Return to the Old Paths, and Throw Out your Margarine

“Worrying so much about food can’t be very good for your health” Indeed. Orthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder not yet recognized by the DSM-IV, but some psychologists have recently suggested that it’s time it was. They’re seeing more and more patients suffering from “an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.”

So this is what putting science, and scientism, in charge of the American diet has gotten us: anxiety and confusion about even the most basic questions of food and health, and a steadily diminishing ability to enjoy one of the great pleasures of life without guilt or neurosis…

The novel food products the industry designed according to the latest nutritionist specs certainly helped push real food off our plates. But the industry’s influence would not be nearly so great had the ideology of nutritionism not already undermined the influence of tradition and habit and common sense – and the transmitter of all those values, mom – on our eating.

Now, all this might be tolerable if eating by the light of nutritionism made us, if not happier, then at least healthier. That it has failed to do. Thirty years of nutritional advice have left us fatter, sicker, and more poorly nourished. Which is why we find ourselves in the predicament we do: in need of a whole new way to think about eating.

– Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food, pp. 80 – 81.

This entry was posted in Food.

7 comments on “Return to the Old Paths, and Throw Out your Margarine

  1. kyriosity says:

    Need trans-fatty shortening to make icing. Not going to give it up!

  2. assuming you aren’t under the impression that spreading that stuff on your morning toast is going to be good for you? then ice-away.

  3. kyriosity says:

    Not on toast, but I’ve been known to spread leftover icing on saltines. If it tastes yummy, and it fills my tummy, bringing lawful gladness and inspiring gratitude to its Provider, then I’d say yes, it is good for me.

  4. what if (and i’m no longer talking about your icing necessarily), you couldn’t trust your taste-buds, because they were being lied to? How is eating last year’s health-fad product (which is beginning to show signs of being definitely poisonous) instead of this year’s health fad product a rebellion against our society’s “health”-obsessed nutritionism? it’s like determining to wear one of those “Fear Not” t-shirts, just to stick it to whoever said they were stupid.

  5. Finally getting back to you on this one. Sometimes my thoughts percolate a little slower than Internet pace. ;-)

    Here’s the pith of my reactionaryism against pretty much any discussion of dietary no-nos: It doesn’t take a genius to guess that I have a problem with food. But the problem is a sin problem, not a nutrition problem. It’s a problem with what’s in my heart, not with what’s on my plate. Being concerned with eating or not eating this or that sort of food can be a means to an end — controlling weight, mitigating a symptom, preventing an ailment, better enjoying what you do eat, watching your budget, etc., but it shouldn’t be an end unto itself, and no food is bad in and of itself. Whatever form it takes, worry about food is sin, and I need less of that, not more. So whether it’s “eat this health fad product” or “avoid this artificial ingredient” or whatever, I’m likely to stick my fingers in my ears and say “LALALALALA…I can’t hear you!” simply because I don’t want the temptation. And sometimes that takes the form of doing whatever somebody says not to do just to stick it to the tempter.

  6. P.S. The new template is much more legible. Thanks!

  7. – you are welcome (I like it much better as well). –

    We agree in principle. Pollan’s point is that we as a culture make our decisions about what to eat for all the wrong reasons, with detrimental results. we ought to make those decisions based upon all kinds of aesthetic, familial, and such-like reasons, but not “nutritional” reasons, because nutritionism has delivered us nothing but idolatry and intestinal distress (among other things).

    that said, following along behind the nutritionist gurus and determining to eat their last failed fad instead of the new one is not sticking it to the man: it’s just not very smart.

    that said, a little bit of whatever never hurt anyone, and I will never turn down one of your delicious cakes, so Crisco away to your heart’s content (not that I ever thought you would stop on my account).

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