It has happened. The mainstream's quest for perfect eating has finally and completely gotten under my skin. Our society's obsession with perfection has not only made writers, talk show hosts, scientists, exercise buffs, and thousands of others rich on the subject, it has done a fair amount of harm for our nation's sensibility. As we buy books written by experts on why wheat bread makes us fat, or spend yet another paycheck on the latest fad workout routine, we continue to loose ourselves in the effort, often ignoring the bigger issues.
While counting calories, or following charts, food has become something we fear, hate, feel guilty about, categorize and rarely enjoy. The should and shouldn'ts are not making us healthier, just more obsessive and less fun to be around. Terms such as Paleo and Caveman are beginning to represent a culture of the overly-saturated.
Of late, I have witnessed the over abundance of nutritional information to have a paralyzing effect on even the most motivated. Perhaps what the conversation needs is more perspective:
Annually, the United States sends more food to the landfill than any other, while over 10 million Americans go without regular meals (4 million of whom are children) or suffer crippling nutritional deficiencies (including the obese). This is where I have to draw the line on the topic of "the perfect diet" because in essence, this has become a discussion for the privileged.
While I recognize the food industry's gross assault on our food system and would call additives and fillers unlawful (if not morally corroded to the largest extremes), and try dearly to avoid such foods, we need to make sure our conversations about eating leaves enough room for other keystone topics.
Sadly, not all of us can be expected to have the same priorities, let alone opportunities, when it comes to choosing the foods we eat, and unjustly, much of this is economical. The reality is, a big chunk of the population has what they would consider bigger fish to fry. Around the globe, getting anything on the table is often a bigger question than what?
Being in the health-food field for so many years now, I have come to believe "the perfect diet" doesn't exist anyway. There are many fundamental laws of nutrition that apply to all, though one's "perfect diet" may be completely inappropriate for another due to our individual needs. The nutritional demands of a nursing mother are different than those of a middle-aged executive. And as much as our nutritional demands differ from person to person, so do our emotional, economic and cultural identities. In this context, looking for a "one-size-fits-all" diet is a lost cause. Giving up the hope of finding one may be the first step in gaining the freedom to enjoy and rejoice in real food for nourishment and comfort.
While I fully support the local food movement and all the other back-to-basics food efforts, I do recognize the financial, social, cultural, emotional, and geographical challenges on the subject. We all must do the best we can with the means we have. Food has the power to nurture and the power to crumble us, but we need not give it the social power to divide us.