The dark side of healthism

This is not quite an original post.

I’ve somewhat adapted the profound words Lianne Raymond.

Why am I doing this? I just couldn’t top them.

But isn’t Lianne talking about something totally different?

While on the surface it appears that we are talking about 2 different topics – Lianne, minimalism; me healthism – we’re essentially talking about the same thing: seeking perfectionism and control in one’s life, out of fear.

Here it is:

Now, it seems, super health {you know ~ raw superfoods, gluten-free, sugar-free, eating clean, juicing, meditation, yoga and the like} has gone mega mainstream.

It’s almost religious. It’s rarely questioned. There are gurus and gospels to follow. Salvation shall be yours through helathism…

There are some other really obvious reasons why the healthism cult has taken off ~

Control ~ In a world that seems messy and out of control, decluttering one’s body of impurity ~ can provide an illusion of control.

Guilt ~ as the world continues to shrink, we can see more and more how our unholistic ways is linked to modern first world diseases, destruction of the planet, and disconnection with Self. To purge our unhealthy way can feel like a cleansing confession. (Go in peace and sin no more – and throw in three Oms for good measure.)

Perfection/Salvation ~ all my problems will be solved, my life will be perfect and I will find eternal happiness when I eat cleanly, avoid the sweet stuff, do yoga, detox, juice, eat super raw foods and meditate. {This is a variation on I will be happy when I am skinny. By the way, many get into healthism, just for looks.}

Freedom ~ getting rid of impurities can give us a temporary hit of feeling free. When our lives feel full of junk, this is alluring. Ridding of impurities can also breed a ‘holier than though attitude’ ~ my life is more pure than yours, I’m a better person, so says the ego {so, then, are you really free?}

Fear ~ when you dig deeper into any of the above, you will likely find fear {of not being enough, looking good enough, doing enough etc}.

So if you are making your body cleaner from the same mindset that you had while living the conventional  life ~ well, that’s just the other side of the same coin, honey.

{In other words, if we are still seeking control and perfectionism, and comparing ourselves to others while living an alternative health lifestyle, then nothing’s really changed.}

To self-love and the kind of mindset that truly affirms your health {and life}.


{Read the original here. Another great post here.}


Why counting calories is a waste of time

I know that some people try to eat a certain number of calories to lose or maintain a certain weight.

But I believe there’s something fundamentally wrong that.

It focuses on calories – not the type of food.

Calories just mean energy. You can get energy (calories) from any type of food — processed and real.

This means that counting calories doesn’t teach you about making healthy food choices to nourish and look after your body as you age.

Which means people get blind-sighted — because all they can think about is how many calories they are eating instead of what they’re putting into their body.

Think about it.

What is more likely to give you what your body (and mind) needs:

 An avocado or BBQ shapes?

[I hope you answered the avocado!]

Yet, I bet an avocado has more calories per serve than BBQ shapes do.

So I think it’s about time we started counting how many wholefoods we eat instead of calories.

This is something that I came up with a while ago (it’s a play on the idiom, get more bang for your buck):

Get more bang for your calorie.

The ‘bang’ being nutrients from whole foods, of course!

This is just another way of saying eat nutrient-loaded foods. But I really had to put calories into context of wholefoods.

If you start thinking about how much nutrition (from real food) that you can pack per calorie the better off you’ll be.

I don’t count calories. Never have. As I’ve always believed that calories hinder rather than help (and food shouldn’t be this complex anyway!) — because people get hung up on the numbers rather than the kind of food they’re eating. Like thinking it’s ok to regularly drink coke zero and eat certain fast food meals, for example.

If you eat real food (most of the time) and pack as much nutrition as you can per meal, you’ll find that you don’t need to worry about calories.

Michael Pollan on why too much nutrition talk is making us sick

michael-pollan-highres-1I love Michael Pollan’s no nonsense, commonsense advice. If you haven’t read his books In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, then you must get onto to them. Now. Because being the mindful foodie that you are, I’m sure you would love what he has to say — which he does in such an engaging way. Whether you’re reading his words or hearing him speak.

Speaking of which, I was very fortunate to attend his talk in Melbourne last Sunday. (Thank you to the Wheeler Centre for making this possible).

He started his talk with some ‘groceries’ he had bought from one of our big two supermarket chains. I must say he has a penchant pulling apart commercial cereals as well as yoghurt. Let’s just say that Michael identified many major Aussie food products as  ‘edible food-like substances’ — he refuses to call them food. Which, I agree, they are not.

By the way, did you know that commercial, low-fat flavoured yogurt has the same, if not more, sugar per unit than coca cola?

But, thanks to TV ads, people think this type of yoghurt is a health food, right? That couldn’t be further from the truth.

That and much more straightforward advice was delivered throughout Michael’s talk. Here’s a snapshot —

  • In the supermarket (and on TV), food is loud — it’s ‘screaming’ health claims at us. The real food is silent — there are no health claims on an apple, are there?
  • You don’t need to know what an oxidant is to eat healthily —just eat your colours in fruits and vegetables, not cereal (e.g. fruit loops!).
  • Don’t eat food that won’t rot. Food is a living thing, and will eventually die.

(Get his food rules book for more insights — there are over 60 rules!)

It’s such a shame that we need to these kind of rules to know how to eat. It just shows that we’ve lost our basic knowledge and intuition when it comes to food, and the hold the food industry has on the community. It’s no wonder we are confused!

All this confusion is making us sick. Why?

Michael puts it down to too much nutrition talk. He says (these are not quotes but a sum-up of his points, with my thoughts in brackets) —

In the Western world we are obsessed with nutrients and ‘nutritional science’.

Where else in life do you need so much science to get through the day? When you focus on nutrients you rely on experts to tell you how to eat. And is becomes all about steering away from bad nutrients and eating only good nutrients. (When we go mad for a good ingredient, all we want to do is pull it out of the food and eat it in copious amounts — that, in itself, is not healthy in my opinion).

But food is much bigger than health — we also eat for taste, sense of community, conviviality and identity.

Besides, nutritionalism is an unhealthy way to talk about food. Talking about nutrients is just a great way to sell food — because that way food manufactures can ignore the bad stuff and highlight or tweak other ingredients to sell processed foods.

We are ignoring the elephant in the room when we only talk nutrients — this way of eating is killing us.

For example by demonising fat in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s we ended up with margarine and a whole lot of low fat processed goods on the supermarket shelves (which are still there, by the way). It gave a ‘free pass’ to eat and drink as much as you want because it was low fat.

But instead we became fat.

It’s really hard to study food – it’s extremely complex. It’s not like studying pharmaceuticals. “There’s no placebo for broccoli.” Many food studies rely on surveying people (epidemiological surveillance type studies). There are no tight controls and it’s easy for people to forget what they eat or even lie on the survey. So the data has problems.

Nutritional ‘science’ is a young science “it’s where surgery was in the 1650s”.

So what facts do we know about food?

  1. Every time we remove a nutrient — so that we can just consume the nutrient — it doesn’t work like it should, as it does in the whole food.
  2. Populations that eat a Western diet (that is, processed foods) have a high prevalence of chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. (These are diseases of the West.)
  3. Populations that eat traditional diets, rarely get chronic diseases.
  4. People who get off the Western diet revert the markers of chronic diseases — which means they get better or totally heal themselves.

In the next 10 years, 1 in 3 kids will develop type 2 diabetes — unless we change the way we eat.

The best way to take control of our food — away from corporations — is to cook at home.

So Michael’s main message is this:

Get off the Western diet.

The Western diet is about profit.  Not health. It’s not food.

In other words, eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (sound familiar?)