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  • Zach

The Food Fear Complex

People like to blame nutrition for all of our current societal woes. While it is true that poor diet is the leading cause of death, so much has changed in the past 20, 50, 100, 1000 years that you can’t pinpoint all of life’s misfortune on the food that goes in your mouth. Think about this real quick.

We carry around electronic devices that give us access to any information we want.

We fly in airplanes.

We communicate with people in far off places, through thin air, on a block we hold next to our brain.

We sit at a desk most of the day.

We live in houses with electricity.

We have our tonsils/appendix/etc. taken out of our bodies.

We drive cars that burn fuel.

We use microwaves, gas ovens, and smelly candles.

Walls are painted, tiles are grouted, various building materials are used.

Everything has changed!

But food is the problem?!

At least that is what I run into on a fairly regular basis. Surf social media long enough and you’ll hear about a new diet craze, or new reason not to eat apples or drink LaCroix (cyanide in the seeds or supposed cockroach insecticide flavoring…).

Here are some examples (and rebuttals).

“I hear GMO’s change human DNA.” (GMO’s are typically more studied than new variations of other plants… like Gala, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious and McIntosh apples)

“You know agent orange was repurposed by chemical companies as pesticides right?!” (Many chemicals can be used for various purposes, think about how you use baking soda, flour, or even water…)

“Those antibiotics they’re giving cows are making our kids bigger faster!” (It’s actually much more likely that this change is a result of kids have access to more foods, more calories, and less activity)

“Well I listened to Gwyneth Paltrow and she said I should do earthing.” (It rarely hurts to be outside and move more)

“I just get so hungry, I am going to use Kim Kardashians appetite suppressant lollipops.” (Hunger is not the enemy, it is one way that your body keeps you alive)

“Sugar is toxic and more addictive than cocaine!” (This statement is incomplete and misleading)

“I heard that eating an egg is worse than smoking 7 cigarettes!?” (False)

That’s where the food fear complex comes in.

Think about it this way, when you are in the hospital everyone complains about one thing, the food. And why? Because it might be the one thing they understand that is going on. “I don’t know what is in that IV, I don’t know why I’m taking this medication, I don’t know when I will be discharged, but I do know that I don’t like this food. It’s not my food.”

I propose the hospital food system microcosm is happening on a large scale in our society. “I don’t know what’s happening with North Korea, I don’t know how I feel about global warming, I don’t know what I think about my son marrying his boyfriend, but I can complain about, hyper focus on, and add food to the list of things I fear. I mean, I can’t even drink milk anymore because it’s tainted with hormones and antibiotic, that’s why kids are so big these days…”

Society is starting to lead people deep into a rabbit hole of fearing science and molecules and… chemicals. We are now living in a space where “eating clean” is a more righteous act than helping a friend move houses. Orthorexia, the fixation on “righteous eating”, is running wild and supported by mainstream, side stream, trickle stream and even the dammed up media.

With the internet, anyone can have their voice in the nutrition arena. And if they’re thin, and willing to show some skin, they can get a good following whether they are credible or not.

Please understand I’m not trying to limit first amendment rights of free speech, but when there are a lot of voices and opinions things can get muddied and people become paralyzed.

One of the ironic results of this is that those “health influencer” voices make us fear the science that has brought us the food we currently eat. You wouldn’t have Dave’s Killer Bread without an industrialized food system.

You’d never have tasted hummus unless you lived in the part of world where it was created or you traveled the silk road to try it out. You couldn’t have anything that was carried from the farm to the table unless you lived on that farm, because the car had to be invented.

“AND THAT’S THE POINT”, they’ll say. “We don’t need those, we need to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors, and we need to go gluten free, and we need to only buy locally, and we need to avoid anything processed, and that is how we can escape all of the ills of modern life.”

But, again, the fallacy is that you’re assuming that food is the only thing that has changed.

It’s not.

Enter the trains, planes. and automobiles example again.

In relation to food science, society is like a spoiled 15 year old realizing that their parents don’t know everything. Seemingly, our world is crumbling to the ground because you’ve just realized the one definitive source or truth you’ve banked on your entire life is fallible.

We become paralyzed by fear regarding our food because we feel like we can’t trust anyone. So, to combat this fear, we buy foods in Earth tone boxes, only shop organic, and eat in chicken restaurants with bright lights where people say, “my pleasure” and call it good because it makes me happy.

If your eating is driven by fear, you might be more likely to fall for the marketing traps laid out for you by food companies.

When you’re 15 and you are starting to realize that no one knows it all, you start to think that no one knows anything. And again, that’s where the fear creeps in. If no one knows anything, why listen to anyone? Who do you trust? No one. Except for the lead singer of your favorite emo band, because he knows what it’s like to be you. So hopefully he’s willing to dish out health advice too.

However, it is time to get over the funk and realize that there is a lot we do know.

I’m not telling people to stop asking questions, but maybe we should think about it before we ask.

We know a lot more than we did, but we don’t know everything. Science was never meant to know everything, it is meant to evolve, learn and develop by seeking out more information.

We know more and can ask more questions. But, in being able to ask more questions, we should also realize that we don’t have all the answers. At some point, you are going to have to put your faith in something, someone, or some information. You’re really just doing the best you can with the knowledge you have.

So when someone tells you that the one reason you got cancer was because you ate that triple thick milkshake from McDonald’s (the one day the ice cream machine was working…) step back and think critically about that claim.

Don’t fear food, eat it.


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