Are you a victim of  "Nutritionism"?


I recently revisited In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, after a stimulating conversation with fellow wellness professionals.  

Pollan defines "nutritionism" as the result of understanding foods "only in terms of the various quantities of nutrients they contain."  My guess is nutritionism appears to have a relative stronghold on many of us when we pause to consider how we're choosing what, when, how and why we eat what we eat.  

Nutritionism in action looks like: 

1) Choosing a sugary breakfast cereal (pseudo-food) because it's "fortified" with every vitamin thus far known to man and "a GREAT source of whole grains and fiber."  Food companies LOVE nutritionism.  They can sell you a product that your brain and tongue are wired to adore, then appease your neocortex by reassuring you it has more "nutrients" than a fruit salad.  

2) Avoiding dairy and gluten. No no.  I mean, avoiding carbs.  Well, no, I mean don't eat heated vegetable oils.  Errr.  I mean, avoiding… Sorry, I'm reading the nutrition research as it comes in…

3) Orthorexia Nervosa and other disordered eating manifestations far more rampant than the already recognized eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia.  Orthorexia is defined as an obsessive fixation with healthy eating.  These disordered eating patterns are, of course, multifactorial, but make no doubt that our hyper-drive to get nutrition right is somewhere behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, one of the overarching results of nutritionism's stronghold is the progressive removal of intimacy, happiness, sacredness, and communion with food.  We eat pseudo-foods because they're injected with nutrients. We avoid whole food groups because that's the latest hot thing to do.  And we bring our own skinless chicken breast and steamed broccoli to cookouts 'cause there's no way we're joinin' that debauchery.  

Look.  I'm a dietitian.  I joyfully went through a rigorous graduate program, spending semesters learning about mineral deficiencies and metabolism of protein and carbs.  I had a rigorous clinical dietetic internship where I had first-hand exposure to how macro- and micronutrients affect disease and recovery.  

But I believe if we get stuck here, we're in trouble.  We need to transcend and include "nutrition" as part of our eating evolution, if you will. 

I'd say, gently hold the nutrition pieces and factoids that are meaningful to you, that you feel are essential for your wellbeing and health.  Just be mindful if that "hold" starts becoming a tight grip, creating sharp boundaries that are restrictive and further remove you from your relationship with food.

I'm forever a student, learning from my own experiences, and grateful to hear yours.   Shoot me an email with your questions or comments! 

Fuel Well!