When Healthy Eating Is Anything But

Do I need to eat this-We live in a culture where people mistake the stereotype of beauty for everything from morality, to work ethic, to healthcare qualifications. One of the places this becomes the most apparent is in celebrity diet culture. There isn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people have maintained any amount of weight loss long term (and even among those, the weight lost is incredibly small), but we’re supposed to believe that because someone is thin and talented, they hold the secret to weight loss and/or healthy eating — and let’s remember that these are most definitely two different things.

We also live in a culture that encourages us to have a seriously messed up relationship with food. Chips are a “guilty pleasure,” but baked chips are “guilt free?” Desserts are “decadent” and vegetables are “clean” (and I don’t mean given a good scrub in the sink).

I have seen “clean eating” defined as everything from a chock-full-o-meat paleo diet, to a vegan diet and plenty of eating plans in between. I’m “good” if I eat some broccoli, but “bad” if I eat it with cheese sauce.

Then there’s our society’s bizarre insistence that we make all food into a performance — from the obligatory “This is so much food, I could never eat all of this” we’re obliged to say when our plate comes in a restaurant, to our tendency to discuss why we are or aren’t eating a particular food (and I’m not talking about in the context of allergies or sensitivities). Or how many minutes on the treadmill we feel we have to do to “make up” for eating whatever we’re eating, how “good” or “bad” we are being with our food choices.

And we have these discussions with whatever rando strangers are also in line at Chipotle.

Combine those three things and you get the total cock up that is celebrity diet culture. In his piece “Clean eating websites like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop ‘indistinguishable from pro anorexia sites,’” Dr Christian Jessen wrote:

Click here to read my full piece!

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Published in: on August 3, 2017 at 12:04 pm  Comments (23)  

23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. OMG YES! Where I currently work is trying to encourage ‘health’ and one day a group (I don’t know who, because I am knew) made a bunch of smoothies. It was a nice gestures, but I was looking at them and thinking how these are considered healthy, but for some people they are anything but. I can’t do the yogurt unless I want diarrhea, there were strawberries, which would be bad for anyone with a strawberry allergy. I wasn’t sure how much sugar was in the yogurt, so if it was a lot, it could have been bad for diabetics (also me). Finally, so many people work from home at my office, it’s at least half empty a lot of time.

    They didn’t ask who wanted one, so about half of what they made (a lot) was left over.

    I appreciated the gesture, but it was someone’s idea of healthy, which doesn’t work for me, and it wasted time, effort and food.

    There’s currently an event where you can go and get your weight/blood pressure etc tested in a little mini clinic. I have mixed feelings about that.

    The little cafe posts calories, which isn’t terrible but it doesn’t list carbohydrates, which diabetics like me should watch, or food ingredients, which I find annoying.

    I don’t mind the posters with stretching suggestions. I don’t mind the availability of massages. I’m kind of irritated with the ‘prizes’ available to employees who meet certain goals, when as a contractor, I’m not eligible.

    Anyway, the ‘diet’ stuff is stupid. I’d much rather just see new ways to make food without any moralizing attached.

    • Yeah, give me a cooking show that focuses on tasty ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, rather than on a way to replace all the yummy stuff with “good” things, and try to fool your body.

      Look, it’s cool that you can make a cake with apple sauce instead of oil. But instead of getting me all excited about that cake, and then bait-and-switching me, and telling me it is fat free, why not just say, “Here’s how to make a delicious applesauce cake,” and call it what it is, in the first place?

      Don’t say, “Serve mashed cauliflower, instead of mashed potatoes.” Just say, “I love cauliflower, and mashed cauliflower is one of my favorites. Here’s how I make it.”

      It’s not the healthy food to which I object. It’s the bait-and-switch, replacement therapy, denying any access to the original, copying business that I hate.

      Make it additive, instead of restrictive. Make it incorporating more variety and nutritive choices, instead of replacing the “bad” with the “good.”

      Or just avoid food judgement altogether, and say, “I enjoy the flavor and texture of this dish, so here’s how to make it.”

