People generally want to be good and generous. I know this truth because when they invite me over, they say kind things like, “Is there anything you don’t eat?” This is not the language of “Lord of the Flies.”

These days, there is a social awareness of specialized diets, and it is almost a welcome challenge to the hosts to create free-of-everything food for their guests. But they are going to tire of us soon, and we cannot blame them.

What began as a heightened awareness of health, and a return to eating whole foods, has become a downright dogma of food phobia and diagnosable disordered eating. We’re non-GMO and gluten-free and we don’t eat cane sugar, but we do eat coconut sugar as long as it comes from a place that showcases their Fair Trade labeling. Some of us are grain-free and others only do raw, pastured dairy. We’ve got vegans and I-don’t-eat-fish-from-the-Pacific-ans. There are those who avoid cruciferous vegetables (do you have any idea how much raw broccoli you’d have to eat to impact your thyroid?) and those who heard nightshades are bad for autoimmunity, and those who just threw their arms up in the air and say, “screw it!”

They are probably really enjoying that burger they are eating right now while the rest of us food-righteous folk with empty bellies and reduced cancer risk are basking in our misery. It’s like a religion: resist temptation now, and sometime in the great afterlife of geriatric intestines we’ll all be grateful that we skipped the chip bowl at the barbecue. Our only consolation is that any time the carefree eaters get sick, injured, complain of being tired or go through a divorce we think (but don’t say out loud), ‘If only they ate organic, this all could have been avoided. I’m sure glad I have kale for breakfast every day.’

Here’s the reality though: If you obsess about your food, you are the one with the problem. Yes, we should have a diet mainly of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrates, clean proteins, and rich in healthy fats. Scroll back a few decades though. My grandmother raised my mother on Crisco. Crisco! Plus, TV dinners and all those microwave casseroles you could feed a family of eight while you were pouring yourself a happy-hour cocktail and swallowing valium. Because in the 60s, raising a family was stressful and justified martinis before the kids came home from school.

Yes, those diets were not optimal. My other grandmother ate Egg Beaters and margarine and cubes of MSG soup stock for thirty years and was still golfing and kickin’ ass at bridge club when she crossed sides.

The moral of the story is: lighten up! It is one thing to be conscious of your health and strive to eat well. It’s another thing to be afraid of food or be the only one not invited to the Super Bowl party because your pretentious vegetable and hummus platter isn’t welcome.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we go out and wittingly cause ourselves harm (I’m talking to the gluten-free crowd — we are a special breed and that stuff is our kryptonite). I’m saying too many carbs or a cocktail made with corn syrup is not going to cause diabetes tomorrow.

A good rule of thumb is this: Eat clean at home, make sure most of your meals are made in your kitchen with ingredients you recognize, and enjoy yourself when you go out. If someone offers you spray-can cheese, it’s not going to be what gives you cancer. Chronic stress about what not to eat might though. //

 

When Ammi Midstokke is not chasing her first love (trails), she is preaching her second (food) as a Nutritional Therapist. If you missed it, she wrote about poop in the May issue.