Politics, Religion, and Nutrition

September 7, 2011

In our recent interview of Dr. Barry Sears, he brought up something that we have also mentioned on the podcast a few times.

If you want to get a debate going and even tempers flaring, just bring up one of the topics in the 3rd rail of discussion: politics, religion, or nutrition.

Some people will say to avoid discussions of politics and religion in mixed company. But not many mention nutrition in that category.

I contend that nutrition is the most potentially inflammatory topic of the three!

Here’s why:

1. Most people eat 3 times a day. So, everyone is an expert in nutrition! Even if they eat breakfast at Starbucks, lunch at McDonalds, and dinner at Taco Bell every day. Science be damned, don’t take away my mocha frappachinos, French fries and 7 layer burritos (do those still exist?)!

2. Politics and religion can easily be avoided. Most gatherings involve a meal. Church is only once a week for most religious people. Politics is a little trickier, because it’s talked about on TV 24×7, so you’d think our individual worlds revolved around it! But the truth is, despite all the rhetoric about Democracy, as citizens we have very little control of what our so-called leaders may decide for us. So everyone may have an opinion, but once you realize that all these opinions don’t amount to a hill of beans (or beef?) at a luncheon, it becomes advantageous to move on in the discussion- or take it “off line”.

3. Nutrition is not off limits! It’s completely acceptable to launch into a discussion on food while at a gathering where there is a lot of food eating going on. Typically, I will be prompted to give my opinion because of my part in Healthy Mind Fit Body. However, I’m not a fan of the topic. Not many will be convinced of anything, no matter what one’s credentials are. And I’m sure there are those who will think “What do a couple of goofballs on a podcast who talk about donuts all the time know about eating?” I take solace in realizing that even bio-chemists who spend their lives with this stuff face the same wrath at their dinner parties!

4. The general consensus is, it’s fun to eat poorly! Some events I have been to remind me of my 8th grade. I had always been taught to get good grades, and I was generally in classes with smart kids. But 8th was high school for me, and suddenly it was COOL to get BAD grades! Being the contrarian that I am, I did the bare minimum and ended up on top of the bell curve with mostly A’s that year. So, not much has changed. I’ve been accused of being a carb nazi and even trying to ruin people’s fun because of the things I eat at parties or get togethers. But the funny thing is, I don’t preach- the mere idea of eating what I want to eat often times doesn’t sit well with people. So, in the general consensus case, actual talking doesn’t even have to happen before people get offended!

What has your experience been with the triad of inflammatory topics? Put in your comments below!

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5 comments on “Politics, Religion, and Nutrition

  1. I recently had quite an exchange with an RD. She posts her e-mails and commentary on new studies and articles quite regularly in a fourm open only to employees. We went back and forth for a while then she sent me an e-mail saying that she is actually far more accepting of the Paleo lifestyle than she felt confortable admitting in an open forum. She is a senior consultant at the regional level so it gave me an idea of just how powerful the nutritional orthodoxy is in our particular organization.

  2. Challenging anything that someone is “sure of” will always draw at least mild hostility. I don’t do religion, my political views disagree with conservatives and liberals alike, and I eat paleo/primal, so I’m doomed. I never bring any of it up, but I will respond in kind if someone else does.

  3. Chris H. Sep 7, 2011

    I also think that people take comments about what they eat very personally because food says so much about who we are; “we are what we eat” applies to comments as well.

  4. I agree talking about diet can turn ugly fast in a group setting depending. I have always been a serious athlete and take nutrition seriously. I am always amazed at how vegans tend to look down on me bc I eat paleo. Its hard to take them seriously if you were to compare their physique with mine. But of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder…right?
    good article.

  5. This is so true. I couldn’t agree more that the topic of nutrition is as inflammatory, or more so, than religion and politics. I actually found this post by searching the terms “politics religion nutrition” because I was pondering that very concept. I was thinking about it because of my repeated and recent experiences with the negative outcomes from trying to discuss nutrition.

    But with nutrition we have science as way of getting to the truth. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of appreciation for real science in the general population. instead we have unqualified individuals coming up with theories, getting them published, and gaining a following.

    For instance, if you thought it might be good to eat as our ancestors did, then you could look to the scientists who study human activity in the past. One simple way to start on this would be to google “paleo diet archaeology” or “paleo diet anthropology”.

    Like any other topic you search for on the web, you’ll find some junk. For instance the “….. Officially Declare Collective Sigh…” thing. But the general idea is that if you base your diet on what we used to eat in the past, and we have fields of science devoted to studying human activity in the past, then it’s probably a good idea to pay attention to that science.

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