Part 1: The Double-Edged Sword of Food

Religion, politics, social gatherings.

No doubt, these do not traditionally mix, unless while literally at a religious or political gathering, respectively.

Why? Shenanigans could arise.

People’s morals and values deeply rooted in these subject matters come out of the woodworks, triggering hot-headed responses to opposing views.

Sure, it is possible to engage in civil debates, but let’s be honest, 99% of the time, it will be a case of “Let’s agree to disagree.”

I’m sure you’re nodding your head right now, thinking about the presidential debates, media reports, and, well, obsessive Facebook political posts every 2 seconds.

Are you that guy posting your political viewpoints daily, like we’re all supposed to agree? Well, it quite possibly ain’t gonna happen; but hey, I credit you for expressing your passionate beliefs in line with who you are.

But, I digress…

Amongst these landmark topics of debate includes another highly underrated subject FULL of heated views and disagreements.

FOOD.

The Double-Edge Sword of Food

The good news is that food connects us, and the bad news is that food can divide us.

Pandora’s box has been officially opened, especially with our generation asking poignant questions about food. Where did it come from? How was it prepared? How long did it travel to get here?

With that, people’s food preferences have emerged as fervent as Joe Biden in the vice presidential debate, prompting potential reactions that may even drive a wedge amongst friends and family.

Example: My husband was explaining to a friend that we don’t eat bread or gluten anymore, and his reaction sounded threatened and offended: “Dude, are you serious?? Why the heck would you do that?” Nevermind asking questions about why or trying to understand that there may be a food allergy or other reasons behind it.

Food is personal. 

Oh, and I learned to never turn down a Serbian’s birthday party food buffet. I found myself in this exact situation a year ago, still combating an inflammation of my mucosal lining (another story, another day), and presented with the choices of pasta, rice, bread, or cake. Awesome for healing (I know you sense the sarcasm).

After literally sweating from the hawk-eye stares of the Serbian hosts, I succumbed to picking out the vegetable and meat pieces, hoping I’d dodge the potential upset stomach (and the stares).

Yet peer pressure, with an added dimension of cultural barriers, got the better of me, as I was basically forced to eat chocolate cake (oh, yes, there could be worse things in the world!), and deal with the consequences later.

Food is cultural. 

I guess this could’ve been avoided if I hadn’t gone to the Serbian birthday party in the first place.

But, should it come down to this?

No, and it doesn’t have to.

The Basis of Interactions

After thinking and talking to others about this experience, I learned a heck of a lot more about Serbian culture. It is embedded as a part of their responsibility as hosts to FEED others. It is rude if one refuses, in fact, because it is that personal of a connection to others.

I’ve realized that food isn’t just food; it is a constant theme, ever-present, and woven throughout our interconnected lives. It is the glue to our sustenance, the basis of bonding at family meals, and the core to social gatherings.

Unlike religion and politics, though, we can’t really take food out of the equation. It is needed for survival; for the foundation of many business and personal interactions.

The bottom line is we are stuck dealing with the mixture of food in BOTH personal and business facets.

Thus, we can and have to learn to coexist!

And how do we do this?

Finding Food Coexistence

1) Find the common thread – real, whole foods.

Between the lines of being dogmatic and too lackadaisical with food, there are simple, common threads that go across cultural barriers, socioeconomic barriers (for the most part), and food preferences:

  • Eat. Real. Food.

Vegetarian? Vegan? Gluten-free? Dairy-free?

Whatever your unique biochemical needs are (because one size does not fit all!!), it DOES boil down to the commonality of choosing whole, natural, barely processed foods. 

Where do you find these types of whole foods? At your farmer’s market, around the perimeter of your grocery store, and pretty much without a label of 50 ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Every culture and food preference has the ability to choose the WHOLE version, and the least processed version.

i.e. Mexican food? Choose high quality, grass-fed steak fajitas, soaked and cooked organic rice (to avoid the arsenic!), fresh & homemade guacamole, raw cheese, and sautéed organic peppers and onions.

Vegetarian? Choose minimally processed, fermented soy, or tempeh (rather than other highly processed, highly preserved soy products), baked squash with olive oil, and organic greens.

You get the picture…

2) Understanding.

Rather than shutting out others’ food preferences and backgrounds, asking questions opens up the ability to UNDERSTAND.

And understanding can breed acceptance.

3) Knowledge.  

Knowledge is power, right?

Even though you or I may have healthy eating knowledge, many people’s food preferences develop because they just don’t know better. It is easy to assume, but as the saying goes, “it can make an a$$ out of you and me.”

