To Eat or Not to Eat?

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently reading and watching documentaries about food (within busy mom schedule limits), and although I am very far from having satisfied my curiosity on the subject, I wanted to take some time and reassess what it is that I am doing here.

While I am not giving advice on what we should eat, and nothing I write here should be considered as such, everything I do post is related to this. We, as humans, are in a very sorry position indeed: we do not know anymore what it is we should be eating to nourish our bodies. Some of us know what foods make us feel better or worse, some know when they get fatter or slimmer, but no one can give absolute laws for everyone. People do that, nevertheless, and the internet alone is full of advice that goes in all possible directions. But because not all people claiming to know what is good for humans say the same thing, it is so hard to be able to make decisions. How do you want to feed yourself? What about your family? How do you make decisions when all foods go through their ups and downs in the public space? One day, we are supposed to eat as much as we can of one product, the next it will cause cancer. One food we grew up thinking should be avoided is suddenly professed to have wonderful health benefits. How did we get to be so confused about such a simple and basic thing as what we need to eat?

I guess, on the one hand, it is the result of us being too smart for our own good. We are intelligent creatures and we place a lot of value on this. So much so that we dedicate our lives to study and work that has nothing to do with our basic life needs, but with things that we have made up through the course of time: business, technology, academia, to name a few. These are things that we consider good, that have value in our eyes, that make people nod in appreciation when you mention you are involved in them, that make you look successful.

But these things take time. A lot of time. And since we cannot create more time for ourselves, we cut back on other activities. We try to shorten our travel time by sitting down in vehicles that propel us forwards. We use machines to sanitise our environment. And we use short-cuts when it comes to the foods we eat. Anything that saves us time is appreciated. Pre-cooked, pre-cut, pre-mixed. Prepared to last at the back of our fridges and pantries until necessity strikes. The benefits of being able to feed your family without it becoming a second full-time job in itself were immense for families who wanted to work outside the house as well.

In time, we have come to rely on companies to produce yet another time-saving, drool-guaranteeing meal. And now, when more and more people are sick, and when more and more studies show that our choices in terms of food have a very strong effect on our gene expression and the likelihood of us developing certain diseases, what do we eat? Who could still tell what food was like before it became such a huge industry? Countless organisations are devoted to telling us what to do if we have a certain disease and what to do to prevent it. Some of those things go against what other organisations tell us. And then a book pops on the market telling us that all those organisations are wrong, and here’s what we should be doing instead. The next book also tell us that the previous one was wrong, not just the organisations. And just like that, everyone seems to know what is best for us, but no one can agree on what that is.

Big food businesses are involved financially not only in lobbying governments to promote their interests, but also in sponsoring organisations to not damn them publicly; they also sponsor research to make sure that there is some science to back what they are doing. How reliable are any of these under the circumstances?

In terms of the human species, we have time to try all those theories and see what works. But in terms of our personal lives, we do not. What if we choose the wrong guidelines to follow? We do not get a second try; or if we do, it will be to minimise the damage, rather than maximise our potential. So what DO we do?

I am really sorry (for myself) that, as of now, I do not have an answer. I am inclined to go for balance and moderation, but when it comes to foods that are (potentially) harmful, where do you achieve a balance? Is that balance universal?

This is not to say that I am giving up on my Holy Cake Day mission. Nothing I have read, heard or seen has come anywhere close to making me think that added sugar is a good thing in our diet, or that limiting it is potentially harmful. So I want to re-stress that the cake part of HCD is small. It is a way of including added sugar in a way that is not overwhelming for our bodies, and that doesn’t panic our minds by using the words “never”, “forbidden”, “diet” and all the others that freak us out when it comes to eating well. But the biggest part of HCD should be the doing and the being. Do things, be active. Be in nature, be with your fellow humans.

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