Can someone tell me why the default stage of eating starts with being bad or boring? Every time I check Instagram, someone is pushing a new diet with a clever name: Clean eating. Bulletproof. Whole30.
“I’m trying be vegetarian ’cause it’s healthier.”
Mediterranean diet. Nordic diet.
“This is what people in Japan eat and they live the longest.”
Sugar-free. Gluten-free. Ornish. Volumetrics.
And all of them have one thing in common: It’s eating right repackaged under a fancy, New York Times best-seller list title.
Whenever I see a new diet, I hear a grandma somewhere giggling away about how she’s always eaten that way, back in the day. Since when did we need 1,000 new phrases just to convince people to eat properly? If there was a time travel dietitian, these trends would probably drive him to the brink of insanity.
Eating healthy doesn’t need to be revolutionized. We wouldn’t consider eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole foods as special or “restrictive eating” if our minds were wired to eat mindfully in the first place.
And I don’t mean “Mindful Eating,” which tells you to think about the tastes, smells, thoughts, and feelings when you eat (and also offers a seven-part webinar). I mean eating what science and our doctors have been telling us this whole time.
Except, even they need to go as far as labeling their recommendations with catchy phrases like “heart healthy” to get us to pay attention. Break down these Gwyneth- and Oprah-approved diets with a side-by-side comparison, and the blame game seems pretty much the same.
From the moment you picked up your first slice of bacon, Brie, or bread, you’re eating wrong — and you’ve probably always been eating wrong, even if your diet has no processed foods. It’s apparently not healthy unless you’re following a plan. Worse if you’re following the outdated version of a plan.
“Compassion eating” will probably be the next thing — where you get into the mindset of being thankful for your food before you eat. Oh, wait. Our parents call that saying grace.
Maybe because the American diet is associated with abundance, it always takes me a while to snap out of falling for another trendy diet plan. I’ve been programmed to think that if I don’t lick my plate clean, I’m wasting food. If I stop eating, there are people starving elsewhere.
No matter how I eat, it’s not enough until it’s too much.
When did healthy eating become so complicated that we need a 200-page book and $15 a month to show us how? Instead of teaching eating in moderation, we jazz up salads and demonize fat.
Is it because organic and non-GMO is the new sign of wealth and class? Am I eating because I idolize society’s image of healthy or because I truly believe it’s good for me?
There are days when I feel like I’m stuck in a game of Diet Pac-Man. I should be able to eat right without running after having cherries and bananas. And we all deserve a break from being shamed by campaigns about what’s on our plate.
It’s enough to drive a girl straight to the freezer for Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough — or is there a pint of fat-free Arctic Zero from that time I thought I was fat? Because that’s not going to cut it anymore.
I know many of these diets have good intentions in trying to reshape the American lifestyle, where three-fourths of the U.S. population already eat too few vegetables, fruits, dairy, and healthy oils. But they still sell the image of eating well, more than eating right. Maybe that’s why UCLA researchers report that dieting doesn’t work.
We don’t need to be shamed for not following a meal plan. Our food isn’t dirty just because it’s GMO or not organic.
The Nordic diet isn’t a diet. Japanese and French people aren’t hiding a secret. Deep down, we know what’s good for us. And some days, it might be a few curly fries (paired with a 15-minute walk home, which I literally did yesterday).
Eating is eating is eating. Eat more veggies. Eat more fruits. Let’s make eat synonymous with healthy. You shouldn’t have to believe only a diet plan can help you with that.
Christal Yuen is an editor at Healthline. She’s tried her share of diets and workout programs and stands by the fact that knowledge helps healthy eating more than following a diet plan. You can find her on Twitter.