That's cool, because I am into healthy eating, too!

I’ve come to realize over the past three years of my college experience that the phrase “I am a healthy eater,” is used liberally and with conviction among my peers. Amazingly, in spite of eating almost no produce they believe that they eat healthful diets. Telling them otherwise would result in defensiveness and rationalizations. I have friends who are athletes, environmental activists, pre-meds, you name it, and are intelligent, forward-thinking people. Yet, when it comes to what they put in their mouths, they are clueless. For example, I just moved into an apartment with two new roommates (one female, one male) and the refrigerator and cabinets were already stocked with food (well, if you could call it that) when I arrived. After living at home for a while with its endless supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, I was taken aback by what I saw: oreos, chips, weight watchers bars, and other convenient, imperishable foods were in the cabinets, frozen pizzas, macaroni dishes, and fake meats with unpronounceable, artificial ingredients, in the freezer. Other than a few carrots and a melon, no fresh vegetables and fresh fruits, no mushrooms, no beans and no raw nuts or seeds were in the kitchen. 

Cookies

I began chatting with my new roommate about my upbringing and how important eating healthfully is to me. As a competitive runner, he heartily agreed with me about the importance of fueling your body with nutritious foods and he explained that healthy eating is very important to him too. There was a clear discrepancy between his nutritional philosophy and the foods he had stocked in our kitchen. This has been a frequent occurrence for me over the years and shows how nutritionally uneducated people are. Little is done to educate the American populace about one of the most important topics of their lives: how to eat a disease- preventing diet.   I do my best to educate my friends when they ask me for advice, but I’ve learned from experience not to push my eating philosophy on others. Their chosen eating habits are like a religion to some people, and not open to debate. I hope my friends are curious about what I eat and ask me questions, and in many instances they do. I also have friends who could care less about what I put in my mouth, convinced that their mediocre diet is just as healthy, if not more so. I accept this, but I do wish that all my friends and others were blessed with the nutritional knowledge that I am fortunate to possess. 

Have you found those around you to be curious about your diet and the nutritarian lifestyle? How do you handle conflicting nutritional beliefs?

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Comments (19) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Stephanie - July 9, 2010 4:15 PM

Talia, I'm also in college, and I've had a fairly similar experience. A lot of people think I'm utterly crazy. Some think I'm onto something, but that they could never do it themselves. Then there are those rare few who are actually interested in understanding why it is that I eat the way I do and in implementing at least some of my eating habits in their own lives. And while it really makes me sad when people are so misinformed that they don't recognize the truth when it's staring them in the face, all their scorn is completely worth it for that one person who wants to learn.

Anyway, my general policy is to keep my mouth shut unless people ask me questions. Otherwise, it just creates far too many problems. I push at my family for their eating habits a little, but that's it.

CACC - July 9, 2010 5:04 PM

This is true after college, too. I'm finding that most people think they eat "pretty healthy." Given what they eat, I wonder what they think an unhealthy diet would be! In my 20's I thought I was a very healthy eater but my diet was basically oatmeal, yogurt with fruit, whole grains, and perhaps some broccoli and some legumes. I was getting my nutrition information from magazines and had no idea it was biased and incorrect. Fortunately a friend introduced me to Dr. Fuhrman; otherwise I would probably still think that my old diet was really healthy.

Margie Sifuentes - July 9, 2010 5:49 PM

I definitely agree that "healthy eating" has a wide spectrum of definition. I cannot be too critical thought as I have eaten all that "stuff" for most of my life ignorant of how it was affecting my body and my health.

Angela - July 9, 2010 6:10 PM

I feel you. I'm just out of college, and in the office world... it sure doesn't get much better. It's really hard to talk to people about Eat to Live sometimes because people really do get defensive about their diets like it *is* their religion like you said. People are so into "this is the way I am" that if you try to tell them they are wrong, they get mad. I really desire to help people. But it's hard. I wish everyone would read Eat to Live...

I took the elevator to leave work today and a nice man held the door for me. He was tall and obese. I thought, "man, I'd really like to blurt out, 'Look I know a book that would really help you'" but then I'd basically be saying "I couldn't help but notice you are fat." Haha. Anyway, Dr. F, keep publicizing your stuff! If people are looking for answers, they will want it for sure.

sandi1 - July 9, 2010 6:53 PM

Hey!! I'm not in college (but I think I remember it...) but I am also tired of people telling me that what they are eating must be ok..."because people have been eating it for years." eek! We have two homes and one is in a teeny town in Wyoming and I am LOVING the farmers markets and the fruits and vegetables that are home grown. Our other house is a townhome in a big city and sometimes we have to really DRIVE to get organic foods. You hang in there with your roommates and your friends and LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE!! ;)

Johanna - July 9, 2010 7:06 PM

I was angry when I found out at 60+ years of age that I THOUGHT I ate fairly well, but that I did not. Here I have been ruining my body by eating food from bad categories--meat and dairy. I had been affected by the advertisements of industries. I believe it is important to try to influence people. It is important because if more people demand produce when they go out to eat, when I go out, I will eventually have more healthy choices. If more people are influenced, this is more likely to happen. I found a convert at work, and together, we believe in doing this. We don't push others, but we are on a campaign to talk to anyone and everyone who will listen. In short, I think it is important not to be silent.

