Choosing what you eat shouldn’t be a passive process in which you consume whatever you’re handed without asking any questions. The word ‘consumer’ has always bugged me because I don’t like the implication of passivity; it’s like consumers are mindless vacuum cleaners sucking up everything in front of them without considering whether or not the things we’re consuming have any real value. OK it might be the right word.
My hope is that the topics covered here will gently prod you into examining the choices you make about the food you buy and eat, and maybe even make you reconsider your current habits and motivations when it comes to consumption. I think curiosity is a powerful tool; it may kill cats, but my hope is that curiosity will improve your health, and maybe it will also save you time and money.
Curiosity leads to questions and research, and also motivates you to learn more about things you don’t understand. I think a root cause of the mess we’ve made of our health and our natural resources is that we don’t ask enough questions of those that are providing and producing our foods; when we do ask questions, we also need to demand clear answers. If you don’t know what questions to ask (or why you should be asking questions at all) then you won’t be able to feed yourself or your family well.
I want to help you become an effective eater, a responsible consumer that makes informed choices that affect the status quo. I also want to help you to use ‘effect’ and ‘affect’ correctly in your everyday communications.
Being informed isn’t as easy as it should be. You have to put in hours and hours of research before you can be confident that you’re making the right choices or caring about the right things. We operate under the assumption that choices about what we buy and what we eat are either right or wrong, which isn’t really how life works. In terms of what we buy and what we eat specifically, a better way to approach decision-making is to think in terms of making choices that are better or worse, rather than right or wrong. Strive to make better choices instead, and watch how quickly that simplifies your culinary life.
Information becomes available to us at a rate faster than we can ever hope to process it, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed if you want to stay well-informed on any particular subject. But nowhere have I felt more confused or conflicted than in the trend-happy, mythology-obsessed world of food.
There are approximately one million food documentaries on Netflix, and you’ve probably had a friend recommend one, telling you that it changed the way they thought in some way or another. I might actually be that friend, having watched several of these documentaries and then attempting to proselytize whoever was unwise enough to ask me if I’d ‘seen anything good lately.’ Watching these documentaries is a good way to learn, but if you watch all the documentaries or read all the latest studies, my bet is that you’ll become quite confused. A few examples of conclusions one could draw from documentaries, books, or studies I’ve read:
- Stop eating animals.
- Stop eating red meat.
- Eat more fish.
- Eat less fish, you’re ruining the ocean.
- Only buy grass-fed or vegetarian-fed meat.
- Grass-fed meat isn’t as delicious; buy pasture-raised meat that is grain-finished.
- Only buy cage-free eggs from the happy chickens.
- Cage-free isn’t good enough anymore; now you need “Certified Humane”.
- Eat primarily raw foods.
- The raw food diet doesn’t work.
- Eat like the cave men.
- Avoid gluten.
- Avoid nitrates.
- Follow an autoimmune protocol.
- Everything must be organic and non-GMO.
- Avoid all fast food.
- Be vegetarian.
- Don’t be vegetarian.
- Carbs are the problem.
- Fats are the problem.
- Specific carbs and specific fats are the problem.
- The way Americans produce and eat food is the problem.
- Carbs are not the problem.
- Fats are not the problem.
- The way Americans produce and eat food is still the problem.
What to do? That’s a lot of noise, and it’s difficult to know where to begin. Documentaries present information in a dramatic, easily-digestible format (ready thyself for an unbearable amount of food puns) but often come across as preachy or whiny. “Change your ways or the world will burn” or “Everything is broken whaaa”.
Food labels add to the confusion and are unhelpful at best, straight-up misleading at worst. So I’d like to suggest that we cut out all the noise for a moment–ignore all of it–so that we can think: Don’t forget, you can buy and eat whatever you like.