Monday, April 29, 2013

Labels, Doing It Wrong, and Judgment

Disclaimer: I probably do some of the things I complain about in the rest of this post, but know that I consciously and actively try to not behave this way. The following is going to be sort of rant-y, but I'll try to keep it more informative and eye-opening rather than simply complaining about things. I'll try not to be on too tall of a soap-box, but I'm also not going to beat around the bush.

It seems to me that these days when someone asks a question, it's not because they're truly curious and actually care about the answer. It seems like most of the reason people ask is so they can apply a judgment to you without all of the information, and then talk about it to other people. Somehow putting others into categories with specific labels makes us all feel better, as if our brains can only handle so many different varieties of people and so we just put everyone into certain well-defined groups and everyone in those groups is the same and the mainstream stereotypes applied to those groups are necessarily applied to every individual in each group. This seems to be completely normal, is socially acceptable, and we see it in all topics across social interaction. We see it with regard to visible differences in people such as race and religion and sexuality (sometimes these differences aren't as readily visible), and relatively invisible differences in people such as family lifestyle and philosophy.

When asked about our lifestyle, we frequently receive smirks, raised eyebrows, and sometimes even outright scoffs. Immediately, there is judgment, without asking about any details of learning more about it. We're put into the category people have heard of, the mainstream term "paleo." With that categorization, there are mainstream stereotypes that absolutely must apply to all people who are shoved into this category. There are also certain criticisms that, of course, must be expressed to everyone who might fall into this specific category. Because all of us in this category are exactly the same and we need to be alerted to the fact that we're doing it wrong, we're hurting ourselves and our children (if applicable), etc, etc, etc...

Well, here is where I'm going to say that it's ridiculous. 

There was a Ted Talk from Christina Warinner recently called "Debunking the Paleo Diet." If you peruse the Internets at all, you've probably seen people talking about it and maybe even watched it yourself. If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here. Basically, she uses half- or less-than-half truths (sometimes even blatant lies) to insult this "fad diet," and then spends the last ten minutes spouting off information that's actually supporting said "fad diet," without realizing that's what she's doing. To be honest, it was almost laughable how little correct information she had that supported her attempted point. For a breakdown of her whole talk, I recommend Robb Wolf's assessment of the whole thing. Perhaps even better is his podcast discussion of the Ted Talk. He does get pretty fired up in this episode, and rightfully so - Warinner is off the mark on a lot of things and clearly picks and chooses her homework, and not very well. I personally enjoy Robb Wolf's podcasts because not only is he super duper smart and nerdy over science things, he doesn't say anything unless he's got a LOT to say to back it up, including references to scientific studies he has carefully analyzed for validity. He is quite possibly one of the most objective scientists I've heard talk. (Another would be Chris Kresser, so check his blog out as well (to the right).)

So, just had to throw that out there. Robb makes some really great points about research in the field of nutrition, and also how food and health policies are put into effect at the government level. That's a whole other rant in itself, and makes me sick just thinking about it.

At any rate, I just want to clear up some things and just state that everyone chooses their own lifestyle, including what they eat, and as much as Primal Toad can sometimes get so excited about things that it's annoying, he makes a really good point that maybe there shouldn't be titles to these kinds of things. Because titles and labels lead to the specific stereotypes and assumptions to apply blanket-style to anyone who might fall under these labels, and then all of a sudden, everyone who's been labeled is "doing it wrong" because they're all doing it differently. SHEESH. 

To answer all the questions I've been asked, and all the ones I know people are thinking of but keep to themselves and make judgments about instead, I thought I would just clarify what we choose to eat and what we attempt to avoid. I should mention that in situations where we are out to eat with friends, traveling, or at a large social gathering where there is food present, there are only certain things we can control. In those situations, we make the best choices we know how to make, knowing that they aren't always ideal. And that's ok - but not to those who judge without any information about us, apparently. Get over it, I guess. So, here goes:

We try as hard as we can to eat the following: lots of produce, organic when available and reasonable; homemade sauces, dressings, and dips; grass-fed and free-range animal products including dairy, eggs, and organ meats, among other meats; nuts and seeds. We aim for unprocessed (or as minimally-processed as we can find) food, and really try to get as much local food as we can. Being in Arizona, it's proven to be kind of difficult because the farmer's markets are quite small, when we can find them, and Arizona isn't exactly known for its wide selection of local produce. We have found a farm from whom we like to buy our meat, and we have found some local eggs, but those do tend to be sold out by the time that farm gets to our local farmer's market on Wednesday evenings. We do our best given where we live and our budget constraints. We have re-prioritized some things in life so that we can make quality whole foods a top priority.

We try as hard as we can to avoid the following: anything processed. Let's be clear here: anything that's processed is going to contain canola oil, soy products, wheat products, corn products, or any combination of any of those ingredients. Wheat products are used as preservatives, even if the item isn't a pasta or bread or something else that's obviously made from wheat. Bread and pasta and the like are processed food products. Canola and soybean oils are literally in just about everything that comes in a box or bag or bottle and is not in the refrigerated isle of the store. Corn products...don't even get me started. What doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in it will still likely have corn syrup as the sweetener (although not concentrated), corn meal, or some other form of corn product or by-product. So, we avoid wheat products, corn products, soy products, and canola oil.

Really, it's about eating unprocessed whole foods, nutrient-dense foods, local foods. I'm not sure that sounds so radical, now that I put it that way. Cutting out the vast majority of processed foods effectively cuts out almost all canola oil, soy products, wheat products, and corn products. So, really, it's not much more of a stretch to pay attention to the tiny list of ingredients in certain things we do buy from the middle of the grocery store in order to avoid those ingredients as much as we can. 

It comes down to just feeling and knowing that we are healthier than we were before, and for some reason some other people don't like that. Is it jealousy, self-consciousness, denial, or plain immaturity? I don't know. And frankly, I don't really care about the reason behind the smirk or scoff. If you're curious, be truly curious. If you want to try it after you find out more information, I'm willing to help if you want it. I'm willing to share my knowledge and resources and tips and tricks and recipes. 

If you want to judge, why bother asking in the first place? Keep it to yourself.

I know that may not have been very well organized and I could have added more information, but thanks for reading; I hope you enjoy a little bit of a rant on occasion :) Haha. I promise next time I won't be so soap-boxy.

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