Frida Garza | Food porn for thought

The Internet Explorer | Don’t let Instagram, gym selfies or the latest diet craze ruin your appetite

· February 4, 2014, 8:03 pm   ·  Updated February 5, 2014, 12:54 am

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Frida Garza | DP

Frida Garza 

The Internet Explorer


Everyone on the Internet is a health guru. Pick any trend and there are hundreds of self-proclaimed experts with an Instagram account who are ready to tell you how to eat your way to happiness. You are always just one Google search away from expert advice on the paleo diet, veganism, fruitarian living, gluten-free baking, CrossFit, Bikram, etc.

The FDA doesn’t police food blogs, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. One particularly confusing health trend is #cleaneating. Search the hashtag on Instagram and you’ll scroll through endless pictures of everything from steamed chicken and veggies to sugary vegan pancake stacks. What’s the scientific logic tying them all together?

In a report titled “What is clean eating?” (never mind how popular a trend gets, there will always be people who require more explanation on the subject), CNN writes that clean eating is meant for people “who want to feel good about what they’re putting in their bodies.”

I had Federal Donuts the other day and I felt great — is that clean eating? It is hard to create a healthy, feel-good movement around food and/or the act of eating, because people need and enjoy different things. Healthy looks different for a marathon trainee and someone with serious food allergies. And happy looks different for a family on food stamps and a girl during finals week.

We should not be judging our diets based on arbitrary guidelines (Is this gluten-free? Is there dairy in this? Would a caveman eat it?) but instead get motivated by our individual body goals.

Each person’s body is different and each person’s narrative of finding nutrition nirvana will be too. No one should try to blindly follow what appears on their news feeds or what another CrossFit blog says about carbs.

Instead, we should take the time to figure out what does and doesn’t work for our bodies — and then stop sharing and bragging about it on the Internet.

Social media adds a weird layer of social pressure to the world of dieting. The new year brought about more gym selfies than I’ve ever seen in my life. By the first weekend of February, these were replaced by pictures of Super Bowl nachos and spinach dip.

What we should realize is that these are edited versions of our lives and our eating habits — these snapshots probably don’t capture the day your friend woke up late and had Wishbone for lunch or his 2 a.m. trip to McDonald’s. On the internet, you can’t tell which friend spends more time at the gym or which one went up a pant size last week.

Kelsey Miller, a writer for Refinery29, just launched “The Anti-Diet Project.” She self-identifies as someone with a history of disordered eating, citing a time when her life revolved around yogurt and ellipticals. Now, she is working with specialists to help her get back to the basics of a healthy lifestyle.

The goal of the Anti-Diet Project is to forget about the “good” foods and “bad” foods binary and to reduce shame around eating either one. On her Instagram, Kelsey recently posted a picture of her favorite “guilt-free beef stew.” She adds, “It’s just regular beef stew that you don’t feel bad about eating.”

In a brave and interesting way, Kelsey is attempting the unthinkable — to unlearn years of contradictory and unhelpful messages that she and other men and women have received about food.

There is uncertainty in dieting — that’s why it’s a $61 billion industry. But now, thankfully, there’s a wave of reason washing over us. As Mark Bittman wrote last month in The New York Times, we don’t need dieting — just proper nutrition. Despite the wealth of trendy diets and food fads, eating well comes down to three things: variety, balance and moderation. Eat all the food groups. Don’t eat too much of any one. These are practices we can all abide by — without going completely insane.

Frida Garza is a College senior from El Paso, Texas, studying English. Email her at frida.garza@gmail.com or follow her ?@fffffrida.

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