the neatly trimmed and the visually pleasant? Have we grown so far away from a field that we don’t even know what’s what and are left to the mercy of some experts with credentials they created for themselves as a mean to find health salvation?
When I hear urban people talking about food, it does seem like it. American Youtubers are the best, I have to say. They will believe absolutely anything and preach it the next day.
Every month, newspapers are filled with statements and counter-statements based on some research, all about the same things. Every month, there is a new food dogma we should all embrace for it will save our lives, or at the least add a couple of decades to our life-expectancy in our quest to immortality. We are buzzing: a new diet, a new way of life, always “better”, always “healthier” than the previous one, always calling the anathema on the heresy we had been happily following for the past 30 days. Until the next month, when yet another research shows we had all been fooled and heretics: this time, THIS is the real food dogma.
How have we become like this? How have we become so lost that even reasonable people are ready to believe that milk and bread are the sources of all our diet problems when that’s what humanity has been surviving on for the best part of dozens of millennia?
There is, first and foremost, the lack of education and our desperate need to fit in our society’s very tight jeans, bikinis and zero-size clothes. Desperation in the face of the everyday bullying and finger-pointing we enjoy so much will bring people to do anything: from genuinely believing that we can milk almonds to popping dieting pills that will burn your body to death. We have not become but remain completely gullible in the face of someone or something that promises the never-ending of social acceptance and who wants to be an ostracised heretic? So we go to the gym like our ancestors went to church and read dieting books like they read the Bible in latin. We don’t understand a word of it but it’s the only key to happiness. Apparently…
But then again, who to believe? All these scientists, doctors and researches, isn’t it their job to advise you, to guide us? Why should have we believed anyone critical of his findings when the name Atkins came with the title “Doctor”? It did not matter he was fat and obviously a clear case of “Do what I say but don’t do what I do’, all because stars were raving about the weight loss. And we all know that’s the key to making Earth an present paradise. The true believers don’t go to church anymore, they can fit in Victoria Beckham’s clothes.
We know now, Atkins was just another con artist who surfed on the wave of low self-esteem and desperation millions of us suffer from. You’d think we’d listen to those who have been telling us to stop with this fanatic nonsense and just be sensible. No, we just moved on to another diet coming from the findings of yet another research, another doctor, another scientist who, if you look closely, mostly turn out to be have been sponsored generously and selflessly, of course, by the food industry.
That’s my issue with these research papers. We do have genuinely independent research published by various institutions and they pretty much say all the same thing: Mutatis mutandis. Everything is poison, nothing is poison, the dose is poison. You can eat everything as long as you remain sensible about it. Get your 3 liters of water, whichever, your 5 to 7 fruits and veg every day, whichever, 20 to 30 minutes of exercises, even walking the dog in the park, avoid processed meals, and prepare your own food. Even burgers, as long as you don’t go to McDonalds to buy them, don’t eat them everyday and prepare them yourself, you’ll be fine.
Why isn’t it enough then? Why don’t we do just that and go on with our easily accessible and sound healthy living? Because this is not religion, this is sensible advice and that’s how it is advertised. No sensationalism, no celebrity so where’s the dream, the impossible? The fast weight loss? The promise of a better sex life?
So we turn to “the research from an American university” published with a parade in every newspapers and all languages. The issue is that most of these various research papers are not independent: they serve a purpose. A company or someone trying to cash in on our needs for a quick solution and the avoidance of having to take responsibility for our own problems. If it doesn’t work, we’ll hang them by the feet in the main square anyway.
Look carefully and you’ll find out that behind an American research on how bad fat is for you often lays the money of a soft-drinks and sweets company. And vice versa with a research on the terrible effect of sugar sponsored generously, and selflessly, by a butter-producing giant. It’s not just our naivety or wilful ignorance that’s the reason, it’s also that food is now a battlefield on the constant wars of neo-capitalism. Everyone is riding the wave on its own boat trying to shoot everybody in sight with pseudo-science for it’s the first who can land on the shores to preach to the hurdled masses.
You think we were desperate to fit in, not as desperate as the food industry to cash in on whatever and whoever we decide to believe is good for us. Food giants will to any length to make us believe that they are the healthy option. I mean Nutella is advertised as a healthy option for breakfast for the kids and no one sees a problem in that!
The issue is the food industry and everything that comes with it. First, the language: we blame the food rather than everything they are allowed to put in or on it to make it grow faster, stronger, better. “Bread is bad” but it’s not bread that is bad or gluten, it’s the pesticides we spread the wheat with that are the real problem. And the alternative? To genetically modify it. What a treat! So yes, bread and gluten seem bad, and for some people they are, because we can’t process it anymore.
It’s the same with the milk, the eggs and the meat. They have been the base of our eating habits and have allowed us to develop our brain, make our bodies stronger and more resilient, to expend our life expectancy. The food itself isn’t bad. Unlike all the chemicals the food industry has been lobbying to make legal so we can feed the animals we keep in terrible conditions in the modern farms at the lowest costs.
Then we are back to us, who are now consuming food like we consume everything: the more the better but in a world where everything costs, we want meat for nothing and, cheap meat will make you sick or/and fat.
I understand the fact that we are blaming some foods while calling other “superfoods” which no one actually fathoms. I understand that we have to start somewhere when it comes to changing our habits and unfortunately, we are born and bred in this fundamentally Manichean society built on monotheism where there is no time for sensibility, only knee-jerking preaching. The debate has become solely about pitting something against something else, about dogma against heresy. Fat vs sugar. Meat vs fish. Fruits vs vegetables. Cooked vs raw. Milk vs vitamin supplements.
As the language of food is now akin to the one of all religions, one needs to consider its countless holy scripts with a pinch of salt, or sugar if you prefer. Except for actual poisons, there is no bad or good, black or white, healthy and unhealthy because even the healthiest can become dangerous when consumed without moderation. It’s called orthorexia and like all orthodoxies, it does more harm than good in the long term.
Orthorexia divides, creates new boxes, new barriers, new prejudices as we are working toward brining all the others down. Right now, the divide between “healthy” and “unhealthy” seems to be for the greater good, but all divides and categorisations were until we realise they are helping no one except a tiny minority, the ones who benefits from the apartheid: “the ones on the right side”.