09 February 2009

Food and Me

I have a complicated relationship with food. And the more I learn about food, the more complicated the relationship gets. Back when I knew nothing, I ate whatever I wanted, had pretty bad mood swings, and never really felt right. Over the last two years, I've been learning more about food -- what's in it, what it does once it's in my body, where it comes from. This is thanks in large part to a friend and a book she lent me.

However, I assure you, the more you learn about the Standard American Diet (SAD, for short), the more frustrated you will become. That's if you care, I guess. Some people I talk to don't care. That's frustrating as well.

All this is an intro to the story of what happened to me this last Saturday morning. And it's probably good that I've had a few days to digest it (haha... so to speak). The husband and I were invited to a birthday breakfast for a family member. The scene -- a local restaurant with all the standard breakfast fare. Now, I had been thinking on and off for a week about what I should order at this breakfast. I love breakfast foods, so I was excited. However, I also knew approximately what all was on the menu, so I was also having trouble thinking of something I could both eat and enjoy.

I'm not allergic to any foods, per se. However, choices on the menu involve many of the following, all of which I try to avoid if possible:
*white flour (toast, pancakes, biscuits)
*nitrates and nitrites (bacon, sausage)
*sugar/corn syrup (pancake syrup, jellies)
*MSG (gravy, sausage)
*hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (margarine, hash browns, and probably anything cooked on the griddle)

However, since it was a special occasion, and I am not perfect, I had decided ahead of time to have French toast, bacon, and an egg -- if the restaurant had peanut butter and honey for me to put on the toast. (I wasn't about to put the pancake syrup on my French toast -- pancake syrup is mostly corn syrup with some artificial maple flavoring. I've never been to a restaurant that offers real maple syrup.)

So, before ordering, I asked the waitress if they had peanut butter and honey. She assured me they did, so I ordered, thinking, "Oh, won't this be tasty! And so much protein!" Well, unfortunately, after I had ordered, but before my food came, the waitress returned with little packs of peanut butter (made with hydrogenated oils, but I was mentally prepared for that), and several packets of this:

What. The. Hell. You serve your customers "honey sauce" when they ask for honey. Seriously?

So when my food arrived, I spread my French toast with peanut butter and sprinkled a little table sugar on it. That's how much I hate corn syrup. Here is the sweetener hierarchy I carry around in my head (ranked best to worst):

Agave Nectar
Honey/Maple Syrup
White sugar/brown sugar/powdered sugar

So then, foiled by a cheap, inconsiderate restaurant supply manager, and helped along by my pregnancy hormones, I fell into a deep funk. At the birthday breakfast. Great.

However, to be perfectly honest, this funk comes upon me pretty much any time I eat with this set of family members. They eat the SAD to a tee -- so much so that I have a hard time finding things to eat when I'm at their house. This makes me sad, because I like them, and I like spending time with them, but so often that time involves food I can't/won't eat. It also makes me sad because I want them to live long lives, filled with happiness and a sense of well-being. And that simply cannot be achieved on the SAD. Even if they don't contract any of the major American diseases (heart disease, diabetes, cancer), they will be forever plagued with weight problems, fatigue, mood swings, digestive problems, chronic colds/allergies, and so many other problems. I see these problems eliminated in my own life when I take charge of my eating habits and don't just let the SAD happen to me.

(I know this is long. If I had written it on Saturday, however, it would be approximately the same length, but all angry rant. Consider yourselves spared.)

If you've read this post and are interested in learning more, here are some good places to start:

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig
A blog that explains the basics


Brigid said...

I'm a bit a nutrition nut, too. It started when I turned vegetarian, and I decided I wanted to be a healthy one, not a grilled-cheese-and-french-fries herbivore. Since meeting Grey, I've removed HFCS, trans fats, and highly processed foods from my diet. It's weird to think that I used to eat any other way. My high-school diet is absurd to me now. I still like to splurge on things every now and again, and I don't have your sugar and corn syrup resolve, but I don't do the high fructose variety, especially with all the recent news about mercury.

GrandmaToots said...

I'm seriously interested in learning more. Can you loan me the book, or should I buy my own?

rotsaP loeJ said...

Although I don't particularly enjoy stepping up as the defender of sadness, I must confess this seems a little extreme to me. Of course it's a free country and you're welcome to eat, or not eat, just as you please; generally I tend to agree that more carefully produced food is more nutritious and (more importantly) tasty.

It's just when you get to saying that the American diet makes it impossible to achieve longevity and happiness that I begin to wonder if we are still talking about food.

samann1121 said...

Joel, I think that you, happily, have a very different relationship with food than most of the people in the country. You love food -- good food -- and you know that good food takes time and money to prepare. I don't think you see or realize how most people eat. Again, this is a good thing for you (and Jenny, and your future children).

rotsaP loeJ said...

If by the typical American diet you mean lots of artificial flavours, MSG-laden meats, enriched bleached flour and corn syrup, then that is exactly what both Jenny and I grew up eating. I would be the last person to call diet irrelevant, but it strikes me as highly dubious that all the happy, well-adjusted people I know from my childhood are secretly miserable because they eat corn syrup.

On the other hand, various people, like you, claim that changing their diets has made a tremendous difference, and I certainly don't want to belittle your experience in the matter. Perhaps it's just a question of hyperbole - do you really think that artificial sweeteners and all the rest of it prevent people from being happy? (As opposed, for example, to being materialists and idolators and that sort of thing.)

samann1121 said...

No, I agree -- I certainly don't want to downplay all of the other reason that people are miserable, especially the roles that sin and a relationship with God play into that.

However, again, from my own experience, and experiences I've heard from others, the kind of "misery" people are in from eating this diet, they may not realize. Things like getting a two-week cold every 4 months, or having constant gut discomfort are things that are very easy to ignore and think are normal, if you've been living with them your whole life. It's often only after stepping away from the Standard American Diet that you realize that your body can feel better, that your moods can be more stable, etc.

rotsaP loeJ said...

Thank you for clarifying - I think you've restated the matter in a very reasonable fashion. I agree with you, incidentally, that "honey sauce product" is an abomination.

Katie said...

Wow. That honey sauce is one of the more disturbing things I've seen.

Jem♥Jam said...

Honey sauce, huh. That is some weird junk.