Wednesday, November 20, 2013

6 Signs That You're Taking Your Diet Too Seriously

No matter how much time you spend online arguing with people about diet/nutrition, it's too much time. Rarely do these interactions have any worth. Take, for example, the vegan guy who trolled my YouTube channel this week (read the comments). He left several ridiculous comments, like "Oh Eggs, Yummy! One of the cheapest ways to insure you get cancer and/or heart disease!" and "Well there is actually nothing out there that beats the scientific research that was done on the China Study (a popular vegan book)." He really has no idea how much of a jerk he was being. He takes his diet ideology, veganism, far too seriously and personally.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing has become very common... diets are becoming religions... I don't care if it's vegan, vegetarian, paleo, raw vegan, low-carb, low-fat, or anything else, what you eat should not take over your life and turn you into an ignorant zealot. Sometimes we need to check ourselves. Here are 6 signs that you're taking your diet too seriously.


1. You can't date outside your diet.
It's true, there are plenty of people online discussing this very topic in forums other media. Check out this Paleo dating site. How do you date outside your diet ideology? How can you possibly love someone who eats bread on a regular basis!?

It's simple really. Because there's more to life and people and relationships than what we eat. Let's talk about qualities that we tend to like in other people, shall we? Intelligence, maturity, open-mindedness, honesty, integrity, respectfulness, ambition, affection, sense of humor... do any of these involve diet?

If you've let your diet become such a big part of who you are that you can't love someone else because of it, then you need to back off and get some perspective. And, ironically, you've already disqualified yourself for about half of these desirable qualities people look for. The first step is recognizing it as a problem... now grow from it.


2. You become personally offended when someone disagrees with you.
There are always haters, especially with the anonymity of the internet. For any possible philosophy or theory, there are always people that disagree. How do you respond when someone disagrees with you on your diet? Do you try to convince them you're right? Do you become personally offended? Do you feel the need to be a jackass about it?

Calm. The. #&@%. Down. Just because someone eats meat, for example, doesn't mean he's going to die at 50 of a heart attack, and it certainly doesn't mean you should be an ass and tell him about it. Take the comment left by that fool on my YouTube channel... "Oh Eggs, Yummy! One of the cheapest ways to insure you get cancer and/or heart disease!" There are constructive ways to have an argument without becoming personally offended; this is not the way to do it.

If someone disagrees with you, why do you take it personally? Why does it even affect you? It's because your diet ideology has become "who you are" to such an extent that you don't know who you are without it. Check yourself.


3. You bring your own meal to a party.
Everyone knows that guy. You may even be that guy (or gal). You and your friends are having a summer party, and you're going to grill burgers and hot dogs, eat chips and salsa, and generally be merry. Not everyone wants to eat burgers and hot dogs, I understand that. But you don't have to totally dismiss the party food and be a jerk.

Now, it's one thing to bring yourself a veggie burger; at least you're still participating in the party. It's another thing entirely to bring yourself a tupperware container full of a carefully planned out, home-cooked meal. Why are the two different?

Because it says to your friends and family that their food isn't good enough. It puts you on your little high horse, makes you feel superior, and you look like an ass in the process. Eating food at a party is about more than just the food... it's about communion, about bonding with friends and family, and it's a vehicle for building relationships. Bringing your own meal completely slashes that and has the opposite effect: it isolates you. It puts up a barrier between you and everyone else. Let loose a little bit; food is about more than just nutrition.


4. You'd rather offend someone than eat outside your diet.
In many cases, food is given as a gift, and in our American culture, said food is usually junk food. Pies, cakes, cookies... you know what I'm talking about... no one's giving steamed kale as a gift. These foods don't fit into anyone's strict diet. How do you respond when you're given the gift of food?

Let's say, for example, that your grandmother bakes you an apple pie. You go over her house for dinner with some family members, and after dinner she unveils this delicious-looking fresh apple pie she's baked for everyone. Its full of trans-fat, gluten, and sugar. Do you have a slice? 

If not, you're doing far more than just rejecting food; on some level, you're rejecting your grandmother's love. I know you love her, don't get me wrong. But her pie is an expression of her love, and she wants to share it with her family. To deny her the happiness she gets to see her family enjoy her pie would be rude and distasteful. At the very least, have a few bites. It won't kill you. (Unless of course you have a serious allergy, then DON'T eat the pie, she'll understand :) )


5. You think that everyone else should eat the way you do.
This is probably the most common sign that your diet has become too much a part of you. Everyone is different. That's what makes the world so interesting; different people, different ideas and opinions... there's always so much to learn from meeting someone new, and it's always exciting to expand your horizons a little. Why would you want everyone else to be like you?