Mike Crosby - July 9, 2010 8:05 PM

Hello Tallia. How wonderful to have been raised in a household that honors good nutrition. In fact, your dad is my hero.

Very rarely do I run into someone who was raised with good nutritional habits. I'm always so excited for that person, realizing they don't have all this baggage to deal with later. After all these years, I'm 56, I'm still drawn to foods of my childhood.

I have learned so much from your dad, Dr McDougall and others, that I want to shout from the top of buildings about good nutrition. But I'm like Stephanie, the commenter above, I've learned to keep my mouth shut.

To eat an unhealthy diet in America is the norm. Trust me, while it's normal for you to eat the way you do, you are on the very fringes of society when it comes to diet. I'm sure you know that.

I googled "High carbohydrate diet" and I didn't have to go down far to see that carbohydrates are looked upon as bad food. When it comes to nutrition, we're really up-side-down in our thinking.

And Talia, does mommy and daddy know you have a guy for a roommate? Kidding.

Thanks for posting Talia. I'm not sure if it was you your dad was talking about (I heard your dad speak in Los Angeles a few years ago) and he mentioned how one of his daughters went to Europe and came home weighing less because she wouldn't eat the food.

Anyway, I really appreciate your perspective.

Kate - July 9, 2010 8:09 PM

Food comes up the most in public situations when my kids are involved. It seems as though every activity for kids is loaded with junk that some people call "food". I remember reading nutrition books when my first daughter reached 6 months of age, because I knew I needed to know what was best for her as she began to consume more than just breast milk.

From then until now, (she's almost 9) I never got to a point where I said to myself, "Now would be a good time to give her a Pop Tart, or a handful of M & M's. So when we go to functions where I know food will be offered, I always bring a "real" food option that my girls will enjoy, and that may even resemble what the other kids are eating.

The other moms notice that I go to this trouble, and some of them ask questions about our food choices. That's where I gently throw in some info about why we eat the foods we do (fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, pastured eggs/meats, beans, nuts, etc) and avoid foods that contain preservatives, sugars, flavor enhancers, artificial colors/flavors, etc.

One mom recently told me that she was making some changes around her house because of some of the things we've spoken about over the last year or so. But she also mentioned (and this was such a relief to me!) that I wasn't pushy or "know it all" about the subject. Trust me, I have to try not to be that way, because I so strongly believe that eating junk is so harmful (from formula for babies all the way up to junk food "granola bars" for adults).

Your roomates will learn a lot from watching you! They're fortunate to have you around.

Molly - July 9, 2010 10:47 PM

Wow, what a great topic! I work at a gourmet grocery, where you'd imagine that at least some percentage of the employees are interested in healthy eating – nope! I seem to be the lone ranger – and everyone knows it. I've frequently been singled out for my "strange" food choices, and had to explain my food philosophy over and over to people who either can't or refuse to comprehend the idea that there are better choices out there. I find that most people put no thought whatsoever into what they put into their bodies, beyond "does it taste good?", and if they do, they focus on specific nutrients to the exclusion of others (i.e. protein is best, avoid carbs, etc.). I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle, so lately I've just been keeping my mouth shut.

Mike - July 10, 2010 10:27 AM

Talia: I suspect you will influence many people to chooose better foods. Many won't change but some will and you will be the reason why some start eating better or go all the way and convert from SAD to ETL. -Mike

Elisa Rodriguez - July 10, 2010 10:56 AM

I couldn't relate more to you ladies. It is therapeutic just to hear others have similar experiences. Fortunately, action speaks louder than words, and often inspires people when they are at the proper stage of readiness. Keep being that good example. I'm about a decade ahead of you both and wish I had known what I know now - when I was your age ;0) Use it to do great things!! All the best...

Mitzi - July 10, 2010 2:31 PM

Same experience in grad school at a medical institution. A high fat, high-sodium (with a little fruit) "continental" breakfast is served every year at Hypertension Research day. Huh? "Free food" for students is always pizza, barbecue, or wraps with chips,soda, and a cookie, with vegetarian options only available if requested in advance, on a campus with a large Indian vegetarian population. There is a real disconnect between "preventive medicine" (we have a department doing research on it) and what we see offered. If we complain- "Hey- it's free!". I bring my cooler full of veggies and fruit and quietly nosh back at the lab.
It is cool to go to school with Indians. We were talking at the lunch table about their food and one American mentioned naan (a rich flatbread). A chorus rose from the table as they all said, unanimously,"You can't eat that stuff every day- it will kill you!" Some cultures educate their young about wise food choices much better than we do.

