food 380x266 Does anyone eat anything any more?

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Anyone else still eating sugar? Anyone? How about gluten?

All around me, vast chunks of people are giving up vast chunks of food. Sugar. Gluten. Dairy. Meat. Carbs. Lactose. Caffeine. Anything processed. Anything not organic. Some are swearing off a single thing – sugar is a fashionable item to delete in 2012 – while others are ditching several at once.

Much of this purging is typical January/February stuff. With Australia Day behind us, the music is off, the lights are on and we’re all suddenly blinking and cursing months of gluttonous debauchery (also know as “summer”). It’s wheatgrass shots from tomorrow, for sure.

You don’t need me to remind you this binge-purge approach is flawed and ultimately doomed. Which is why you’re not going on a diet, right? You’re simply giving up alcohol, sugar and gluten – once you establish exactly what gluten is and share this information with me. Is it wheat? I think it’s wheat. I know that most fun foods contain gluten- like cake and pasta – although I can already hear my inbox pinging as helpful people rush to tell me about all the delicious gluten-free pasta and sugar-free cake that’s available. Better still, I could make it myself! With amarynth flour! It’s easy!

Upside: it’s great that people are taking an interest in their diets in a perceived attempt to be healthier. Downside:  it’s bloody boring when they bang on about it.

Notice how giving up a food group seems to make people evangelical? They proselytise like they’re born-again because they REALLY need you to understand  IN DETAIL why they’re not eating gluten or sugar or dairy and tell you IN MORE DETAIL how fantastic they feel.

Several mates have gone down this path and frankly, it’s starting to grate a wee bit because they want to talk about what they’re not eating ALL THE TIME.

So what of cutting out food groups? Nutritionist Joanna McMillan insists this approach drives her crazy. “Much of it is based on small picture science or no science at all. It doesn’t look at food as a whole but picks on individual nutrients.  Fruit is not the same as having lollies – yes they both contain sugar but sugar is not inherently bad – in fruit where it is bound up in cell walls with fibre and nutrients is very different to refined sugar made into a lolly. Some people cannot tolerate gluten yet suddenly everyone thinks gluten is bad. The truth is it is modern refined foods that are causing most of our health problems. Not the individual components of food. We’re missing the point.”

Then there’s the pseudo status that seems to be involved with not eating certain things. Talking to one girlfriend about this trend, she joked:  “I am a bit embarrassed to say I eat anything. Makes me sound like a bogan.”

As another friend puts it: “Holier-than-thou food attitudes make me feel like I’m a horrible person for choosing peanut M&Ms rather than soy and linseed yumballs or whatever I ‘should’ be eating at 3pm. I would love to be someone who can give up sugar and gluten and all that, but a) I’m far from perfect, b) I don’t have time and c) I really love the new Dessert Factory chain that’s popped up near my house.”

One 22 year old I know reminded me that most people have more pressing food issues.  “I don’t know anyone giving up dairy or sugar – I guess because many of my friends are more concerned about being able to afford food in general” she deadpanned. “Either that or we’re still too busy binge-drinking to care too much about what else we put into our system.”

On a related note, what’s with all the food intolerances?

An upcoming research report from Monash University reveals only 14 percent of people on gluten-free diets were advised by a doctor or tested for coeliac disease. Almost half just did it because they “felt” they were gluten-intolerant.

Not to make light of the kids – and adults – who do have serious food allergies. Life threatening ones. But as most waiters will attest, when someone claims to be ‘allergic’ to coriander, it often just means they don’t like it. Which must peeve the truly allergic (and their parents) something fierce because it leads to an air of cynicism around food allergies.

In our house, my six year old daughter is thrilled to have discovered that – just like her father – drinking cow’s milk makes her dizzy. She has wanted a food allergy for years so this is a source of much pride, something she waves in the face of her younger brother as evidence of her superiority. He is suitably impressed and keeps asking me what he’s allergic to, ever hopeful.

It never used to be like this. Nobody had an intolerance when I was a kid, let alone wanted one. And who’d heard of gluten? Apart from the occasional vegetarian, everyone ate and drank everything, mostly in moderation.

Now when friends come over for afternoon tea I get tense offering them a cup of tea. Between the lactose-intolerants, the sugar-frees, caffeine-frees, those not drinking soy products, those who only do organic, it’s become an impossibly complex operation that requires a powerpoint presentation and 18 different individual types of tea and milk. Cake anyone?

Do you eat anything? Everything? Are there people in your orbit who are giving things up? Do they bang on about it?



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