What can religion teach us about food?

So I had the idea to write this blog after a recent discussion with the other half of Freemen Fitness. This reads as an odd title but stay with me. The idea came from a debate with someone online about diet. Now I try to avoid these debates as often they do little more than wind me up and people are often not willing to listen. However when someone preaches a diet that could have a negative impact on people’s health then I feel it needs to be addressed


Now I won’t name any particular diet or religion instead I will just refer to both terms. The point I want to make is that we can learn a lot about how we view diets by how we view religion. I am not talking about the diets that certain religions advise. Instead, it is that for many people their diet is a belief system. The beliefs being if I eat X and Y I will feel better and for some, I will be morally better than the others who don’t do as I do. Yet we know from looking at religion throughout history that if we say there is only one true way that inevitably it will cause conflict. We also know that if we address these people on their beliefs they are likely to double down and become even more resolute in their opinion.


However unlike religion when we swap from an unhealthy diet to a healthier one we will notice changes both in how we feel and how we look. Heck even if we stick to the same unhealthy diet but with fewer calories, we will notice a change. This makes diet an incredibly powerful tool for change and belief for people. We all have friends who constantly preach about their personal diet. How many times have you heard a friend say “oh I started this diet and now I feel amazing you should too” yet does that make you jump on the bandwagon?


This brings us to the world of false prophets and trust me the dietary world is full of them just like religion. They are both unregulated worlds with the ability to make huge amounts of money. Models who spout made up diets to look just like them or some quick fix diet that will allow you to lose 50 pounds in two weeks. The problem is for many we want to believe. We hold on to hope for a magic diet that will allow us to do as we please and get into the best shape of our life. Deep down we know this can’t exist yet we hold on to that hope.


The problem is that unlike religion and the open-ended questions it creates when it comes to diet we have science to help guide us. But these false prophets have infiltrated this world and muddied the waters just like many hot topics in the world and the influence that big food and those preaching certain diets have created a quagmire for the average person. Meaning that to get the simple answers is no longer simple and many people within the academic and medical world are as uneducated as most.


Yet just like most regions diet has common themes and most of what we inherently know are true. Eat whole foods, don’t eat too much, eat plants, eat vegetables, eat food that has not been processed and eat proteins that are sourced reliably. The thing with dietary science it is an evolving field and it helps to find someone who can show you these underlying themes. But at the end of the day, you need to find what works for you as there is no “one true way”. We need to accept that other things work for other people and we should accept that they are different. If they ask for help then do what you can to guide them.


I will paraphrase what someone once said to me “diet and religion are like genitals everyone has some, some are better than others and eventually you will find some you like but don’t go forcing them on those who have not asked.”