Basically whole food focused is a term that I made up to describe how I cook and my food philosophy. Believe it or not we all have a food philosophy. That is, we have some sort of feelings about what we should be eating, why and when. Usually food has the least to do with our food philosophies, but we have all created a story around it. To understand my particular philosophy, why I use the term whole food focused, you need to understand my relationship with food.
My relationship with food has always been strained. The thing is I love food, but I have a laundry list of allergies and sensitivities that would honestly just make you ask how I find anything to eat. I’ve also known about these since I was a small child. My most vivid memory was being at a friend’s birthday party, when I was about 8, sipping out of thermos of chocolate soy milk while everyone else ate cake. I always thought that the pain I felt after eating was my body digesting food and that everyone felt that. I honestly never had any clue about how terribly I was feeling on a regular basis.
Fast forward 12 or so years and I’ve narrowed down the things that were making me the most sick. The hardest being that I was diagnosed with Celiac which means I cannot have wheat gluten, anything that’s touched it, or anything that maybe could have been around it. Honestly, from a food perspective, this is not a big deal. Wheat is literally one food and there are 1000s of other foods out there. What makes is tricky is that eating is a social thing. We make what you eat say something about your feelings about health, about your socio-economic status, about your consideration of others or your individuality.
My favorite way to illustrate this is the debate about what children should be allowed to bring to school. A lot of schools have banned peanuts. This has created two groups of parents, the ones who think they should absolutely be banned and everyone should be on board. Then there the parents who can’t understand why their child can’t enjoy something they like because of the possibility of one kid getting sick. What they are upset about has nothing to do with food. The first group of parents is saying this thing is bad and we should all come together and be on the same page. The second group of parents is saying we are individuals and should be responsible for taking care of our own lives separate from the group. I’m not weighing in on whether I think either group is right, I am just illustrating that they aren’t arguing about peanuts. They are debating a fundamental difference in philosophy.
This is what happens all the time. We think we’re discussing food and really we are talking about our ideals, morals and feelings about how to live life in general. Beyond that, we tend to live in our own philosophies. What I mean is that we find out what works for us and then assume since we’re all humans that this must work for other people. That other people are being unreasonable, are ignorant or irrational and at some point they will recognize that the thing that works for us is the best thing to do. The thing is EVERYONE has some of these beliefs and EVERYONE is different. Period, end of story.
For me I felt that a whole food diet was the best way a person could eat. That’s what I would say. Avoid all food products, so anything you buy in a package from a store, and only eat ingredients that come in their whole form. Examples being: potatoes, carrots, rice, tomatoes, basically any produce. The thing about this was that I didn’t come from a genuine place of feeling this was the best for me, I came from a place of fear and distrust. You see, I didn’t trust that food products wouldn’t have something they didn’t disclose that would make me sick. I didn’t trust that food producers understood or cared about my individual needs because, well, they make food the masses. Then I had a moment of clarity.
The word trust is often used to express a function of control. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust, it was that I couldn’t control. Food products didn’t let me control exactly what was going in my body. I could never fully know every iota of what was in my food and control it down to every micronutrient. To use food products meant that I had to give up control. That’s when I realized I cannot control everything, it literally impossible, so I need to find some peace with this. I needed to find some ways to loosen control and trust that the world wouldn’t burn if I let someone provide for me. So I researched what was actually important to look out for and started using food products again.
This also led to me eating out more and having food become part of my social life again. So I use the term whole food focused because I do believe eating whole foods is important, but I also have learned that there are wonderful products out there that really can support your overall health. It was honestly so freeing and why I cook the way I do know. My core feeling is that health should be accessible and cooking without products doesn’t completely align with that so figuring this out was a huge shift for me.
I hope this illuminates some of the things you do around food that may actually be tied to a belief or philosophy about life in general. Do any of you have a food story?