Friday, September 12, 2014

Stop Fearing Your Food

Yet another of my friends is feeling the crushing weight of his age and belly on his knees and lower back. Yet another of my friends has realized his lifetime of cheeseburgers and carb-rich beer may not have been the healthiest of lifestyles.

I, like so many of my friends, have realized too late that we're not as young as we used to be, and the 20-year-old's metabolism, gained from a 20-year-old's lifestyle of riding a bike to class and playing soccer every day, is no longer functional 25 years later.

And all of us were especially surprised to learn that others have noticed we've been carrying a small ottoman down the front of our shirts for the last 10 years.

To be fair, we didn't notice it until eight years ago, and we've been trying to hide it by leaving our shirts untucked. Apparently, this has not fooled anyone.

"You know, all you need to do is eat less and exercise more," our annoying skinny friends say whenever anyone posts a Facebook update about the extra weight they're carrying.

Really? Eat less and exercise more? I'm so glad you said that. Apparently, I've been mistakenly eating more and exercising less. If you hadn't given the same advice everyone else has said for the last 300 years, I might have lived a full life without ever knowing that those five simple words were the key to my success. Thank you for fixing a lifetime of habits with a bumper sticker.

We're not stupid. Every man or woman who's lugging around extra pounds knows what the problem is. And some spinach-and-carrot-birthday-cake-eating fitness guru telling us to eat less and exercise more isn't the solution.

The problem is nearly all of us in this country have an unhealthy attitude toward food. All of us, even the food fanatics.

We treat food like medicine. We think if we eat the right foods, we'll prevent this, and we'll cure that. Eat more of this green thing to reduce your blood pressure, eat a bunch of orange stuff to reduce your cancer risk. Drink red wine to lower your cholesterol. Don't drink too much red wine though, or you'll damage your liver. If we keep treating food this way, the pharmaceutical companies start selling it for $500 a pop.

We also fear our food. I know people who won't touch food if it's not organic, like it was rolled in dog poop before it ever reached their table. They spend way more money on organic food than is necessary, convinced it will wipe away all their health problems, as if they went skinny dipping in Ponce de León's Fountain of Kale Smoothies.

I know people who will only ever buy brown eggs, because they believe brown eggs are "healthier." Know the difference between a brown egg and a white egg?

About $1.20 per dozen.

Having spent several years in the poultry industry, I can tell you that brown eggs are laid by brown chickens, and white eggs are laid by white chickens. Brown chickens are not healthier, their eggs aren't lower in cholesterol, and they won't make you look 10 years younger if you boil them in a quart of bottled spring water.

The French have a good attitude toward food. They treat it like a pleasure, not fuel. They savor it, not fear it. They experience their meals, they don't post Facebook pictures of them. They eat what they enjoy, not what will fix them. Dinner is a time to sit down with family and friends, taking an hour or two. We get celebrity PSAs that tell us families should eat together once a week.

Even our language reflects our attitude toward toward food. There's the "sinful" chocolate cake that we "indulge" in. It's so "decadent," it's "better than sex." Of course, you could make the "sacrifice" and stick with the "guilt free" diet alternatives, so you don't "pay the price" later on.

If the food is good, we use negative words to make us feel guilty. And even the most healthier-than-thou eaters recognize that the awesomeness of "bad" food, because they drone on and on about the "sacrifices" they're making.

This is not a healthy attitude. Our food may not be healthy in itself, but if we could just stop treating it like a reward and/or a dangerous beast, we could be healthier as people. Or at the very least, we could be happier with who we are.

And who we're with. Because if your food is better than sex, you're doing it wrong.

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