“Dietary Consumerism” – Is Variety Killing You?

file0001725869106The American culture is based in large measure on consumerism, the idea that fulfillment is found in progressive consumption of various goods and services. We “shop till we drop,” looking for the latest in fashion or electronic gadgetry. The old isn’t good enough, we need “new and improved,” or something better, or just something different, out of the ordinary. We feel deprived by the old, energized by the new – necessary or not.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been there. It’s hard to escape this mentality even as we know it’s not how Christians should live. This isn’t limited to just material goods; I wonder sometimes if this consumerism has affected the way we eat as well. Could we have “dietary consumerism,” always chasing the bigger, better, more exciting meal? I think so.

Watch some of television’s cooking/food shows and see what you think. Nothing is ordinary about the typical dishes prepared for your viewing pleasure. New restaurant start-ups and the changing menus of old favorites also demonstrate our collective drive for variety and change. Don’t give us the same old meal! We want something different, something better! And let’s not forget the all you can eat buffet, which is not uniquely American but we d it pretty well.

Yet, with regard to health, simpler is usually better (but not always of course). A few wholesome and fresh ingredients, little processing, and simple, direct cooking (or no cooking) often produce the healthiest dishes. And perhaps “the same” might be better than “different.” To the extent the need for “new and different” drives us to replace healthy foods with unhealthy ones, “dietary consumerism” and the search for variety may be killing us.

Let’s all give ourselves permission to stick with any healthy foods we like. It’s okay to have a few basic meals that you enjoy over and over again. Resist the temptation to feel that you must eat a different dinner every night. Consider finding a small group of healthy meals you enjoy and eat them a lot for a while. If you like oatmeal and want to eat it for breakfast five or six days a week, great! Don’t let a more-is-better, consumerist view push you into a “keeping up with the Joneses” diet. Are the Joneses healthy?

I once had a doctor friend who ate a peanut butter sandwich every day for years, many years. Why? Simple, he liked it, and he had insulin-dependent diabetes and this was a very healthy lunch from the standpoint of blood sugar control. Did he get bored? Maybe, but I don’t think so. He was grateful to be having a good lunch with friends and to be taking care of himself.

Certainly everyone doesn’t need to eat just like he did, but you get the basic idea. Perhaps it’s worth a try for you. Yes, it’s countercultural to eat this way – simple, fresh, limited variety. But then it’s also countercultural to be healthy. I encourage you to do what’s good for you, no matter how weird it sounds to everyone else. (And by the world’s standards, we Christians are supposed to be weird.)

Eat well. Be well.