Why is it that even today with what seems to be a vested interest in selling nutrition, both as a way to combat disease and also marketed somewhat ironically as achieving god-like leaness do we still buy in to the guru mentality when it comes to what we put inside our body? It seems like there is no end in sight when companies and Internet personalities can rely on unadulterated elitism to back their claim when the abstract of a PubMed study can’t.
Normally if I see an article embellishing all the rejuvenating aspects of coconut oil or a video touting the life-saving benefits of mainlining goji berries, I laugh and move on, figuring that the expense of the consumer and the large margin of profit made by Whole Foods will self-correct the information…eventually. Recently though it seems that companies known for their scientific doctrine of training methodology as well as their “proven” nutritional claims have drawn a clear line in the arbitrary sand when it comes to not only processed food but just how “artisanal” something can be made.
This subject first broached accidentally in a conversation with a friend explaining the “organic arms race” of the white upper class America, something that I had apparently never considered in my white privilege. I’ll sum it up as easily as I can: As the worlds markets grow closer, foods that were only afforded to the rich become cheap enough for even peasants, this of course drives the need for newer, better, more rare food items so that the rich may always buy “above” the poor, in some extreme examples even covering their food literally in gold- because fuck you that’s why. Take for instance bread, once a food of the common person, it was found that refining the grain espoused a rich, white, softly-textured delicacy, this extra time afforded in processing drove the price above all but the elite, leaving the rest with “only” brown bread, hence the term “refined” being used in not just grain but also in describing the bourgeoisie and gentlemen class. Later in the industrial age of processing, the “white stuff” became available to all, and then if perhaps by miracle our advanced knowledge of health uncovered how terrible refined bread was for the human animal (this didn’t actually happen with evidence just a fleet of natural path doctors and chiropractors giving “professional opinions”). Price on “whole grain” jumped as it was now thought of and marketed as a health food. Even today we are sold breads with “ancient grains” and superb artisanal fermentation at higher prices, little added benefit, and a perpetuated delusion that “whole-grain” and handmade are synonymous with health.
We can chase these same narratives with terms like “organic”, “grass-fed”, and “gluten-free” all the way down to the fucking “localvore” movement, but they will all follow the same path, once available at Wal-Mart you can assure yourself that the next greatest version will be publicly mystified and available only to those willing to pay a premium, if you were under the impression that alkaline water was worth it or that cocktails tasted better with artisanal ice, then you- like many, have fallen into this scheme.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s rare I get hung up on a simple “internet article” but when the source has a broad audience and claims rooting in science, then the “thought leaders” of such a group have a responsibility to spread accurate information, especially if they have been “fitnessing since 99’”.
An article titled “Why ‘if it fits your macros’ doesn’t matter” popped up on my feed and I gave it a read, immediately irritated by the irrational fear mongering thrown out in the opening sentence, in which we are shown the ingredients to a POP-tart and propositioned to quit pretending that they are healthy. There are multiple problems with this, the first being: who the fuck said they were healthy? The second is built off the assumptions that we will read the ingredients list and pull a “food babe” ultimately showing disgust because we don’t understand chemistry, which is what I would claim to be the authors disposition. Ultimately I don’t really care what one article says, but as it is a representative of what I would say is a deeper seeded issue, I’m going to keep going.
Elitism in food is silly, it is a rat race of marketing hype and egotism. I would go as far as defending “personal” dietary elitism though, as it fits perfectly with the Biopsychosocial model for health and wellness, but when taught and spread without any data whatsoever we are on dangerous ground of gentrifying athletics or even worse health. This isn’t to say data related to fine tuning nutrition for health and longevity isn’t wanted, just proper interpretation of that data.
A good example of this data happened just the other day. As it seems that the kale shakes were a stones throw away from being the actual discovery of immortality, some asshole had to come along and actually do the math, turns out that the whole green drink craze isn’t as good as you might have thought, not just in terms of micro-nutrient density (which it isn’t as favorable in), but also in raising risk factors for diabetes considerably. So while this is extremely entertaining for me to watch people in horror discover that nutritionally a meal made up of lamb is convincingly better for overall health than some vegan-hemp slop blended into a stool like color, it also pains me because I have to listen to the dumbest of my industry shuffle about as their investment in their acres dedicated to cruciferous greens becomes null and void to the pursuit of atonement.
The point might be that artificially identifying “health” in foods only available to the rich could be easily avoided if we just refuse to watch Dr. Oz, or even better laugh in the face of words like “super-food”, but demonizing a food because of its processing or lack of micronutrients further perpetrates the same exact problem that we see on late afternoon talk shows.
It is not in and of itself difficult to eat well and fuel both performance, longevity, and a robust social life, that is until “experts” start condemning and preaching from the rafters because they don’t like the idea of a certain food, or they want to sell “their” way of eating in order to justify their own neurosis. In any other field this is called bullshit, but in nutrition we call them experts,
Most misconceptions about “flexible dieting” come from seeing high-level athletes use certain foods because of their simplicity or efficacy at certain periods of training or even to just make life a little more enjoyable. This does not affect health negatively because usually high performing athletes also consume far more food in volume, which increase exponentially their exposure to micronutrient density. Therefore the supposed “empty calories” are far from empty because their purpose is for macro-nutrition, not micro-nutrition. Most foods the general public holds in high esteem are low in macro and caloric nutrition, but somewhat dense in micro nutrients and minerals, this tells us nothing of what is “healthy” as it lacks context, only how ridiculously polarized our general knowledge of nutrition can be. It's worth noting at this point that there is a huge difference between foods that do "very little" for you and foods that are actually harmful, if a food is actually found to be harmful or dose dependent-acutely toxic it will most likely be considered for a ban by the FDA, this does not mean that foods approved are regarded as healthy but they certainly shouldn't be feared.
The presumed formula of nutritious foods being equal to performance is actually unproven, in fact large doses of vitamins and minerals intra-effort is flat out wrong, assimilation of nutrition during efforts and for recovery (ie; performance) purposes tends to be increased with specific macronutrient dense foods that are low in fiber and low in fat (of which fat tends to be the most nutrient dense food), a position that is antithetical to the “high quality food is the most important factor for performance” crowd that seems to be getting louder.
Promote the (insert diet here) wherever you see fit, just recognize that in doing so you are a professional ‘crying wolf’, and we all know how that ends.