Back in the days of the low-fat craze, people began to think of foods they ate as to how many fat grams it contained. Now we have a larger issue called Orthorexia, the new eating disorder stemming from an overemphasis by some people to eat gluten-free, lactose-free, low sodium, low carbohydrate, low something, etc. etc. I guess it will only be a matter of time before we have kale-eating contests or how many kale chips can you eat?
Americans tend to go to extremes with foods – either it’s too much or too little. We can bed lipophobic or carbophobic or sometimes both. Michael Pollan writes in his article, “Our National Eating Disorder”, that Americans are the most “anxious eaters”compared to other cultures. He uses the example of when presented with the food “chocolate cake”, Americans will often say “guilt” while the French say “celebration”. So now it appears that almost any food is viewed by some Americans as “suspect”. That may be partly the fault of nutritionists (me included) that far too often refer to the American diet or Standard American Diet as the SAD diet. We do need to improve our diets considerably but we also need an attitude change. Our Dietary Guidelines include a list of do’s and don’ts but never seem to mention food as a source of pleasure.
Another culture with an appreciation of foods is Japan. According to Naomi Moriyama, co-athor of Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat: Secrets of my Mother’s Tokyo Kitchen, “The magic of Japan-style eating is a healthier balance of filling, delicious lower-calorie foods, presented with beautiful portion control in pretty little dishes and plates,” This way of dining encourages you to “eat with your eyes” by enjoying the beauty of your food. What a contrast to the American way of eating on the run or in the car and relying on a bag of chips and a soda for lunch and then going to the extremes of orthorexia to alleviate the guilt for our bad eating habits.