The Fear of Food
Let them eat cake…but not too much!
Published: December 8, 2010
If the scientific community paid half the attention to crude oil than pizza oil, our cars would be getting 100 miles to the gallon.
We spend an awful lot of time chastising ourselves, making ourselves feel bad about some of the things we do to feel good. Taking a few licks from an ice-cream cone becomes (in our minds) something that we need to apologize and atone for, like adultery. You’ve seen it: people eat something rich or sweet and roll their eyes with a guilty smile as if to say, “Oh, I’m going to have to pay for this outrage.” And then they’ll come up with their penance: “I’m going to have to spend two hours at the gym tomorrow.”
Remember when we’d roll our eyes with pleasure when we tasted something delicious? Now we do it with shame and guilt. It’s nuts. Haven’t we all heard people describe food as sinful, evil, or bad? Out of those three words, at least sinful has the good fortune to go both ways. Our ears perk up when we hear a food described as “sinfully delicious.” Yet we rarely allow ourselves to enjoy something that fills us with delight; instead, we flog ourselves with self-recrimination. Even at a child’s birthday party, it’s not uncommon for the adults to refuse to take a piece of the cake or insist that their slice be so thin that it can barely be seen with an electron microscope. What kind of message are we sending to our kids? There’s something wrong about liking that. That’s just crazy. There’s nothing wrong about enjoying a sweet treat. It’s when we eat the whole cake that we have a problem.
Why did food become the enemy? How did we become so stupid as a civilization that we allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into believing that eating a piece of cake makes us the equivalent of Ted Bundy? It’s a piece of cake, for God’s sake!
Just as we’ve demonized certain items, we’ve also put all food so deep under the microscope that it no longer seems like something we can just naturally enjoy. If the scientific community paid half the attention to crude oil that it does to pizza oil, our cars would be getting 100 miles to the gallon by now. We’re constantly bombarded with studies that tell us which foods can make us healthier and why they should be essential parts of our diets. For example, we’ve been told that eating salmon can help with brain function, raspberries may help reduce cancer, pomegranate juice removes warts, celery makes us hear as well as a dog, and on and on. We’re given all kinds of complex statistics that state that if we eat enough of this or that, we can decrease our chances of getting cancer or heart disease or Alzheimer’s . . . or even of dying an early death. I’ve often wondered, If I were to eat everything that’s suggested in these studies, could it be that I won’t die at all?
Then of course, the studies are often negative—warning us that eating certain foods may increase our chances of contracting a particular disease or illness. We’ve all heard how white flour is the devil incarnate, and carbohydrates could end the human race as we know it. Pasta? Might as well just jump into the grave right now; we’re as good as dead.
I am in awe that my Italian relatives managed to live long enough to finish kindergarten. I know that not a day went by in which my grandmother didn’t have a little pasta at some point, and she fed it to me constantly. If such a thing were possible, she would have given it to me intravenously. And guess what? She died at 93 with all her teeth and faculties, and she never even had to use a walker.
Meat is right up there with criminals on the “most wanted list.” I’m surprised we haven’t created a SWAT team to ambush restaurants like Morton’s Steakhouse and send the patrons away to do hard time for ordering a juicy rib eye. Of course, I’m kidding around a bit here. Is eating a two-pound steak for dinner good for you? Well, probably not unless you’re an Olympic athlete. Plus, you really should pay attention to the level of hormones in the meat products you buy. But is meat something to be vilified and feared? No! The average American consumes about 200 pounds per year. That is what we should fear: the fact that on average, we’re each eating an entire steer. If meat is included in moderate amounts—used as more of a side dish than the massive main element of a meal—it’s absolutely a fine part of a healthy diet and a terrific source of protein.
Loretta LaRoche is a stress-management consultant who advocates humor, optimism, and resiliency as coping mechanisms. She uses her wit and wisdom to help people learn how to take stress and turn it into strength.