“The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater” by Erica at Northwest Edible Life is just about perfect.
Before Your Healthy Eating Internet Education:
“I eat pretty healthy. Check it out: whole grain crackers, veggie patties, prawns, broccoli. I am actually pretty into clean eating.”
After Your Healthy Eating Internet Education:
Those crackers – gluten, baby. Gluten is toxic to your intestinal health, I read it on a forum. They should call those crackers Leaky Gut Crisps, that would be more accurate. That veggie burger in the freezer? GMO soy. Basically that’s a Monsanto patty. Did you know soybean oil is an insecticide? And those prawns are fish farmed in Vietnamese sewage pools. I didn’t know about the sewage fish farming when I bought them, though, really I didn’t!
The broccoli, though..that’s ok. I can eat that. Eating that doesn’t make me a terrible person, unless….oh, shit! That broccoli isn’t organic. That means it’s covered with endocrine disrupting pesticides that will make my son sprout breasts. As if adolescence isn’t awkward enough.
And who pre-cut this broccoli like that? I bet it was some poor Mexican person not making a living wage and being treated as a cog in an industrial broccoli cutting warehouse. So I’m basically supporting slavery if I eat this pre-cut broccoli. Oh my God, it’s in a plastic bag too. Which means I am personally responsible for the death of countless endangered seabirds right now.
I hate myself.
All you want to do is eat a little healthier. Really. Maybe get some of that Activa probiotic yogurt or something. So you look around and start researching what “healthier” means.
You know where it’s going from here. The cycle goes on, through Paleo dieting, Vitamin D, traditionally soaked grains, mussels, vegetables, fermentation, kale, gardening, home-raised rabbit, and back to Activa Yogurt.
Erica’s an excellent writer, and her point could not be more well-taken. The post is particularly interesting when paired with this post from Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist.
There is more to eating than calories, even biochemically – there are vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, antioxidants, electrolytes, fluids, dietary fibre, all the raw materials for repairing and remodeling every single cell in your body. More than that, there is culture, family history, occasion, artistry, skill, growth, feelings of joy or resentment, pleasure or distaste. There are emotional associations and memories, and there is the basic affirmation of life – “I need to eat to survive, and I am worth the effort to survive.” Every act of eating reaffirms your right to exist.
There is more to movement than calories, even biochemically – there is bone strengthening, muscle building, aerobic fitness, neural growth, balancing of hormones and lipid transporters, and every single involuntary movement and chemical reaction carried on below your conscious awareness, working around the clock to stave off entropy. More than that, there is fun, adventure, challenge, mastery, strength, place associations, social bonding, the experience of being an alive thing on a round, blue speck in the galaxy. There is a basic affirmation that you exist in a world you were designed to navigate….
You were made for this world. You belong in it, and it belongs to you.
Eating and moving: your right to exist, and a world in which to exist. They are not rivals. They do not annihilate each other. They collaborate to make a whole person, body and soul.
Erica is being (on the surface) funny; Michelle, in contrast, is being deeply, passionately serious.
And yet, at base, they are both making the same point. There’s more to eating than the pursuit of healthiness. There’s more to exercise than the working off of calories.
The simplified story of eating healthy and the simplified story of exercise both simplify out the most important part–the delight in an ice cream sundae, a perfectly sauteed onion, a ten-mile walk, a good stretch, or whatever it is that gives you delight. When’s the last time (other than from Michelle) that you read any health advice that had something about joy in it?