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I Am a Recovering Nutrition Neurotic

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2010-06-26-218_eating_well.jpg

I confess -- I was 110% neurotic about nutrition. I drove my friends, my relatives, and especially myself crazy about the food we all eat. I was convinced that everything we put in our mouth was both harming our bodies and shortening our lives. Let me share with you exactly how I did it. For the love of God, if I can just save one of you from going through what I did, I will sleep easier. Join me on my dysfunctional food journey, won't you?

Oh, it started innocently enough. I decided simply to follow the 5 A Day dietary recommendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA suggests we consume five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Which doesn't seem like an overwhelming challenge unless you're already accustomed to the 5 A Month routine. I started carrying a digital scale to weigh my fruits and vegetables to make sure they constituted a serving. This was the first sign I was headed to Neuroticville. There would be many more signs to come.

Take my grains kick, for instance. I learned that unless the bread I bought contained 100% whole wheat, I was robbing myself and my loved ones of vital nutrition. I started looking down at those purchasing simply white or wheat bread. Fools! You're throwing your money away and killing yourselves with those empty calories and bland, nutrition-less pieces of cardboard! I broke up with a girlfriend who insisted on eating Wonder Bread. Granted, it seems picky, but I saw it as a red flag for deeper health issues down the line.

Of course, you can have the healthiest grains in the world, but what does it all mean if you're not doing all you can to reduce your dietary fats? I learned which were the fatty foods and found out how to develop my own Daily Fat Budget, put together an Action List for Fat, choose a diet low in saturated fat, insure there were no trans-fats in my peanut butter, and put together an entire shelf of fat replacers. By the time I mastered the fine points of margarine vs. butter, I felt I deserved a PhD in Fatology. More importantly, I was becoming insufferably dull to everyone I knew, including myself.

But did I stop there? Au contraire! I became obsessed with the leaner cuts of meat, healthier meats, farm-raised meats, milk-fed meats, meats from animals that were massaged nightly, read stories and tucked in before bed. Of course that was before I started reading all the articles about what meat actually does in your system. I immediately disowned my parents for having raised me on all that putrid animal flesh. I then dropped red meat from my diet, followed by chicken and turkey, and finally - fish. I was now a militant vegetarian, determined to make miserable the lives of those still living in the Dark Age of The Carnivore. I couldn't help noticing that I wasn't being invited to as many parties.

Still, I was happy in my vegetarian bliss. For a while. Until I started reading about the advantages of organic produce and how un-organic produce is poisoning your system. I immediately disowned myself for having fed myself all that poisoned produce. And proceeded to spend three times my normal produce budget on my now-mandatory organic fruits and vegetables. I could no longer in good conscience consume un-organic produce in restaurants. I actually informed my now-disowned parents, while they were eating un-organic apples, that they were ingesting cancerous pesticides and committing slow suicide. I was turning into the Culinary Angel of Death. And then things got worse.

I found myself waking up in a cold sweat after nightmares of giant bioengineered food chasing me down dark alleys. I couldn't concentrate on what people were saying to me because I was so preoccupied with whether I had had enough cruciferous vegetables for the day. I took so many vitamins in the morning that it made me late to work. My friends wouldn't eat in restaurants with me, not only because I condemned everything they ordered or ate, but also due to their embarrassment over my constant use of terms like polenta, wheat germ, couscous and legumes.

One day, while tending to my homemade yogurt culture, I fell into a cold sweat. Two days later, I dragged myself out of bed, feeling the strongest craving for barbecued ribs. It was all I could think about. So I got some. And they were good. But the subsequent guilt immobilized me. I eventually signed up for NNA - Nutrition Neurotics Anonymous. I go three times a week. They tell me I'm making progress.