I'm as guilty of this as anyone. At one point, I was very convinced that the Paleo diet was the only way to be healthy. In hindsight, it feels stupid, but I believed it. I thought that everyone should stop eating bread and pasta, and that all we needed was to eat the foods our ancestors ate, and that we would all be better off for it.

Well, many people aren't willing to give up all grains and dairy. Some people just want to find a middle ground between eating healthy and eating what they like. Some people just want to eat what tastes good. Some people are struggling just to find enough food to feed their families. There's nothing wrong with any of that. Projecting one dietary philosophy on everyone is ignorant and short-sighted, and it rubs people the wrong way. There are a thousand ways to accomplish the same thing; Paleo (or vegetarian, or low-carb for that matter) is just a tool in the tool box.


6. You're afraid of food.
Fear... this is where we enter the realm of disordered eating. The only reason food should instill fear in us is when we know we'll have a serious adverse reaction to eating it. If you know you have a shellfish allergy, for example, and your face swells up within minutes after eating a scallop... you have a right to fear scallops.

For the vast majority of us though, being too attached to a dietary ideology can make us irrationally fearful of food. For vegetarians, it's meat; for Paleo dieters, it's gluten or dairy; for fruitarians, it's virtually anything other than a banana ;). We tend to allow our chosen dietary dogma to dictate how we feel about certain foods, when in reality, we can probably eat them occasionally with no ill effects.

These days, gluten-free diets are becoming popular. I do think gluten is a problem for a lot of people, and there's even some evidence that it's inflammatory and damaging for everyone. However, have a little context... nearly everyone on earth eats gluten every single day... we haven't died out as a species yet, have we? If you don't experience obvious ill effects from eating something, then regardless of your health goals, you can likely afford to eat it from time to time. There's no need to be all in one way or the other; moderation is a virtue.


I understand why diets become such a big part of people's lives; internalizing it in such a way makes it easier to stick with it. And if we see success, we want to change others' lives too. It's a noble cause, really it is. I've been there. I'm guilty of many of these things, but I've grown through it and realized why I don't want to act that way. We have to understand that there is more than one way to eat healthy. Everyone is different; not everyone wants to eat paleo, or vegan, or low-carb. Some people just want to eat a standard American diet and count their calories. Other people don't care about their health at all and they just want to eat what tastes good. Is that illegal?

There's no need to let your chosen diet ideology become a religion. Don't be a jerk and let it rule your life.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great post! I can relate to having experienced nearly every one of those points. There are still a few here and there that I need to work on. I don't want food obsession to become my whole life, so much so that I forget the most important part--LIVING.

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    1. Thanks!! It's a constant struggle isn't it? But the beautiful thing is, even being aware of it allows you to help others to LIVE too :)

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  2. Projecting one dietary philosophy on everyone is ignorant and short-sighted, and it rubs people the wrong way.

    Regards,
    Kopi Luwak

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  3. About #3, I don't see anything really wrong with that. What ticks me off is I invite someone to my house and have to cater to their odd ball diet (vegan) because they are a guest. It's like I'm supposed to run a restaurant or something! This isn't a religious thing, or allergy, it's pure "I don't eat anything with eyes" (their explanation, not mine). If someone is a vegan and wants to eat here, it would be a relief to me as hostess for them to bring something they can eat. It's pure BS to put people through hoops to entertain guests when it's only a matter of choice on those guests' part. I'm tired of the condemnation that follows that kind of guest around. You eat a tiny slice of Grandma's apple pie and you can eat a little piece of meat or cheese, whatever, and STFU.

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  4. I disagree with #3. I would prefer them bring their own food, if they already know that they are intolerant to something and will spend the rest of the party farting and the rest of the day being grumpy and miserable. If you really care about someone, you accommodate their needs. Speaking of the grandmother's pie example, I know first hand - my grandmother is really offended when I don't eat her food. But I don't because I have an intolerance to basically everything she cooks with. The problem does not lie with the person who has specialized diet needs. Obviously, they should be polite about refusing. But if your grandmother gives you the pie even though you've told her multiple times you don't eat that kind of thing - the fault lies in your grandmother.

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