THE FEAR OF FOOD
Organic, local, low fat, low sodium, low cal, no carbs, no trans fat. We all want to do the right thing, but making the right choices when there’s so much nutritional noise is becoming next to impossible. Thousands of us—mostly women, according to those in the know—have become so fearful at the prospect of food choices that we are rendered virtually paralyzed.
And it isn’t just food that’s copious; food chatter is also ubiquitous. In fact, more nutrition news is forced down our gullet now than ever before. You can’t get away from it—food news is on the Internet, on television, on the front page. Your friends tweet diet secrets and swap nutrition tips on Facebook. Talk shows on “Cheating Boyfriends (and the Women They Can’t Resist)” have been bumped off the ratings chart by Dr. Oz and the world’s biggest losers. And in 2007, food labelling was made mandatory in Canada, which means that grocery aisles also contain a wealth of information.
It’s not surprising, then, that the 2008 Tracking Nutrition Trends, a national survey, found that eight out of 10 Canadians consider themselves to be somewhat or very nutrition savvy. I mean, how could we not be? But despite attaining nutritional enlightenment, the scale tells a different story. According to Statistics Canada, in 2008 an astounding 43.5 percent of women were classified as overweight (with a Body Mass Index exceeding 25) or obese (BMI of 30-plus). Further, the majority of us don’t meet the requirements of Canada’s Food Guide. The bottom line is grim: we know more but are doing less.
“There’s been this explosion of information, and if you don’t have a degree in nutrition it can cause complete paralysis,” says Francy Pillo-Blocka, president of the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition. She points out that in 1997, only six percent of people used the Internet for information on nutrition. By 2008, that number had skyrocketed to 51 percent.?
That’s a problem, say Vancouver-based registered dietitians and twin sisters Reisha and Rebecca Harper, because the Internet isn’t always accurate. “People become really confused when they are bombarded with sometimes contradicting information. So they get frustrated and anxious,” Reisha says.
While some of us put every mouthful under the microscope—painstakingly analyzing calories, fats, fibre—others simply give up, turning their backs on nutrition tables and letting their taste buds lead them straight to the sugary cereal aisle. “With this information overload, women tend to overeat or eat too little,” says Reisha. Either way, until we are able to cut through the chaos of conflicting information and return to more moderate practices, we’re at a higher risk for disordered eating.