My dad and I used to eat Fudge Rounds after dinner. We’d eat the giant ones, heated for ten seconds in the microwave to ever so slightly melt the chocolate filling and soften the saturated cookie sandwich shell into chewy perfection.
Now my occasional treat is some form of raw cacao and almond flour or coconut. It usually suffices but never really quite compares to those Fudge Rounds.
There seem to be two choices regarding food in America. Eat because it tastes good or eat because it’s healthy. And they seem to constantly be at odds with each other. I mean, eating healthy can definitely taste good. Real yogurt with raw honey is delicious. So is a simple handful of blueberries, some smoked salmon with cucumbers, etc.
The problem is not that healthy food can’t taste good. The problem is that the health food movement often insists that taste is always secondary. It’s pretty much a given that unhealthy food will taste good, but you’ve got to pay the extra ten dollars if you want your healthy food to taste good.
Because let’s be honest. Nobody wants to eat coconut oil off the spoon. Nobody wants to eat plain bison. And bone broth? Don’t try to tell me it tastes better than a milkshake.
I have followed the “healthy first” rule for a very long time now. And I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned about nutrition and all that I’ve done for my body and my family’s health during this time. But my relationship with food has also gotten pretty messed up. Lunch isn’t just lunch anymore. It’s medicine. It’s life or death or a trigger of this reaction or that. And that’s an exhausting way to eat. It’s an exhausting way to live. How I long for the days when I could simply ask myself “What do I want to eat right now?”
And I think that’s a reasonable thing to wish for. We have taste buds for a reason. Food isn’t just nutritional. It’s social. It’s even spiritual. Food makes us happy and we share food during our most sacred, important moments. When you decide to eat differently from everyone else, when you decide to cut large amounts of food from your diet, it’s a huge sacrifice. Perhaps that’s why fasting and abstinence (and prior and subsequent feasting) are a part of so many religions.
My point is that deciding to forgo the Standard American Diet is not as straightforward and simple as many of the health food activists would like to make it seem. Deciding to put health above taste is a big deal. It is a decision that does not come without consequence. I haven’t drank a soda in over seven years. I don’t remember the last time I ate Chick-fil-a or M&Ms. I don’t/can’t eat at probably 95% of the restaurants in my city. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I still feel like I’m missing out. I still feel like I’m not a part of the club.
Because the way we eat is a part of our culture. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is terrible for your health. But it’s still a huge part of our culture and when you reject it, you effectively reject feeling normal around people. And that can feel very lonely and very frustrating. It can sometimes kind of make you hate food.
I still believe in eating healthy. It’s foolish to ignore the potential consequences of eating the Standard American Diet. But it’s also foolish to ignore the consequences of eating a Really Weird Diet. Food must nourish our bodies, but it should also make us happy. If food isn’t making you happy I consider it as serious a problem as if it isn’t making you healthy. If you find yourself hating food, perhaps it’s time to loosen up a little bit, or even take that dreaded pharmaceutical drug that might help your body not be so sensitive to various foods. Because if you find yourself hating food, then you’re not really eating healthy.
I’m not at all saying we should eat whatever we feel like eating. I probably won’t ever eat a Fudge Round again. But I am going to make sure I always have treats, real indulgences, in my diet. I am going to make sure I find a way to eat socially. I am going to bend the rules just enough to make sure food, while keeping me healthy, also makes me happy, at least most of the time.