Here’s a neat little experiment.
Next time you’re on social media, try out a variant of this tweet/status:
“Just ate a whole large pizza to myself lmao #goodtimes.”
Now sit back in your chair as the likes and the smileys and the emoticons roll in.
Then read the comments.
“Pizza is the best!”
“EAT ALL THE PIZZA LOLOLOL”
Watch as your choice to eat a whole large pizza by yourself is swamped in a glowing halo of internet affirmation. Great job you good thing. You eat that pizza.
Live your life.
A couple of weeks later try something a little different. Tell people you’re going on a diet. Any diet with a unique name: Atkins diet, juice diet, mediterranean diet, ketogenic diet, anything.
Await the results.
“Have you consulted a Doctor?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Fad diets are stupid.”
Watch as you're sent links to studies ‘debunking’ the diet you’re about to embark on. Watch as people publicly ‘worry’ about you.
Motherfucker, two weeks ago you gave me an internet handjob for eating a family-sized pizza, now you’re concerned because I want to cut out bread?
In my short time breathing air on this earth, I’ve gone on a fair few diets. To be honest, I’m pretty much always on some sort of diet.
I’ve done juice diets when I’ve felt the need to reset my eating habits. I’ve cut out dairy. Over a three year period I ate porridge for breakfast every single day. (That diet doesn’t have a name, I just really like porridge.)
In general I like to prod at my own eating habits. I like to experiment; see what works, see how my body responds.
And there’s no way to say this without sounding like a smug bastard, but I’m very healthy. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. The last time I had a blood test I walked into the Doctor’s office and he told me – his words – that my blood test was “beautiful”. His only concern: “maybe your cholesterol is a little too low”.
Roughly ten days ago, I went on a ketogenic diet. I had been eating dairy free for almost a year. It was working well for me, but I noticed my diet starting to slip. This happens every now and then. I’ll start eating too many sultanas. I’ll develop a powerful sweet tooth, graduate to chocolate and that’s a wrap.
So every now and then, to get back on track, I’ll try out some sort of diet. For me personally, following some sort of general plan gives me a level of discipline above and beyond what I’d normally be capable of. If I just generally try to ‘eat healthy’ I’ll slip. If I say “I’m dairy free” I won’t eat dairy ever. It’s just how my brain works.
Here’s what I’ve noticed.
Every time I start to buckle a bit. Every time I tweet or Facebook about eating cake or chocolate or anything I’m trying not to eat, social media celebrates. They throw me a ‘like’ party the likes of which you’ve never seen.
But any time I try and discuss a new diet, the scare-mongering begins.
That’s when people send me the ‘studies’, or complain that fad diets are terrible. That’s when people start trying to police what I eat. That’s when people get ‘worried’. Gorging on provably unhealthy foods like pizza or fried chicken: thumbs up. Trying to make some sort of positive change in your diet: that’s when people have issues.
I just don’t get it.
The easiest conclusion to draw: people (including me) don’t like having their own lifestyle choices questioned and enjoy the shared glee that comes from doing something ‘bad’ together. The same way people bond over drinks, or a shared cigarette. Same way bunking off school with a group of mates becomes this tremendous bonding experience.
Trying to do the ’right’ thing is a tougher route to take. It’s lonely. There’s peer pressure. It’s high school all over again. It places you on the outside of a shared social contract.
“You think you’re better than me because you don’t eat chips?”
But it’s not just that. It can’t be. There’s genuine concern there, not just insecurity. There are people actually worried certain diets aren’t healthy or sustainable -- and those are good concerns to have. That’s fine. It’s just strange that those same people don’t question the actual, provably terrible diets other people are indulging in. That fact is compartmentalised. Put to the side. Ignored.
You can’t be blasting through a bucket of KFC in one breath, then criticise me for cutting down on carbs the next. That’s just a teensy bit hypocritical.
There’s a weird confluence here, between marketing and a flawed health narrative. The idea that fast food equals party time. That soft drinks happen wherever good times are had in a world where eating too many eggs is bad for you, but sugar laden Nutrigrain is somehow a four-star breakfast choice for healthy eaters. So much of the narrative is bullshit and challenging it somehow makes you the problem.
But here’s the thing, I don’t even care what other people eat. I scroll past pizza updates without a care in the world. At no point do I consider hitting reply on a public status to tell the whole world that pizza is bad, that drinking is bad, that smoking is bad.
Not even close.
I would never dream of doing that, so maybe ease up on people who are trying to eat healthy.
Whatever that means.