August 15, 2018

Vegetarian, vegan, paleo, clean eating, raw food and many more. New eating diets are popping up everywhere. In the past, diets were seen as a troublesome quite short period of time, in which you resisted some sorts of foods in order to lose weight. Nowadays diets represent rather an attitude of life, a way of thinking, and being a part of something. It is so much more than just resisting for a while.

We are confronted with it in many parts of our daily life, be it in cafés or restaurants, in the news, in magazines, talking with friends or colleagues or even when going grocery shopping. At some point, like it happened to me, you become so curious about all the anticipated positive effects that you try them out. Moreover, there is a lot of discussion about environmental sustainability and about our eating behaviors of the past decades causing all these serious environmental problems. So, what is it all about? And what can it trigger in you?

Eating diets initiate a dialogue

Most of the diets promote as their primary statement being able to provoke positive health effects compared to the omnivore alimentation. Consequently a debate has emerged disputing which diet might be the best for mankind. Some people go further and discuss which diet stimulates the maximum performance of the your body and brain, turning the human being and his body into an engine achieving all-time records and minimizing flaws. Other diets focus on a more altruistic approach, wanting not only the best for themselves, but also for other creatures and the environment. They ask questions like: “Which diet supports a sustainable environment?”, or “Which diet is morally justifiable?”.

So, each diet we give a try, because something about the intention touches us, we also grapple with its ideas. Hopefully you and everybody else, try to form an opinion of your own and challenge not only the personal health benefits, but also the ideological approach behind it. From experiences we come to know that only diversity of opinions and their disputes and dialogues can change deadlocked habits and hopefully in the end result in better decisions.

There are No definitive answers

Digging deeper in the topic of appropriate human diet, external and internal factors considered, like for example health effects, impact on the environment and its ecosystems, and much more,  the complexity behind this extensive matter appears quickly. There are so many perspectives and so many factors and effects to think about. Research and studies conducted in this field are often contradictory and confusing. There is for instance the belief that only intensive mass animal farming is the most sustainable solution for feeding a growing global population with the solution of maximizing their output and minimizing the external side effects. Other researches do not believe that a healthy environment is possible when industrial livestock farming with its resulting carbon dioxide output, its water pollution and other negative effects, can coexist. We notice very soon, that there are way too many parameters which have to be looked at. The answer is not easy, nor definitive. It depends which parameters are ranked as the most important in your analysis. Even in the small scale, when deciding just for yourself to follow a healthy and sustainable diet you have to consider so many questions:

  • Where did this grow?
  • How did it grow?
  • What was used for and during the growing/producing process?
  • What were the working conditions?
  • How did it come here?
  • How is it packaged?

Imagine for every food you choose in a grocery store you would need to find out all these criteria and then ponder which label is the lesser evil. First of all it is quite impossible these days to find the answers to all the above questions. The transparency just does not exist, even when visiting the corresponding websites about the product. On a personal level, asking all these questions, might lead to an even bigger problem.

Do not allow your diet to become an un-enjoyable process

This happened to me! Already being a vegetarian, I decided after getting more and more involved with sustainability questions and the impact animal products have on the environment, to forgo these product as a start, until I knew clearer which foods are “more sustainable”. But also eating vegan did not made me feel much better. Every time I chose for example nuts, or beans, or tofu and many other products in the grocery store I had this guilty feeling. Even though I shop just in my organic grocery store it felt not right to buy beans grown in China, hazelnuts from Turkey packed in plastic. Almost in every article I could see something, which could have been “produced better”. This constant guilt feeling and the stress it caused to buy the groceries, made the entire cooking and eating activity un-enjoyably for me. All the joy and the passion I had for cooking and eating was covered by the constant drive of not wanting to  be part of the mainstream way of life, which is doing serious harm to the planet. Thus, it is important to change the system and that means to change your own behavior, but you should not think you have everything in your own hands. Use the diet to reflect, to get inspired and of course to do better, but do not think your sacrifices change the world. Instead come up with new ideas, think outside the box, campaign, get involved in a movement, but do it with love, patience, positivism and fun.

What is left at the end?

Maybe you found the perfect diet for you, with the perfect matching intention and ideology. You feel great, healthy and you fully represent the thinking behind it. Maybe you have not found the right diet for you, because you have the feeling, that it is much more complicated and that you also don’t like to  be put in a box. In this case to experience with diets also helps to find your own way, or rather to at least come closer to how you feel and think. In the end you should never lose your joy of cooking and eating, but also never quit thinking and engaging for a healthy planet and its inhabitants.

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