Melissa Craig, Bearfoot Bistro

Spoiling the Meal

Americans put a lot of energy into thinking about dietary requirements for healthy eating. An invitation to share a meal often comes with a query about dietary requirements. Restaurants are unfazed by requests for paleo vegan gluten-free meals. Are we spoiling the meal? Are we making ourselves healthier?

The French honor a very different approach. French cuisine is a matter of national pride. UNESCO has designated the French gastronomic meal to be a vital part of the cultural heritage of humanity. French restaurants and French hosts are not really interested in your “dietary requirements.” A fine French meal is a shared experience of the highest order.

And oddly enough France has an obesity rate that is barely more than half the rate of obesity in the U.S.

Obesity Rate and Healthy EatingCould it be that an obsessive pursuit of healthy eating is not working out so well in real life? A quick glance at statistics on the rise of the concept of “healthy eating” in English language books tells us that our interest in this concept has grown easily as fast as our obesity rate. All that writing, thinking, and talking about “healthy eating” seems to have had no good effect with regard to obesity.

Recently in the New York Times, Pamela Druckerman explained the wisdom she has found in French food:

The overarching conventional wisdom — what everyone from government experts to my French girlfriends take as articles of faith — is that restrictive diets generally don’t make you healthier or slimmer. Instead, it’s best to eat a variety of high quality foods in moderation and pay attention to whether you’re hungry.

It’s worth asking. Are we “eating healthy” or just fooling ourselves and spoiling the meal?

Click here to read Druckerman’s commentary.

Melissa Craig, Bearfoot Bistro. Photograph © Rishad Daroo / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


4 Responses to “Spoiling the Meal”

  1. April 26, 2015 at 5:34 pm, Joe Gitchell said:

    Simple lies, complex truths….

    • April 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm, Ted said:

      Talk is cheap, change is hard. Thanks, Joe.

  2. May 01, 2015 at 12:00 pm, Holly said:

    This is the tenet of Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in feeding (google this to read more). Basically, eat what you want (“healthy” or “not healthy”), but stop when you’re full. It makes perfect sense.

    • May 01, 2015 at 2:42 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Holly. I agree.