The demonization of food

Note: I posted this on a food & diet website I frequent. Thought it might be interesting to share here as well.

I’ve seen this happen in virtually every aspect of food and/or dieting. Today there was a brief flurry of stuff in my friends list about cheeseburgers and OMG HOW AWFUL

But why?

If you go to a fast food joint and get the greasy, salt-laden, saturated-fat megaburger, yeah. That’s not great. I suspect that is what people mean when they say “cheeseburger.” The Dairy Queen, In-and-Out, Burger King, Mickey D’s, Wendy’s idea of a cheeseburger, with the white, fluffy bun that is 93.5% chemicals and the rest is air. The word has sort of become a shorthand way of saying “fast food burger that is going to kill us all.”

The demonization of food


Mmm...bacon cheeseburger

But…why can’t we think – and talk – rationally about cheeseburgers?

I make ‘em sometimes. With ground bison if it’s on sale, or 93-95% lean beef if that’s on sale. I get whole grain buns made without High Fructose Corn Syrup. I use 2% cheese so I get some fat and good flavor. If you use things like fresh veg, an olive oil-based mayo and go easy on the bacon, there is nothing nutritionally wrong with a cheeseburger.

Just don’t eat nine of them. And you know what? Once in a blue moon – for me it means once a month or less – eating Mickey D’s ain’t gonna kill you any faster than the diseases we’re all gonna get if we live long enough anyway.

Yesterday I got my copy of the ADA Times. Multi-page article about a woman struggling with the fact that her husband was basically sabotaging her attempts to get healthy. First of all, her husband seems like an insecure douchebag. But…the point of the article was to help us understand client issues and recognize that their relationships can have an affect on success. Which is a good thing of which to remind us. But…the article started out with a giant photo and a passage demonizing pizza.

Why? Pizza, handled correctly, can remain in anyone’s diet. Just the other day I was craving pizza. So instead of ordering one, my wife and I went and got some healthy, protein-and-veg-heavy foods for dinner but on the way home, we picked up slices. She had two, I had one (I had a massive pile of chicken breast so I didn’t get two slices). Those slices were 1/4 of the amount we would have eaten had we ordered a whole pizza, but they hit the spot and satisfied the mental craving for something “naughty.”

Pizza can even be made to be healthy. Make the crust yourself, do it with whole grains, use 2% cheese, leave off salty sauces, use a lot of vegetables as toppings, use processed meats sparingly as accent flavors, not the main topping and you’ll be eating a reasonably healthy meal. Man cannot live on bread alone, but I’ll bet my life he could live on pizza if you made it right.

Success on a lifelong diet plan cannot be based on total restriction. You will break. EVERYONE will break. Modifying your behavior and making smart decisions can delay the breaking. And if you do it well, you may find that the small rewards of a slice every month or two is all the break you need to stay on track most of the time.

Barring some specific exceptions (like HFCS), foods are not the enemy. How we act around and about them – in otherwords us, ourselves – that’s the enemy, and that is the beast which must be tamed.


Comments are closed.

  1. CM

    Nice. Good piece Jim.
    KFC’s ‘double down’ burger was released here in New Zealand yesterday. As you’d expect, there’s been lots of press about how unhealthy they are. I’ve been busy making fun off all the uber-serious killjoys. Of course, the reality is that there are already worse things on fast-food menus. But the hoopla is exactly what KFC were hoping for – those who would never eat it anyway can scream and get angry, and those who are likely to, or are curious enough to try it, are alerted to it.
    Anyway, as you suggest, I’m sure a similar one of these could be made at home that would be at least as nice, and much healthier.

    Thumb up 0

  2. ilovecress

    The difference – I think anyway – is that you are actually cooking yourself, using ingredients – which is something that not a lot of people do nowadays.

    Oh, and CM – good to see another NZ dweller on here. I’m off to try the doubledown burger.

    Thumb up 0

  3. Seattle Outcast

    I appreciate that you make burgers, but what you described isn’t something I’d want to eat. Too dry: burgers need 15 – 20% fat content to be juicy. Most of it cooks out, so it isn’t a problem, but lean beef and bison are like eating shoe leather.

    Thumb up 0

  4. JimK *

    Do you really believe I’m eating shoe leather? Gimme some credit man!

    First of all, cooking ANY ground meat to grey is a fucking crime. My burgers always have some natural juice just from the fact that I don’t overcook them. Secondly, there’s a trick with ice water that makes them even juicier. I’ll also drop a bit of olive oil in the meat, replacing saturated fat with mono-unsaturated. Lastly, I know how to form a patty and cook it so that little physical manipulation is needed. Keeps the juices inside. Never press a burger, unless you’re a line cook and you don’t give a fuck.

    Anyway. I could put a burger in front of you that you would swear is 85%. Only it’ll have a lot less saturated fat. I got my shit on lockdown. :)

    Thumb up 1