Counterpost: Your gluten-free, wheat-free, paleo, whatever diet is horrible

In the interest of balance — like a balanced meal, maybe — I’ll point you to this Q&A with a guy — who happens to be a  religion professor at James Madison University– who thinks all our fad diets are pretty stupid:

Food rituals, food taboos, dietary demons, dietary myths, magic diets, guilt, sin: why do we apply so much religious language to food?

Virtually ever religious tradition has had food taboos and sacred diets. I think part of the reason is that food is something that we have direct control over. It crosses the boundary in a very personal way: we take something outside of our body and put it into our body. Eating is very personal, and it’s easy to invest those kinds of things with religious and ritual significance.

With diets today, there seems to be a lot of fear involved, too.

It’s terrifying to live in a place where the causes of diseases like Alzheimer’s, autism, or ADHD, or the causes of weight gain, are mysterious. So what we do is come up with certain causes for the things that we fear.

If we’re trying to avoid things that we fear, why would we invent a world full of toxins that don’t really exist? Again, it’s about control. After all, if there are things that we’re scared of, then at least we know what to avoid. If there is a sacred diet, and if there are foods that are really taboo, yeah, it’s scary, but it’s also empowering, because we can readily identify culinary good and evil, and then we have a path that we can follow that’s salvific.

That gives you a taste of how a religion professor is approaching this topic. He specifically calls our the book Wheat Belly, which we’ve referenced often.

Given how well cutting wheat out has worked for us, I can only say, well, that: It worked for us. It may not work for everyone, but we encourage people who are curious to give it a try and see. And we think it comes down to common sense, the Michael Pollan “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

But there is one point I think is worth some thought:

What works for another culture might not work for our own culture. People ask me, what’s the harm? Why not just go gluten free? And the answer is that going gluten free has all sorts of effects. It affects your relationship with your friends and family. It affects your relationship with your own past and foods that you love. While there might be some culture in which celebratory foods don’t typically contain gluten, that’s not our culture.

For me, unless I have an extraordinary reason, I do try to err on the side of being a good guest or good host rather than a militant eater. Food’s great, and so is good health. But family and friendships are better.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “Counterpost: Your gluten-free, wheat-free, paleo, whatever diet is horrible”

  1. “It affects your relationship with your friends and family. It affects your relationship with your own past and foods that you love.”

    That is like saying quitting smoking and drinking alcohol affects relationships with smokers and drinkers, therefore think twice!

    My take is that your health (i mean holistic health – what you eat affects you spiritually as well) cannot be affecting your relationships. If it comes down to that, you need to re-examine your relationships.

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