Grassfed beef. Avoiding 'toxic' foods. Manolo Blahniks? More like organic quinoa and $12 green juice.
Our diets are the new designer labels.
It used to be that a Gucci bag was the upper eschelon of cool. Now, talking about your gluten free bulletproof diet, with its microgreens and grassfed butter coffee, speaks volumes about your perceived status in society. Eating anything not stamped with 'local' or 'sustainably grown' seems to imply that your diet is not only contaminated, but socially reprehensible. God help you if you buy your coffee at Tim Horton's and not that fair trade place near your house. Dirty, dirty.
We all need to eat, but we all don't need a Gucci bag. Food then seems to be one of the last frontiers with which we have decided to stratify ourselves in society. Historically, the well-off always had 'better' food than the less well-off, but the practice has never been as pronounced or, thanks to more disposable income, as voluntary as it is now. Talking about your CSA box is as good as prancing around in Louboutins.
The whole concept is further confused by the popular trend of eating over-the-top concoctions such as massive, fatty burgers at trendy restaurants, but then spending the next 5 days doing a cleanse.
As a food blogger who is very active on Instagram, I admit that I've hashtagged photos of my food with trendy diet names to get more views. But having practiced as a dietitian in an underprivileged part of town, I can assure you that many people in this city and others around the globe are more concerned about where their next meal is coming from and not whether it's gluten free or paleo. It's ironic that some (not all) people who claim to care so much about Mother Earth and being sustainable can be so obnoxious in their shaming of others who don't follow the 'right' diets. Shouldn't you be nice to the earth AND to people?
I can understand the urge to follow a diet trend. The mindset seems somewhat compelling - by making a proclamation that you're following a sugar free, raw, or whatever diet, you're automatically accepted into a group of like-minded people who 'get' you. Maybe we're super connected but still just really lonely, an irony that's been written about many times. We all just want to belong to something and make ourselves feel good, even when we do it by sometimes putting others down.
I don't think the trend of using diet as an assertion of your social status is going to go away anytime soon.
We have evolved into a society that uses health as another way to stratify ourselves against others -- the haves (because most of these trendy diets are expensive, face it) and the have nots.
I'm happy that people care enough to take care of themselves or at least are under the pretense that they are. But the trend I think has more dark sides than light: the problem of taking the ''toxins in your food' and other diet concepts too far, and more importantly, using these labels to shame the 'dirty' food of the people who don't subscribe to, can't afford, or don't know about whatever diets are out there.
A lot of the 'worried well' who use these diets have beliefs that aren't based in science or good sense -- 'fat burning' foods, detoxing with food, using food to control your acid base balance, thinking that raw/organic/animal free/only animal diets are healthier. It's worrisome to see how easily people are swayed by celebrities and 'nutrition practitioners' in the media who have no idea what they're talking about. But I digress.
Know that no matter what you wear, what you eat, and which cleanse you're on, you're no better than anyone else in the world who doesn't subscribe to your food value system. Eating whole, unprocessed foods is amazing, but most people eat some processed foods and that's okay too. Some people don't care, or can't afford to be on your $400 a week juice diet, and that doesn't make them less than you. I love that you're trying to take care of yourself, but just as you (hopefully) wouldn't laugh at someone's clothes, please don't use your food choices to shame others. Not everyone can afford, or walk in, Louboutins.
Follow Abby Langer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/langernutrition