Everything You Know About Diet Culture Is Wrong

A diet does not have to be painful

Diet tips are all around us. Avoid red meat. Sugar is basically poison. Don’t eat potato chips – they’re filled with trans and saturated fats. What do you mean you eat cheese on everything? Don’t you know dairy is inflammatory?

There are thousands of diets floating around on the internet. Veganism to keto, Atkins to plant-based. There are even some who suggest that eating food specific to a certain culture is the way to go. Mediterranean diet anyone?

Well, according to Barry Glassner, this does not equal a healthy lifestyle.

The Gospel of Naught: Elimination Diet Trends

A healthy diet
Photo by Brooke Lark

As a sociologist and author, Glassner points out that we have created a habit of worshipping different foods based on what they lack. He calls this phenomenon “The Gospel of Naught”. Sugar-free, fat-free, and gluten-free are various labels that are commonly found on items in the grocery store.

But, do we need to worry about avoiding certain foods?

Glassner doesn’t think so. In fact, he points to a study where iron absorption was measured after Thai and Swedish women were given dishes from their own cultures. In this study, iron absorption was greatest when the women ate food from their own culture – aka food that they most enjoyed.

But What Does This Mean?

So what? What does this study mean for me?

When promoting lifestyle wellness, we need to consider many variables. Sometimes that means including more vegetables on your dinner plate or substituting white rice for fibrous quinoa. We ask ourselves questions, like “have I been active today?” But sometimes, according to Glassner, that means indulging those cravings that don’t seem to go away.

Ice cream for dinner? Sure, why not! Should you order that delicious hamburger at the restaurant? Well, if you want to gag at the thought of another salad, then totally!

This isn’t saying we should eat whatever we want whenever we want, without regard for fruits and vegetables. Instead, Glassner advocates for a diet that fits these criteria:

  • Enjoy what you eat
  • Eat-in moderation
  • And eat diverse foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables

Most importantly, you have to listen to your own body. If beans leave you bloated, no matter how many recipes you try, that’s just your body’s way of saying no more. Rashes and stomach aches can suggest you have a gluten intolerance, but the only way to be sure is to avoid those foods for a time. If you’re perpetually exhausted, add other sources of protein to your diet.

But just because your friend has only been eating kale and chicken breasts for dinner, it doesn’t mean you have to turn down that strawberry milkshake you’ve been craving since breakfast.

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