Most of us see eating as a conflict between the necessity of having to efficiently fuel our bodies and keep them healthy, while also wanting to eat something pleasurable. The size of today’s diet culture is just one indication of how much we’ve internalised this conflict and have over complicated our relationship with food in trying to find the one true way to maximum health and enjoyment.
Far from the mainstream of diet culture, agnostic eating endorses an individual belief that does not side with any specific diet fad but rather is based on science and nutritional facts. It is a concept in which no food groups or nutrients are excluded in order to optimize nutrition and health, a definition that Matt Fitzgerald, an accomplished athlete, coach and, writer, explains in his book Diet Cults. This concept empowers an individual to establish their own beliefs and justifications when it comes to the food that they’re eating.
While many diet fads often hold true to their physical claims, though usually temporarily, most fall short on the science factor and some have even caused detrimental changes in how we view certain types of food. For example, the creation of the Atkins diet has changed how we view carbohydrates and the humble, nutrient packed potato forever. Fitzgerald also looks at more recent fads, such as the paleo diet, low-fat, raw food, and gluten free. He emphasizes that people become emotionally involved with their food instead of looking at the hard facts. They want one easy way to improve athletic performance or to lose weight and, scientifically, there isn’t one. As he says in his book:
“The secret to successful weight loss is motivation. Get out of the mindset of finding one way that works, and realize a lot of ways work. You still have to choose something specific. Anyone who loses weight and keeps it off doesn’t just wing it. They have rules and stick to them, but they’re not necessarily the specific rules of a diet cult.”
Science consistently shows that there is no one true way to eat, humans thrive on a variety of diets and nutrient ratios and our bodies are extremely receptive to any changes made within them. We need proteins, carbohydrates and fats but there is no specific ratio for how much of each is necessary in achieving optimal health.
Fitzgerald bases his agnostic eating rules around some basic categories. Scientifically, only two groups of food are essential: fruits and vegetables, but if you’re going for an optimal diet, then high quality meats and seafood, whole grains, nuts and seeds (healthy oils) and diary are highly recommended. Acceptable items, which are kept to a minimum, include: refined grains, low quality meats and seafood, fried food, alcohol and sweets. The emphasis being that the majority of what you’re eating should come from the essential and recommended areas and the less processed the better. With that, part of eating agnostically is eating within your own means with the focus being on your own nutrition and pleasure. You may not be able to eat the way a pro-athlete does, but you can build your own agnostic regime with equal alternatives.
Fitzgerald also advocates the benefits and importance of keeping pleasure and enjoyment in your diet:
“My diet looks pretty normal . . . it’s weighed heavily toward the highest quality food types, such as fruits and vegetables. I have very few fried foods and sweets, and not a lot of refined grains . . . I still have at least one beer a day. My wife and I like to eat out. We celebrated my birthday on Saturday and I had French fries at a restaurant, and I almost never eat them.”
Eating agnostically is unique to each who pursue it but its roots are simple and by far more effective than any diet fad in establishing a healthy and lifelong relationship with food. What works for some, won’t for others but if you stick mostly to the essentials and make the most of your eating pleasures you’ll be rewarded with optimal health and enjoyment and be rid of the guilt and the confusion created by diet culture.
Danielle Roberts is a Canadian freelance writer currently based out of Calgary. A self-professed dweeb with a dash of geek, Danielle attained a BA in English at the University of Calgary back in 2010. She has an obsession with running and cats and also loves to read, write and listen to angry music. You can follow her on twitter @PluviophileRead or check out her website.