      Now I want to find some old Youtube videos of Julia Child, and I never even watched her show. I just heard about it, and from what I heard, it was a bunch of food joy, without shame. I may be wrong, but now I want to go find out.

      • Steamed/boiled cauliflower with butter and gravy is AMAZING. I used to do the mashed cauliflower but found it took way more effort (and made more dishes) so just left it in the florets. I’m a lazy cooker and despise how many steps are used to hide the fact that I’m eating veggies instead of just creating ways to make them taste better.

      • Oh, she’s awesome to watch. Alton Brown approached her level of daffy genius before he went Lite.

        And YES to enjoying food. “Here are 7 things you can do with watermelon, not because they’re guilt-free or clean, but because it’s hot outside and watermelons are in season.”

        Hey, I’m still flipping through Woman’s World regularly. The latest thing? Fat bombs. Seriously, that’s what they call them. Fat bombs are homemade stevia-sweetened chocolate candies that are supposed to help people stay on a ketosis-inducing diet. Do they taste good? Does stevia have any side effects? Who cares? They are “guilt free” because they will magically make you skinny!

        Meanwhile, I’m over here thinking, “If your craving for what’s in chocolate is so strong that you’re willing to make candy at home in order to satisfy it…your diet is probably missing something.”

        • Dude. Flavonoids are awesome things. Chocolate is a mood-adjuster for a reason.

          I saw a recipe for Eggs Machiavelli – involving eggs and watermelon, and I thought, funny, but I like my watermelon raw and crisp, thanks.

          • Funny thing is, the original watermelons were, well, watery. Bland. The sweet ones are modern. So if you could find an old variety, maybe it would taste like eggs and zucchini?

            • Maybe. I have no idea. I just can’t get past the idea of cooking watermelon. I’ve always been pretty adventurous, before my body decided it had enough adventure, and would throw up if I threw it a curveball. But I never did get behind the idea of serving watermelon any other way but raw, and on its own. I don’t even want whipped cream on my watermelon. Just cut it, cube it, ball it, or serve it in chunks, just so long as it is plain and delicious.

              I guess I’m too picky for fancy diets.

        • Whenever I see the words “ketosis inducing diet” I start cringing uncontrollably. As a diabetic, ketoisis is one of those things I actively try to avoid because it has this mild little side effect of potentially destroying the kidneys. Just one of those little annoyances, ya know!

          • As someone who has kidney disease running rampant in her family history, “ketosis” is a very, very bad word to my mind.

            Better fat and alive, thank you very much.

        • When I was growing up, we took powdered milk and cocoa powder and mixed them together, with some cinnamon and sugar, and had our own hot chocolate mix. I loved it!

          Now, that treat was fat-free, only because powdered milk is almost always made from skim milk. It IS possible to get whole-milk powdered milk, but you have to special order it, or something, because it is very, very hard to find.

          I guess my point here is that there are plenty of options to make your own instant snacks (I LOVE my just-add-water options for a quick treat, or even meal! Home-made cup-o-soup, for example), with some creativity in the kitchen, and a good source of dehydrated and/or freeze-dried ingredients.

          And you can add sugar and fat, to taste, and don’t even think about fat. Think about what your body is wanting, and how to make it convenient for you.

          Actually, they have powdered butter, and you can combine powdered butter with powdered skim milk, and have a rich, creamy milky drink, and yum! Great bed-time drink with minimum fuss. I love my electric kettle.

          And I never feel like I’m dieting, or anything, with my just-add-water snacks, regardless of how much fat and/or sugar is or isn’t in them, because I’m just eating what I jolly well want, anyway. And yeah, it actually can be very healthy. And you can take them with you, anywhere where you can get hot water and a container. Very convenient for travel, work, what-have-you.

          Those stevia chocolate things MIGHT be just the thing for a person who enjoys the flavor, and likes to make things themselves, because then they know precisely what goes into them, and they can absolutely avoid any allergens or food sensitivities. They might be delicious. But why, oh, why, do they have to advertise the recipe as a Fat Bomb? Couldn’t they just call them “Yummy chocolate stevia candies”?

