Walking through the aisles of any supermarket, we take for granted the convenience of our prepackaged food. The shift as hunter gatherers has ultimately come to an end with the rapid birth of the western diet.
As an omnivorous species, the widely accessible supply of food can be viewed as a pivotal advancement. The vast array of choices and varieties that stud the aisles and the invention of fast food chains have revolutionized the way we obtain our food.
Ironically enough, as the abundance of our food supply has increased, the more we have lost our freedom to choose, which has consequently diminished our joy of eating.
Perhaps that is largely due to the industrialization of our foodstuffs that has suddenly placed us in role of a consumer. Anywhere we shop for food, packages are riddled with advertisements promoting nutritional trends such as “gluten free” or “organic.”
In an age that stresses conscious eating, the act of eating has suddenly become an arduous task. We count our calories, we measure portion sizes, we seek to categorize carbs, fats, proteins and other nutrients and yet, we continue to witness rising rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Industries do not produce mass quantities of product with the consumer’s health in mind, but rather find ways to promote their mass produced foodstuffs into sellable, believable and mass marketable goods, often taking advantage of misleading nutritional trends.
The box of Honey Nut Cheerios will not magically lower your cholesterol, those probiotic yogurts do not actually yield intestinal bacteria and the more expensive organic product is not superior to the cheaper non-organic product.
These diet trends do not often last long, much like the recent trend on “carbless” diets which have consequently posed more harm than good on consumer health. Often times, the presence of nutritional advice seldom holds factual scientific evidence and it will continue to be that way for any future nutritional trends that riddle our aisles.
Thus, this never ending cycle of inconclusive advice leaves much room for confusion or what journalist, Michael Pollan would call the “Omnivore’s Dilemma.”
In this age of confusion, in which people don’t know who to trust in terms of nutritional advice, which brand to eat or where to buy the quality food they seek, it becomes truly challenging to simply participate in what was once such as simple task of eating.
To shed further criticism on our current food culture, in the process of viewing food as mere nutrients for consumption, we have also become detached from nature. That chicken nugget you ate from McDonald’s is not merely a chicken nugget, and we often forget that such an available resource had actually come from a once living animal.
In the end, our food sources are ultimately connected to agriculture, and our amnesia to this reality subsequently has led to our loss of pleasurable eating.
Our hunter gatherer ancestors possessed a sense of true gratification for food in a way that our future generations might never be able to comprehend. To us, the availability of neatly packaged foodstuffs skews what we perceive as food. As such, our culture has turned to industrially fueled nutritional advice.
Based on the prevalence of the western diet, it will prove to be a difficult task to liberate ourselves from consumerism and industry. Everyday, we unknowingly succumb to the presence of advertisements and cultural trends. However, I believe that it is still possible to deviate from our current views on food and to become more mindful of what we buy and who it buy it from.
In the end, it is also important to eat what you love without the connotation of dieting, carbs, fats and all these nutritional fads. The pleasure of eating simply comes from the fact that eating is a normal, enjoyable human behavior that connects us to the Earth, don’t let food industries take that away.