Some may not WANT to know, which creates a whole other dimension, too. Ignorance can be bliss in the world of food…

So, bridging the gap of being pushy and so hands off that we are guilty by association is tricky. We must find ways to expand our own food knowledge and that of others, all the while realizing we can’t force internal motivation to make lasting change.

It is a mix of both art and science.

The Fine Line  

In sum, this is my passion and my plight…

1) Supporting and accepting other’s preferences in their own timeline. After all, caterpillars eventually blossom into butterflies with the right nourishment!

This is an area that I absolutely can work on. My own impatience can come off as pushy or all-knowing at times, when really, I am just THAT passionate about aspiring and inspiring meaningful, nourishing changes.

2) Also, educating myself and others to make whole foods choices with urgency, and for a REASON.

We all have these gifts to give, and when we load up our sophisticated machines with “regular” gas instead of “premium,” we just can’t get the gas mileage that we are capable of; that we are ABLE TO ACHIEVE.

3) Finally, finding ways to harness the double-edged sword of food, and its ability to connect rather than to divide.

By pushing through these personal and cultural barriers around food, we can open up knowledge, understanding, and growth. 

I’d love to hear from you about your thoughts and experiences surrounding the double-edged sword of food! Have you found ways to embrace it, accept others, and find ways to embrace lasting healthy changes?

Note: Jules’ Fuel uses affiliate links in some blog posts. If you make a purchase using one of these links, which costs the same either way, it’s a very, very small way to help me cover the cost of running this website. So, thanks!

100 responses on “Part 1: The Double-Edged Sword of Food

  1. I read this while drinking a coke slurpee. Thanks for making me feel bad. On another note, there’s a guy whose name is Mike Geary (you’d find him on google) who has an incredible blog on general health; training, nutrition, diet etc. Might be worth while checking his stuff out. I trust few ‘health gurus’ (I played tennis for 15 years, so know a little bout health stuffs) but he’s one that appears completely authentic.

    Cool blog, p.s.

  2. This is a great post. I find that learning about what’s good for you is an ongoing process! I LOVE that more people are starting to become really concerned about what they put into their bodies :)

  3. I was a vegan for a year and half and I remember mentioning this to a friend’s husband and you would have thought I kicked a puppy right in front of him. Going through that food journey was great for me, however, because I learned more about my food choices and that everyone has the right to eat what they choose. Great post!

  4. I’m reading this whilst living in India for 4 months and I find food a very big double edged sword when travelling! I can’t figure out whether food here is good for me or not – carb heavy but then also hardly ever processed, mainly vegetarian but then also heavily fried in many cases – its a bit of a minefield! But food here is essential to my travelling and bonding experiences. Like in Serbia, you can seriously offend! Any tips on an Indian diet? Is it better to have a chapati than rice for example?

    • Livcooley,

      Chapati is complex carbs while rice is simple carbs. Most of us eat rice
      for lunch and chapatis for supper. It also depends on your personal preference.

      But yes, India is mostly vegetarian and still lives largely on natural foods. Drink lots of buttermilk… it is also called matha/ chaas depending on which part of India you are traveling in. Alternatively, include yogurt in your diet. The probiotics in both these things help settle the stomach and digest fried stuff quicker. You wont get that bloated feeling you get after eating fried food. Ask your local guide to help.

      Dagny

    • That is a great point about the heavy carbs, but yet, it is mostly unprocessed. Very true for both! Dagny has good information below – (thanks!), and she’s right about the chapati being a complex carb and rice being a simple carb.

      A few thoughts – choosing between the two depends on your biochemical makeup regarding your sensitivity to gluten and/or carbs. (i.e. One in three people typically has a gluten sensitivity problem. For instance, if you notice digestive distress after eating chapatis (contains gluten), perhaps it’s best to stick to gluten-free rice. Rice is a pretty bland, allergy safe carb, though it is high glycemic (just don’t go overboard!). In general, try to keep your intake of grain/starch in moderation.

      Also, I would emphasize lots of fresh veggies, healthy fats (palm oil, avocados, nuts, butter, coconut oil, olive oil… whatever you can get your hands on), and eggs/meat, whenever possible. Fermented soy, or tempeh, is a good vegetarian source of protein, as most other soy products are highly processed and linked to certain diseases.

      Enjoy your journey there! It sounds amazing!

  5. I am trying SO HARD to make my diet as healthy as possible without being completely miserable.

    It’s not working out very well :/

    I’m totally addicted to breads, pasta, pastries, if it’s flour-based, I’ll eat it. For a long time, I though I had to just eliminate these things, but I would literally want to cry at the prospect, so I’m going to compromise: I’m only going to eat bread products in the healthiest possible way: whole grains. I’m going to run down all my overly-processed, bleached stuff and replace it all with whole grain everything.

