Healthy Choices, YOUR Choices.

Wordle: health eatsA few weeks ago I stumbled upon a blog post by a well known NY food writer. It was a mean-spirited rant about people who choose to avoid certain foods or types of foods. Both the original post and the comments bummed me out. It’s not that I think that the world should bend over backwards to accommodate folks with food sensitivities (or preferences for that matter), but because it seems so, well, judgmental toward people who choose to avoid foods that make them unwell in some way.

This was on the heels of Miley Cyrus tweeting about her choice to avoid gluten and dairy after accusations started flying in the tabloids that she had become anorexic. The blogosphere went ballistic calling her choice “faddish.” But I say that it’s about time that people pay attention to what foods make them feel well instead of just eating what everyone else is eating. I tell my patients every day that just because other people are eating it doesn’t make it right. More than a third of Americans are obese. One of every ten adults takes an antidepressant. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are rampant. Dieticians taking to the airwaves to decry that people shouldn’t go gluten-free because they will be missing key nutrients are missing the point. MOST people are missing key nutrients in their diets. Most people are eating foods that make them ill.

Our bodies have not been able to evolve to handle all of the hydrogenated oils, sugar, refined grains, and chemicals that we find in our supermarket foods. Our environment has not been able to evolve to handle the mass production of factory-farmed animals (I won’t get into the ethics of factory farming but please check out The Meatrix an eye opening educational video and spoof on the movie.) Our diets are not supposed to be predominantly based on sugar, wheat, and dairy.

Last week I was at the local health food coop and I ran into a neighbor. My five-year-old told her gleefully we had just seen some dude pick his nose and flick it on the floor (a grown man, for the record) and she started in on some of the ‘characters’ you’d find at the health food store. She lit into all the people who say they “can’t” eat gluten and that there is a test for celiac disease and I must “know what she means.” “No, actually,” I told her, “I don’t.” I explained that I don’t eat gluten because I simply feel better when I don’t eat it. Markedly better. She quickly realized we weren’t on the same page and changed the subject.

I have no hard feelings toward her, but it got me thinking. Why would anyone care what someone else chooses to eat? If I feel better avoiding sugar and pass on dessert, so what? No, it’s not polite to go on and on about your food choices when people don’t really care, and it’s not polite to ask your hostess to make a special meal for you. But I’ve been avoiding foods that make me feel unwell for decades. No, they are not allergies, but it’s a priority to me to feel well, to do what I can to prevent disease, to be at a healthy weight, and to walk my talk as I help others decipher which foods are right for them and which are not. How can that be bad?

Well, back to that blog post. The first commenter had this to say “I live near the worlds (sic) capital of Food Fascists, (why I will go anon), Berkeley. It is almost unbearable to go out to eat, listening to these entitled PICKY eaters.” To that I say, yes, I am fortunate that I can afford to eat organic vegetables and family farm raised animals. I am fortunate that I have the choice to stay away from gluten and other foods that make me feel unwell. I am fortunate that I have had the right guidance to help me figure out that I feel tired when I eat gluten and I get asthmatic when I eat dairy. Entitled PICKY eater? Why, yes, sir. I am entitled to choose to be picky about the food I put in my body. If you have a problem with that such that it makes going out to eat unbearable, stay home.

Here’s my deal. I’ll eat what I want to eat. I’ll ask questions at the restaurant and I’ll choose places that can accommodate my needs. Please keep your nose out of my business and your judgment out of my life. And you might be, by they way, a little less fussy if you stopped eating gluten. Just sayin’…

-Dr Samantha

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