You Don’t Have to be Afraid of Your Food (despite what you may have heard)

I’m not really into meal planning.  I’d like to be though, because I find that when I do take the time to sit down and plan out our meals for a week or two, life just rocks along a bit smoother.

Yet I just can’t seem to get the hang of it and make it a real, lasting habit.  And even though this mystifies me for the most part, there is something that I think can be attributed to my consistent lack of planning.

Fear.

Have you ever sat down to work on a meal plan, only to find that you don’t really know what’s actually good to eat and what isn’t?  I mean that in all seriousness because it’s happened to me.  You may have people in your life who swear by eating Paleo, or are vegans or vegetarians, or who don’t eat refined sugar or white bread or carbs.  And they swear that their way is THE WAY you should be eating, too.

With the amount of information about food that’s out there for us to absorb, there’s a lot of pressure to “eat right” and not eat The Bad Food.  And that pressure is stressful.  I, like many of you I’m sure, just want to feed my family healthy, tasty, balanced food.  But… what IS bad food?  What is GOOD food?  Do they even exist?  And (more importantly, I think) who decides that for you?

This week has been a she-said-she-said-they-said food science whirlwind online.  If you haven’t been living under a very heavy rock, you may have heard about or read an article posted on Gawker by a blogger who calls herself Science Babe.  The article is called ‘The “Food Babe” Blogger is Full Of Shit.’

(If you haven’t read the article, I definitely recommend it.  And then, because we’re all about educating from all sides here on RFGR, read this rebuttal from The Food Babe herself.)

Ballsy, right?  I mean, to publicly call out a person, blatantly saying they don’t know what they’re talking about, seems pretty risky.  It seems especially risky when the person they’re calling out is thought to be an “expert” on food, on ingredients in food, what “should” and “shouldn’t” be allowed in our food, and what you “should” and “shouldn’t” be eating, not to mention being featured in all types of national and international media.

But it isn’t risky.  It’s necessary.  Because, to me, the The Food Babe IS full of shit.

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As I’ve discussed on this blog before, the only person who can choose how you eat is YOU.  It is up to you to make educated food decisions that support the lifestyle you want to have – whether that’s getting more fit, gaining weight, losing weight or just plain old livin’.  But guess what?  None of those options – gaining/losing weight, just eating to eat, etc. – are BAD for you.  Going to a fast food joint and eating a cheeseburger and fries is not BAD for you.  The bad-for-you part comes in if you’re eating that same cheeseburger and fries several times a week.  And you should not be scared into thinking otherwise.

The main issue that I have with The Food Babe, and others like her, is that her purpose (although she’s pretty stealth about it) is to make you afraid.  Afraid of flying in airplanes, using your microwave, getting immunized.  And especially, afraid of the food you eat.

In checking her blog recently, her latest post talks about how to stay away from unhealthy foods at the office.  At first glance, it seems like decent advice – bring your lunch with you from home, say no to the 2 dozen donuts on the boardroom table, don’t eat the birthday cake that arrives in the lunchroom, etc.  But what starts making me uncomfortable is when I read statements like the artificial flavours in microwave popcorn can possibly emit toxic fumes.

Can we just take a look at the word toxic for a minute?  Toxic.  As in (according to Merriam Webster online) “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation.”

Microwave popcorn.  Possibly emitting toxic fumes.

Does that scare you off of eating microwave popcorn ever again, ever?  Because it sure as hell would scare me… That is, if I didn’t already trust that microwave popcorn companies aren’t likely in the business of killing people with their product.

Is it safe to trust for-profit companies, ones whose business it is to create and produce food that is safe for consumption and still falls within very strict government standards?  I’m going to go out on a pretty thick limb and say… probably.  Or, at the very least, I’m willing to trust my own judgement (because when it comes down to it, that’s what matters the most).

In looking at the rest of the article (and several other posts that actually made me physically cringe while reading!), The Food Babe continues to use scare tactics to convince the reader of what they should and definitely should not be eating.  Hell, even the title uses words with a severely negative connotation to get you worked up – sick, tired, and overweight.  No one wants to be those things so it seems logical to read through the article and figure out how not to be sick, tired and overweight.  But without going into a really, really long blog post, there are very likely many factors other than the food at your office contributing to you being sick, tired, and overweight, if that’s what you are.  Plus, why is it considered BAD if you choose to share in a slice of cake with your co-worker on their birthday?  Why should you feel scared or even guilty about celebrating someone this way, especially if you’re aware of your food choices and have made sure to employ balance and eat what you like in moderation?  It isn’t bad.  A slice of birthday cake at the office every now and then is not bad for you.  Eating the whole cake is bad.

# # # #

Another point that kept cropping up in my research for this post was the claim that all food companies care about is profit.  That they just want to make as much money as possible without giving a damn about the people who are actually buying the product.

Again, scary.  Why put your trust in a company (or even a farmer!) who only has dollar signs in their eyes?

I understand that there are or may be some food companies (and farmers) out there with little to no moral compass.  But in my mind, money can’t be all that food companies care about because, well, it just doesn’t make sense.  If that were true then these companies would spend as little time and money as possible on their product, which would make it crappy, which would mean it wouldn’t sell, which would mean they wouldn’t make any money.

The same goes for producers like my family.  If we don’t invest in our cows by feeding them high quality feed, and keeping them safe and healthy by spending A LOT (like, a LOT) of money on building a new, efficient, comfortable barn for them, their milk production would drop like a stone and our family income would plummet right along with it.

So I can’t help but feel like the money-or-nothing claim is just.. bogus.  Being a part of the food production industry is just as much of an investment for family farms like ours as it is for big name companies.  We aren’t just milking cows (yeah, like that’s super easy and cheap to begin with) and then sitting back, waiting for the money to roll in.  We invest.  We analyze.  We work to improve our product based on the demands of the consumer and the guidelines of our regulatory bodies (DFO, DFC, our government, etc.).

Are we looking for a return on our investment?  Sure we are.  But choosing to make a living (a.k.a. a profit) by producing food for others does not make us the devil, or money grubbers, or soulless cash fiends.  And I personally don’t think its fair for fear mongers like The Food Babe to put that on big food companies, and then subsequently transfer that to you as something you should be afraid of when it comes to the food you consume.

# # # #

Is it fair that someone with Celiac disease has to haggle with their server over their necessary dietary restrictions because the previous customer they served was “afraid” of gluten?  No.  But that happens.

Is it fair that people will only eat organic and completely turn against conventional farms because they’ve been told that organic food is healthier than non-organic food, even though there’s not nearly enough scientific evidence to support that claim?  No, but that happens, too.

I didn’t want to address this topic to be a hater.  I just really, really disagree with fear mongering when it comes to food.  I don’t like that people are afraid to eat gluten, or non-organic, conventionally grown foods, or white pasta or soda or carbs.  Unless you have a medical condition that restricts your food choices, there’s no reason for you to restrict your food choices unless you want to.  You don’t have to eat like everyone else does because its the popular thing to do.  This isn’t high school.

Feed your body with the food that satisfies you, that you enjoy and that keeps you healthy.  And if you’re not sure what kind of food that is, talk to your doctor or a dietician and get informed.  If you’re wondering about what goes into the food you eat, there are a multitude of resources that will give you as much information as you can fill your head with.  Then, make an informed decision.

The only person who has control over your food choices is you, and those choices are better to be based on fact than on fear.


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