    And pray that I’ll still be able to lose weight eating my beloved carbs… :(

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  8. I really enjoyed reading your article. I am a picky eater and agree wholeheartedly that food is definitely personal and cultural. I have definitely gotten offended looks from people when politely declining a food that was offered. I never wanted to offend it was simply just something that I couldn’t eat.

  9. Reblogged this on 46weekstoheckandback and commented:
    Keep this in mind the next time you entertain or socialize with others around food. Try to embrace other people’s preferences and don’t get offended if they’re not the same as yours. Cheers!

  10. Folks do duke it out over food. And take other’s eating habits quite personal. I recently stopped eating chicken and when I told someone about it…you would have thought it was THE most awful news in the world. I’m still hearing about it and why they too should…would…or could possibly stop eating chicken. Too funny. Great stuff!

  11. i eat a pretty healthy diet, mostly natural, unprocessed foods for the most part… i rarely even order out anymore (which is a huge feat in nyc)… when it comes to parties, i usually bring something i know i can eat/won’t feel guilty about, or hope there’s a veggie tray! it can be very tough trying to explain myself… this was a great post!

  12. Hi Jules,
    It’s Sharon again (sharon sharing insights). How are you? Love your latest blog and just became a follower. I know all the “right” foods to eat and the exercise, etc., however as I am past menopause (which I went through early) my metabolism is like that of a bear in hibernation. I also have been going through a lot of stress and have difficulty sleeping (and that is when I write the most) so I binge at night. I know it’s terrible and I have to stop; however I need to lose around 25 pounds now to get back to where I was over a year ago, and I just cannot seem to motivate myself. As I believe that a boost (losing 10 pounds in about a month or two) would really motivate me into staying on a healthy diet and exercise regimen, I am looking into trying a diet program to jumpstart. I am currently looking into Medifast or Weight Watchers as they seem to be the healthiest. I need to answer to someone and be on a schedule and I don’t really like to cook a lot…used to when I was healthier but now I am trying to concentrate on writing and have other things going on. The Medifast is expensive and the Weight Watchers seems to be OK but not as structured as I’d like. Would you recommend either of these to give me a healthy jump start and motivatiion? And if so, which is the healthiest and the best in your opinion? I am mostly vegan (for over 7 months-maybe chicken in salad once a week, and some cheese, no milk, greek yogurt only and unsweetned soy milk. I also am trying to cut gluten out and use gluten-free oats and whatever else I can find. What is your advise?
    Thank you! And I love your blog!
    Sharon

    • Hi Sharon!

      Thanks for reading!! Wow, it sounds like you’ve got some stressors going on between not sleeping well, hitting post-menopause, etc.

      I would advise you to look deep into what is really causing your binge eating first. I have had my fair share of emotional eating episodes, but it took me looking them square in the face to understand WHY to be able to grow through them.

      Try to find where the emptiness or hurt lies, and then seek to fill it with something lasting. Some choose prayer or meditation, others a walk, or writing… Whatever it is, find that thing that soothes your soul! It will be SO much more satisfying than any kind of food.

      Geneen Roth is an AMAZING writer and has two books you should check out: Women, Food and God, and When Food Is Love.

      Regarding Weight Watchers, I actually tried it a few years ago, and while the concept of moderation is good, it includes moderation of ALL foods… which includes some processed foods. Plus, I found that I was so focused on eating my “points” for the day, that I didn’t truly listen to what my body wanted and needed. I got away from intuitive eating.

      It also focuses on caloric restriction, which really doesn’t help with weight loss. Balancing the hormone, insulin, is a huge key to weight loss, on the other hand. Refined or simple carbs, like breads, pastas, sugar, cereals, etc. spike insulin a ton, which is directly tied to fat storage.

      Medifast seems to be of the same caloric restriction strategy, and has some processed food and all pre-made food, which robs you of the amazing benefits of freshly cooked, real food!

      As far as advice, I would advise you to choose fresh, organic vegetables and starches, fruits, nuts/seeds, healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, olive oil), aged cheeses, chicken and eggs when you choose to eat them, some gluten-free grains (quinoa, oats, rice), and fermented soy (tempeh) in small quantities. I would advise that you stick to unsweetened coconut or almond milk over soy milk, too: http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert.

      Is there a reason you’re vegan? Just curious…

      Here are two other great websites with gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan options as well:
      http://www.healthfulpursuit.com/
      http://www.elenaspantry.com

      I hope this helps! Stay positive and patient, and focus on listening to your body and nourishing it with other things besides food when you’re struggling. You’ll get there! Enjoy the journey!

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