          I actually had a stevia plant in my garden, before it all went belly-up because of my any-color-but-green thumbs. And I liked stevia. As stevia. Not as a sugar-substitute. But as stevia, it’s yummy.

          Call a spade a spade, a stevia a stevia, and a candy a candy. Eat what you enjoy and what works for you and your body and your lifestyle, and don’t worry about guilt, and don’t try to lie to yourself and your own body. It’s so silly.

          Sorry about all the comments on this. For some reason, this particular thing struck a chord. It’s practically an ear-worm for me. Hah!

          OK, off to have some hot chocolate.

      • I have always bitterly resented the suggestion that replacing whole eggs with egg whites and whole milk with skim makes things taste “just the same as soon as you get used to them.”

        • If you have to get used to them, it’s not just the same. It may taste good, once you get used to it, but it is not the same!

      • We make mashed potatoes with other things all the time: cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, or even squash. When you think of squash soup and how it’s everything mushed up anyway, it makes sense that way.

        • Squashed squash? LOL! Sounds delightful.

          • If bread dressing/stuffing makes you ill, or you just don’t like it, you can mash poultry seasoning, pepper, etc., into peeled baked squash along with some butter or olive oil and serve that alongside the turkey. It’s really tasty.

  2. See, I always thought that “clean eating” was “avoid fake foods.” That is, eat real food, made from real ingredients, as opposed to unpronounceable man-made chemicals that pretend to be something they are not.

    Fake fat makes me sick.

    Fake sugar makes me sick.

    Real fat and real sugar do not make me sick. Therefore, I eat the real thing, and I always thought that was “clean eating.”

    Now I find out it is just code for yet another weight-loss diet? Argh!

    • It’s like “natural;” it doesn’t actually mean anything. That magazine I posted about upthread had a Clean Eating diet that was explained as very simple ingredients, no preservatives or flavors added, minimally cooked before you cooked it yourself, etc., but the sample diet included fat free cheese and turkey hot dogs. I think that it does have a concrete meaning: “Includes as many foods labeled with buzzwords designed to make you dream of being thinner while eating them as possible.”

      • Fat free cheese – ick. low-fat cheese, made from low-fat milk, such as Neufchatel cream cheese = tasty and works fine for me. Because it is real.

        Turkey hot dogs? Well, if they are labeled as such, and prepared the same way, but just with turkey, so they taste differently, and people who don’t like beef can enjoy turkey, then it’s fine. But turkey “bacon”? Ummmm, please don’t call it bacon. It ain’t bacon.

        • Some turkey bacon is drastically different than other turkey bacon, which is a sad truth. I refuse to eat Jeannie-O turkey bacon. But I like Oscar Meyer Turkey bacon. They have drastically different tastes, in that one tastes like cardboard and the other tastes like food. I don’t think it tastes like bacon, but I still like it.

          • I never understood turkey substitutes because some of them have the same amount of fat as beef. If you like them, sure. If you can’t eat beef but can eat turkey, sure. But as a diet option? WTF??

          • I’ve had some very tasty and enjoyable turkey “bacon.” I just wish they’d call it something else. It’s not bacon. It is its own thing, and deserves its own name.

  3. This. Yes. When I was a teenager and young adult, I ate what I wanted when I wanted. I ate a lot of vegetables because I loved (and still love) vegetables. I ate whole wheat bread instead of white bread because I like the nuttier, toothsome flavor. I also ate cheeseburgers because I love cheeseburgers. Then, in my mid-twenties, my metabolism slowed from that puberty-high time (as it does for everyone) and I gained a little. Diet culture took ahold, and I was convinced I had to lose it. And that was the start of a long period of yo-yo dieting. I am convinced I have done more harm than good, and one way is that I fell into the mindset of “good” and “bad” foods. I felt guilty when I enjoyed a “bad” food, and the salads I used to love because they tasted so fresh and crisp became tinged with drudgery of “having” to eat “good” foods. I’m starting to find my way out of this mindset, but it is taking a while. Dieting messed up my relationship with food far more than my freewheel eating style of my younger days!

  4. I really miss being able to go out to restaurants whenever I want.


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