Cindy - July 10, 2010 5:39 PM

Talia, you're right about people not wanting to be challenged about eating habits. However, you are an excellent communicator (at least in writing!) and those who are truly motivated will see your example. Some of us take longer to get the message than others. I sadly concur with you and others about the poor eating habits on college campuses, including my own daughter's experience as a medical student at a respected university (NO nutrition course). As for you, perhaps you'll follow in your dad's footsteps or continue writing . . . but you're bound to be successful. Best wishes!

Patricia - July 10, 2010 11:25 PM

My kids tended to eat with the foreign students and share the kitchen with good whole foods - mostly vegetables. It was hard sometimes - they are in their 30s now, but they stuck with it....One of my children had a roommate who ate supper at McDonalds every night the $1 meals - my child could see that she had allergies and colds all the time. It was a good lesson.
People are very devoted to eating what they think is the right food for them

Brod - July 11, 2010 12:59 AM

Many people believe just because they eat food they are an expert in nutrition! It really comes down to the individual whether or not they actually question the health/diet advice they receive. To do this you have to think laterally and have an open mind, and/or a personal interest in health longevity.

As you all know, today most people are educated through Tv, magazines, radio and other media avenues. Many messages are just advertisements disguised as health messages. When it comes to diet and health advice, marketing companies tend to take a kernel of truth and wrap it up in tall tale, unsupported by any scientific facts.

This is the reason why there is such diversity as to what constitutes a good diet. Additionally, due to the information overload/conflicting data currently circulating on this topic most people find it overwhelming and confusing to further investigate or challenge their current beliefs on this topic.

The number one problem today is proper health education! I believe that we need to become good consumers of information and ask questions about everything.... Today many professionals are promoting rather then informing and much of the time they are promoting only one aspect of health (like, weight loss, strength or physical appearance), not health in its entirety.

You can't change those who already know best, just lead by example and when need be, become a good messenger and give them some quality reading on this topic, like Eat to Live or The China Study.

Be well,

BK

Lisa Marqueling - July 12, 2010 12:39 PM

I think people use the phrase "I eat healthy" as if it is some type of fad. It isn't. It is a lifestyle choice that I battle with everyday. Some days I win, Some days I lose. :0| .

I get approached all of the time about food (because I love to eat haha). I was approached at college because of my blended smoothie. The guy next to me was what is that???? I told him that it was blended fruits and vegetables and he goes how weird, I never had one. Never had a smoothie????? lol. I was totally amazed!

As for talking about food, I have had bad experiences. People do not want to give up eating junk no matter what the cost (especially nasty meat!). They will defend until their death! (no pun.)

Talia - July 12, 2010 5:16 PM

Yeah, I really do believe that we become emotionally attached to the foods we grow up eating. Nutritional ignorance and misinformation combined with this emotional attachment can make people defensive and adamant that the way they eat is "the way to do it". I always love it when my friends ask me questions about what I eat and I hope that I can have a good influence on as many people as possible. It's true though, there is a fine line between coming across as a "know it all" and just trying to be a good friend and help out. I feel so lucky to be raised eating a truly healthful diet and not have to make any diet transition. I imagine it must be difficult. Best to you all, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I think we all can make a difference for those who are willing to listen :) Haha and I have been to Europe a few times, but I've found wonderful flee markets and on my last visit, there was an all-you-can-eat salad bar restaurant right next to my hotel! Eating healthfully has become easy in most places of the world I think (well perhaps not in the south U.S. :P).

Sue - July 13, 2010 7:46 AM

I am waiting for the day when we have charter schools that emphasize nutrition and exercise physiology and healthy lifestyle as the foundation for their other subjects. I mean, how do you define ultimate success in life? Is it the ability to make money or the ability to enjoy a healthy and active life well into deep old age? The saying "when you have your health you have everything" wasn't created in a vacuum. We have our priorities totally backward in this society.

StephenMarkTurner - July 13, 2010 10:54 AM

I think the danger in being a "know it all" is that no one does.

Over at the McDougall site, there will be a different idea of a perfect diet (little nuts and seeds, lots of potatoes) for example.

Many, many, many posters to Disease Proof are obviously vegan, and their idea of a perfect diet will have zero animal products, but even the most advanced eating style (Phase 4) of Eat For Health includes 2 servings of animal products per week.

Who truly is the guru? I am going with Joel (and my little bit of meat/eggs) for now, but that may or may not change in the future.

Regards,
Steve

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