Food dogma versus food karma

Food Dogma

There is a pandemic of food fanaticism in our country now, and like some religion you are not a part of, it seems to walk uninvited into our conversations and kitchens on a regular basis.  I am talking about Food Dogma.

Food Dogma is when we apply unique ideals and belief systems to judge other people’s dinner. It may be based on some science and anecdotal evidence, but essentially it tries to group all food things under a single, simple umbrella.

It uses an appeal to authority to justify the set of rules without consideration for alternatives. It does not account for bio-individuality, personal beliefs, spiritual beliefs, or culture. Regardless of those things, the rules of Food Dogma should apply to everyone.

Food Dogma is easy.  In Food Dogma, one defines a certain set of rules and simply applies them to themselves with a righteousness that allows them to form an opinion on anyone else’s failure (whether by choice or ignorance) to follow the same rules.

Some of those rules might be: Gluten is bad for you. Carnivores are ruining the planet. Sugar is evil. Paleo diets make everyone look like Spartans.

Food Dogma is anytime someone scowls at your plate. Feel free to tell them to suck an egg (if they eat those).

In nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, there is really no place for Food Dogma.  What we need more of (significantly more of) is what I like to call Food Karma.

In Food Karma, there is no judgement, only the desire to offer knowledge in all forms when it is requested.  It is not always easy.  As a nutritionist, I want to drive by gas stations and blurt out “You’re giving yourself diabetes!” to everyone holding a Coke.

Food Karma is about taking personal responsibility for one’s own good food practices (not those of everyone else). It is setting an example that might inspire intellectual exchange on why you personally avoid gluten, meat, or fast food.  It observes one’s personal, individual set of rules and applies only compassion to the rest of the world.

Food Karma is taking your lentil loaf to a party and sharing in the complex, delightful flavors of a healthy meal.  It is offering water to someone when their Coke is gone.  It is sharing your story with kindness when asked.

Because the truth is this: No single set of food rules can apply to everyone. It is possible to be a healthy vegetarian.  It is possible to be a healthy carnivore.  Both of those options also have the potential to cause great physical and environmental harm.

The difference is not in what set of rules you apply, but how you apply them: Are you making a conscious effort to eat healthy and sustainably?  Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t.

Maybe our journey still takes us through the Taco Bell drive-thru.  Maybe we’re starting to visit the farmer’s market more. Whenever we are ready to redirect our path, there are plenty of people willing to share their stories of health so that we may create our own, unique story.

Everyone is at a different place in their journey to health and none of us truly has the right to place our Food Dogma upon others. If we could replace it instead with Food Karma and treat each other and our planet with compassion, the message will spread on its own.

Save your opinion, and pass the butter please.


(This article by Ammi Midstokke was originally published in the Bonner County Daily Bee.)

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