*Allergen Warning: this article contains gluten, soy, tree nuts, trans fats, contempt, shellfish, dairy, GMO’s, MSG, BPA, LSD, TBHQ, WTF and whimsy. Consuming raw or undercooked opinions may increase your chances of developing a sense of humor.*
I have some news for you: you’re going to die.
Probably not today. And if you’re young or lucky, you’ve got plenty of years left to waste on masturbation or cosplay or spending time with your loved ones.
Eventually, though, no matter what precautions you take, no matter if you spend exactly 120 minutes per week in the gym and never let a molecule of high fructose corn syrup touch your sainted lips, Death will slide in your DMs. She’ll send unsolicited nudes and you WILL meet her in that IHOP parking lot even though you’ll know it’s the last free act you’ll take on earth.
A lot of folks seem to be in denial of this immutable fact. As a response, they’ve taken one of humanity’s greatest gifts, our omnivorousness, and perverted it to cram themselves into dietary sarcophagi. They fret over ingredient labels, calorie counts and milligrams of sodium as if such action will permanently stave off aging, sickness and death.
From their diets they remove gluten, the wheat protein that inspired agriculture and formed the basis of civilization. They strike soy, which has existed in myriad fermented forms in the human diet for thousands of years. They discard cooked foods, whose chemical efficiencies are evolutionarily responsible for the miraculous brains that have now invented reasons to avoid them.
There’s now a name for this obsessive, impossible, shame-ridden approach to sustenance: orthorexia. Researchers define it as “an extreme preoccupation with foods that are considered unhealthy,” and it’s on the cusp of becoming a recognized psychiatric disorder.
These folks exist along a spectrum, and the results range from being really annoying at restaurants to starving themselves to death. We’re not talking about the extreme efforts of the morbidly obese or the coworker who’s always “on a diet” but also always eating chips and queso. An orthorexic’s focus is much narrower than the width of his waist.
Whether the specific pathology is paleo, grain-free, militant vegans or a more obscure cult, it often takes on a moral dimension. To eat animal parts or particular monocrops is more than an individual choice based on hunger and availability. Failing to dogmatically adhere to “clean” eating is considered ignorant, irresponsible or disgusting.
It goes without saying that exactly none of these diets are the optimal nutritional code for human flourishing. Why? Because there is no optimal nutritional code for human flourishing.
Historically, human beings have fed themselves on foraged vegetables. We’ve eaten mineral-rich clay to patch nutritional gaps in our diets. We have built thriving societies while chowing down on nothing but whale blubber and lichen. There is a mile-long list of foodstuffs that, in many combinations, will get us to reproductive age. A shorter, but still quite long, list will carry us happily into middle age.
And then? Your body falls apart. Doesn’t matter what you eat. Doesn’t matter what you do. Death is a feature of evolution, not a bug. Aging and dying give the world room to take a breath and put forth a new, better iteration of itself.
There are basically two classes of things you can put in your body: those that will kill you immediately, and those that will kill you eventually. The former category can vary individually, and I can’t advise partaking in it. But if anything in the latter category looks and smells good, if it has a crispy crust or a melty interior, if it’s coated in salted caramel and dark chocolate, do yourself a favor: take a bite. Savor it remorselessly. Realize that we’re each here only briefly, and even the flattest of abs and the smoothest of bowel movements is a shitty substitute for the world’s worst slice of pepperoni pizza.