Responsible Eating: The Way Forward
Updated: May 4, 2023
So here we are, 4 months into the new year and I wonder how many New Year’s resolutions stuck and how many sunk about 3 weeks in. It will take another 8 months to shame you into making yet another set of empty promises to yourself to do better, lose weight, stop eating meat, give up sugar, exercise…only to end up frustrated and confused about where you went wrong followed by a lengthy list of punishments to set you straight. At some point, you’ll realize that doesn’t work because it has never worked. Thus, begins the next year’s roller coaster ride with endless loops around a failed system. The system fails (every year) because its premise is the very thing humans have yet to master- perfectionism (and the ability to never be distracted, tempted, or otherwise turned around).
Now, I support making resolutions particularly if they are realistic, attainable, and REALISTIC, and they will in some way contribute to the overall health and happiness of the person implementing them. As a nutritionist, I also fully support the ones that focus on the ways we choose to feed and fuel our bodies. But when it comes to eating, I find people get stuck on the food and invariably the question is “What should I eat?” The problem is this question comes on the heels of the latest superfood claims. Whether we’re talking about coconut oil, avocadoes, or blueberries (I happen to support all three) there is no one miracle food that you can overdose on to achieve instant health or whatever your desired effect is. I have always maintained you can eat all the salad you want but if you hate your job, your spouse, your kids, your life, you lack real friendships, or you’re having unfulfilling sex…YOU WILL NOT BE HEALTHY (at least not for very long). For the sake of this dialogue, let’s stick to answering the question- “What should I eat?” Well, instead of listing a bunch of foods you should eat, I prefer to focus on how you should eat. I call it “responsible eating”. Right now, the trendy thing is to be a “mindful eater” and I agree we should practice mindfulness- being more present especially when we eat. But responsible eating, in my opinion, goes a step further. It is a lot like mindful eating in that you are fully present and aware however, in being a responsible eater, you are also accountable. You think about what you eat, drink, and how much you consume. You’re not just shoveling food into your mouth (mindlessly) and you are eating the right foods for you.
Responsible eating is not perfect eating nor is it a quest for the perfect diet (there is no such thing) so this is where my Vegan and Keto-nian friends take several seats and stop trying to guilt the rest of society into following what barely works for you. Ouch, that was harsh…I apologize…but somebody has to say it. I’ll put it this way, my goal in working with people is to help them find what works for them. It's silly to try to follow a plan that you can’t/won’t/don’t stick with especially when it does not make sense for you and your body’s needs. If you have lost your commitment to yourself and it’s evident, then becoming a responsible eater may be the difference maker. Responsibility is ownership and that ownership leads to accountability. Until you become accountable for the choices you make, you will never experience success no matter how many resolutions you pursue. Full disclosure- I support and encourage people to eat a majority plant-based diet. I did not say plant only nor did I say deep fried, double breaded plants either. I think people should steer toward real, whole food with recognizable/pronounceable ingredient lists. I like how Michael Pollan puts it- “Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.” That would preclude anything that has an expiry date 10 years in the future! Speaking of ingredient lists- more than 5 ingredients I would think twice. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat it BUT it need not show up in your diet more than once every couple of weeks and certainly not every week.
The bottom line is the responsible way of eating is the most logical way of eating for you. This should not be a difficult thing. You may have to shift some things to become more responsible and thus more accountable to yourself for your health’s sake. You will have to make choices that benefit you even if others don’t understand or agree. Dan Buettner creator of the “Blue Zones” said “Change your surroundings so that the healthy choice is the easy choice.” I’ll add that the easy choice is the one you can take full responsibility for and own it. That’s when the roller coaster will finally end and the resolutions will finally stick.
© 2021 by Tasha D. Manigo-Bizzell