September 17, 2008

real != fake

After all those articles about how eating unprocessed, nutritious foods and being active are more important for your health than losing weight, the New York Times prints an article about how more people are eating unprocessed, nutritious foods that includes the following sentence:

"The real question, is whether better eating can translate into weight loss."


The article also positions what it calls 'positive eating,' in which you choose to eat things that are good for you and taste good (usually organic, unprocessed, natural - real - food) as a diet fad, which, if you were really reductionist, it might be. But it's not. Why? Because unlike other diet fads, real food is sustainable: it feels good, it's reasonably affordable if you cook for yourself, it provides both pleasure and health, it does not rest on some bizarrely contorted idea of how to eat.

This is part of my view about how you change the world. It has to be sustainable, which means that whatever method of changing the world you choose, you have to be able to keep doing it. Virtue and pleasure need to be connected, which is my fundamental problem with all the non-profits that expect you to work for them all the time for practically no money because you're doing what my grandmother calls good works. That model is how people end up quitting their non-profit gigs at 28 to get a corporate job. The positive eating (positive working?) model is how people keep on doing good.

(Somebody call Aristotle! This is all shamelessly ripped from the pages of the Nichomachean Ethics.)


Andrew said...

Problem: our bodies are wired for an environment in which nourishment (sugars, fats) are much less plentiful. Similarly, our society values thinking up derivative securities on bundled subprime mortgages more than what your grandmother calls good works.

That said, I agree with your prescription for positive eating/working. But it seems some restraint is also needed.

North said...

Right, the Aristotelian concept is not that we will do what gives us the most pleasure, but rather that 'right living' will make us feel good in a deep and meaningful way. I would submit that something similar is true of people with respect to food: most people like eating sugar and fat (and experience pleasure through our taste buds when doing so), but eating too much of it makes us feel slightly ill; thus, if we pay attention not only to our taste buds but to our broader experience of eating, we will feel a deeper kind of enjoyment. Also, I would argue that, for many people, our palates can be trained to enjoy different foods, and Aristotle would agree that it's important to train ourselves towards enjoying right action. However, for that to work, the right action has to contain some pleasure.

Narya said...

In other words, "mindful" eating.

The other thing about real food (as opposed to processed crap) is that it requires cooking. I realize this is supposed to be a bad thing, but I think it's really essential--feeling the surface of things, recognizing how cutting through one thing differs from cutting through another, noting that some onions make you cry and others don't, whateverthehell.

i think about the the meat available in a major grocery store--practically triple-wrapped, and labeled and sometimes sauced or spiced--versus the meat my hunting friend pulls from his freezer (like the rabbits and wild turkey that might have buckshot in them), and they seem to take (do take, I guess) such wildly different paths to my plate.