A Voluntary Experiment for the Health-Conscious Hippie

Humor me and participate in this experiment: go to your nearest vending machine (which, if you are me, is located either one floor up, one floor down, or–for a larger selection of snacks–three floors down) and choose any snack in there. DISCLAIMER: you will not be reimbursed for this purchase.

The next step is to read the nutrition label and see if any numbers stand out. For example, is the sodium content 760mg? Are you getting 2,000% of your daily something? Is there any protein at all in that deliciously salty snack?

The next step is to read some of the ingredients. This will feel a lot like the math section of the GRE. The first few ingredients will be very easy to understand. They are ingredients like “whole corn,” “flour,” “vegetable oil,” or “salt.” Then, things start getting a little shaky. We are into the “onion powder” or “modified wheat starch” section. You understand the basics, but you don’t understand how the company who made this plastic-wrapped treat actually got to the final result of that ingredient. Finally, all Hell breaks loose and you are completely lost. “Cream powder”? That doesn’t even make sense. “Pyridoxine Hydro-“what? This is a mess. I feel like my education is doing nothing to help me understand this nutrition label. I give up.

The final step is analysis of these results. By now you have probably noticed that this label you are reading sounds more like the ingredients to a cleaning solution than anything else and that you are less likely to enjoy eating it (by the way, if you would like to chow down, now would be your opportunity… I may talk you out of it later). What are the implications of this experiment? Yes. I just used the word implications in a blog post (Grad school has changed me). What this experiment really proves is quite simple: food sucks and we can’t stop eating it because it’s addictive (I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase that).

What happened to simple ingredients coming together to form something beautiful? Some of the most wonderful foods on the planet are made from ingredients that actually sound familiar. The Hamburger: America’s Sweetheart. It is made from meat, vegetables, and bread. While the bread could be all sorts of processed and the meat could be Grade F, if done right a burger is just a bunch of natural ingredients. Pasta: Italy/China’s Most Precious Gift to America. Pasta is essentially just flour, salt, and eggs. But, the American fast food industry has taken that simple, delicious pasta and filled it with processed meat, fried it, covered it in heavy cream, and baked it in a bread bowl (Thanks, Domino’s. No, really, thanks. That shit is delicious.). When did we start injecting and manipulating our food beyond recognition?

I want to take back my right to Real Food. I want to eat simply and get back to the basics of food. I want to be kind to my body. I want to provide it with whole grains, fresh vegetables, unprocessed everything. This is my challenge to myself. The big issue with this challenge is my extremely real emotional relationship with food, specifically greasy food that makes me feel bad about my life. These disgusting, unnatural foods are the foods I dream about, wake up craving, and “can’t live without.” We all have those foods that make us act like teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Even worse, foods that make us act like grown women at a Justin Bieber concert. We go weak in the knees, we act like fools, and we lose all sense of responsibility. We are are engaging in something that we obviously should not be doing. These foods are terrible for us and wear way too much jewelry for a teenage boy. These foods are my Justin Bieber’s:

  • Fast food french/Freedom fries
  • Ranch dressing
  • Frozen meals (specifically Indian food)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Kettle cooked potato chips
  • Cheese dip (really, absolutely anything made with cheese)
  • Drunk Pizza (a special variety of actual pizza)
  • Soup

If these are the only challenges I will go through in my quest to consume only natural foods, then I think I can do it. But, what is going to happen when it’s raining out, I don’t want to go to a dining hall, and I am on my period? I’ll tell you what is going to happen: fast food french fries delivered in a Styrofoam box and then drowned in ranch dressing before I shove them in my mouth while I watch old episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix. It is the sad and unfortunate truth and the reality of college life. Another reality of college life: I am occasionally drunk. This leads to the disastrous Drunk Pizza (you may also be familiar with the “Drunk French Fries” and “Drunk Burrito”).

Just like with my quest to live car-free, I am going to have to leave you hanging for a while during the time it takes me to get used to this new challenge. I will post within the next month or so about the trials and tribulations of my newly improved diet. This post will likely include updates about how incredibly thin I will get, how amazing I will feel, and how many marathons I will win. Well, it could also be a post about how I was successful for a couple weeks and then I a) got drunk and ate a bucket/basket/trough of french fries, b) got bored and gave up, or c) gave up on sustainability entirely because it is a lot of work and sometimes I just want to throw my recycling in a river and eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Sorry I’m not sorry.


3 thoughts on “A Voluntary Experiment for the Health-Conscious Hippie

  1. Jane,
    While I certainly am not an expert in eating, although I do a pretty good job of stuffing my face with bad food, I do have advice for you and your readers.
    Here is it:
    “Do not eat anything out of a box or bag.” Habits are hard to break and even though we all know the right foods to eat, there are times, more than I care to admit, that we just do it to feel better about ourselves. I must add though, that after eating the wrong foods, remorse will follow.
    You have my support whatever you do. I am your biggest fan.
    Love Mom

    1. I am still developing my “rules,” but one that I have been working on is an ingredient limit. It’s not so bad to get things from a box or a bag. It definitely makes like easier and with my crazy schedule, I would end up not eating at all some days if it weren’t for granola bars. I started looking into a six ingredient limit. This would allow me to eat things like granola bars and meal bars (the organic kind), but also buy things like juice and soup when I am sick (and we all know how often that is). The six ingredient limit just prevents me from buying all the crazy things with labels that I can’t understand. My final “rule” will be in my next post about the same topic.

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