But maybe our diet is kind of crazy, just like any diet that bucks the Standard American Diet (SAD) seems kind of crazy to people who haven’t stepped back and really thought about it. It takes more thought, preparation, and sometimes money to find, buy, and prepare quality food. In our convenience-oriented culture, putting this much energy into our diet is far from normal.
Compared to the USDA Food Pyramid, the GAPS Diet is pretty much upside down and backwards. Instead of basing our diet on grains, we eliminate them. Instead of counting calories and eliminating fat, we make sure we eat enough saturated fat to feel full.
From a food safety standpoint, we’re bucking the system, too. Instead of relying on FDA regulations for big factory farms to keep our food safe, we rely on local farmers we’ve visited with in person. Instead of pasteurizing our milk, we culture it. Instead of cooking eggs through after they’ve been bleached and stored at the perfect temperature, we get our eggs in the back yard and eat our yolks raw.
Even as a part of the organic, whole foods movement, we’re a little bit crazy. Plenty of whole foods aren’t on our shopping list, and plenty of what’s on the shelf at Whole Foods and similar markets is industrial processed crap. Rather than worrying only about whether the label says organic, we look at all the ingredients, the packaging, and the processes used in the factory or farm before making a decision.
On top of all this, our culture is full of fad diets whose misguided objective is to make a person skinny. That idea of diet is what has formed most people’s frame of reference. Most diets are optional, bad for one’s health, and hard to maintain. Most people see someone like me and think I look skinny and healthy, so what does it really matter, just this once? They see slipping on a diet as a treat with no real consequences. They don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to “indulge.” They may remember me eating the things I now refuse, with no observed ill-effect… but they weren’t there in the bathroom with me later, and didn’t have to live with my mental and neurological issues, which are now markedly improved.
Additionally, the average person might understand my son’s need to avoid gluten, since the doctors agree he most likely has celiac disease, but they might not see that cross-contamination could really have an effect, or accept that packaged “gluten-free” products may prevent his healing. We’re especially “crazy” because we’re taking our health into our own hands. Trying to cure a slew of symptoms through diet and fixating on what’s in our food rather than taking cocktails of prescription and over-the-counter medicines to suppress them seems like a lot of work for no good reason to most Americans.
But look at it in the context of the history of food, and a different picture emerges. Before the industrial food system, the green revolution, and government subsidies for commodity crops, people ate real, organic food without even trying. You didn’t have to be focused on what was in your food in order to avoid additives, preservatives, and hidden allergens – foods were not packaged that way. Most people bought their meat from a butcher, their produce from a farmer, and cooked on the stove instead of out of a plastic microwave tray. Foods were not sprayed with corn or irradiated. GMO products hadn’t been invented.
That doesn’t mean life was perfect back then, or that everyone enjoyed a healthy diet and no health problems… but it does mean that we have introduced an almost unthinkable amount of toxicity and poor nutrition into our diets over the past century or so. Having made a connection between this toxic load and the recent health epidemics of allergies, digestive problems, ADHD, diabetes, autism, depression, etc, it seems crazy not to try and do something about it.
Having personally felt the benefits of improving nutrition, reducing toxic load, and sticking to foods that heal us rather than harm us, it’s also pretty hard to hold my tongue when I see others suffering with the same kinds of health issues our family is recovering from or used to experience. Not surprisingly, this can make me come off as a food evangelist if I’m not careful!
It can be tough to find a way to avoid acting like a “Crazy Diet Person” while making the choices that will support our health. To make a special diet successful and satisfying, every person who lives with one needs to strike a balance between healthy choices and good manners. How we do that won’t look the same for everyone, but it’s something we need to figure out to make our positive changes last, because it would be truly crazy to compromise our health for the sake of social grace.
Coming Up: The final installment of Crazy Diet People, Part 3 – in which I learn to simply say “No, thank you.”