What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?*

Tuesday, 3 April 2018, By Kyle Sewell

"Diet"; noun

The kinds of foods that a person, animal or community habitually eats.  In nutrition, diet is the sum of foods consumed by a person or organism.

"Neophobia"; noun

Extreme or irrational fear or dislike of anything new or unfamiliar.

Pertaining to food, approaching food with anxiety, scepticism and even fear of new and/ or obscure foods, preferring to stick with safe foods, generally the reluctance to eat, or the avoidance of, new foods.

 

What do PT's talk about in their down time?

Lots of things; training, programs, clients, weekends, the usual stuff including food.  Food, not nutrition (but also nutrition), but food and a love for it.

Speaking with a couple of colleagues about our respective weekends not long ago, the conversation turned to restaurants with one colleague sighting that he'd recently tried escargot (snails) for the first time (at a reputable & trending French Bistro restaurant).

From there, the conversation evolved into "what's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?"

We all took turns listing our food exploits, with me being the most culinary adventurous; partly due to my family heritage, partly approaching food with an open mind.

Personally, my nutrition has come full circle.  A picky and fussy eater as a child, I was problematic for my mother, holding wars of attrition and stalemates across the dinner table for not wanting to eat my vegetables (sorry mum), and loading (gorging) up on simple carbohydrates such as plain white paste, muffins, pancakes, spongey white bread and dinner rolls (deemed "illegal bread" as it was a treat reserved for special occasions) to now smashing my "5-7"serves of veggies in a single meal or sitting.

I still have my moments and whole foods that I'll avoid, this is mainly due to personal reasons and having an understanding of my body and knowing what works for me and what doesn't.

Yes, there are whole foods that are just plain weird and unnecessary and I do believe that undertaking bizarre food challenges for the sake of popularity, a few thousand more views on YouTube or a few more followers on #instagram or likes on Facebook is just silly, wrong and potentially dangerous.

As a Personal Trainer and advocate of healthy eating and overall lifestyle, I'll never tell my client not to eat something (cookies, chocolates, whatever) and steer away from referring to foods as "good" or "bad".  The soul act of abstaining from something completely will often times lead you to want that something all the more and leads to unhealthy and potentially harmful eating habits and behaviours and a negative relationship with food. Food is a part of life and eliminating foods completely from our diet only causes feelings of shame, guilt, denial and more stress. 

Allow for sensible indulgences; that being said, willpower is a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it will become, the more you feed your appetites (and taste buds), the more you become accustomed to eating a certain way.

I'm no nutritional saint, having eaten my fair share of chocolate bars, sweets, chips, other questionables and whatnot in my youth and still enjoy indulging" on occasion. The big difference now is my level of education and nutritional knowledge and when I do indulge a burger, pizza or go to that new trending restaurant, I make the choice and am in control and selective with when I do indulge, opting for a well-made product made with real, quality, fresh ingredients and make quality eating part of my life. 

Portion sizes, calories, and the consumption of processed foods has gone up (just like waist sizes, body weight and body fat levels) and fruit, vegetable and whole foods consumption in general has gone down, we are living in a day and age where being unhealthy has become the norm.

A staggering amount of the global population in developed nations have absolutely no problem with eating a chocolate flavoured energy bar, bag of vibrant orange pizza flavoured chip or any other super processed, calorie laden meal item, washed down with an electric blue, fluorescent green (or any plethora of weird & wonderful coloured) soft drink or sports drink (bought from the local petrol station). 

Sugary treats and salty snacks have gone from a 'sometimes indulgence' to every day common consumables, with entire supermarket aisles dedicated to chips, lollies, cakes, biscuits and soft drink.

These 'sometimes snacks' have been designed in a lab to elicit and trigger a chemical response in your brain, pandering to your taste buds; food manufacturing companies have whole teams of scientists working on the most precise and perfect ration of sweet, salty and fat leaving you wanting more. 

Buzz words such as "natural" and "organic" feature heavily on processed foods citing that they are made with or from "all natural ingredients".  Looking beyond the labelling, if one was to look at the ingredients list of these processed "all natural" delights, a chemistry text book, encyclopaedia and google search would be in order to decipher the laundry list of 10+ "ingredients".  Personally, I believe that the less ingredients featured in a particular food, the better, the closer to nature the food is, the better for you it is; basically, eat real food.

Real food has a longstanding relationship with the human body.  Real food regulates the appetite & provides you with better nutrition, is generally more satisfying and therefore keeps you fuller for longer and gives you longer, sustained energy. To quote Michael Pollan in his book "Food Rules: an eater's manual", "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

Imagine daily life for our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.  Food and resources were scares, the Great Depression and multiple World Wars left families making the most out of what they had available leading to the need to maximise our eating; as families emigrated to different countries and cultures amalgamated, they brought their culinary identities with them.

Now days many and certain supermarkets committing to reducing food waste with product ranges labelled "curious cuts", "imperfect picks" and "the odd bunch" available nationwide.  Similarly, the range of game meats available in supermarkets for consumers has increased and become (almost) common, with kangaroo, crocodile, wild boar, goat and rabbit feature next to more domesticated fare.

Obscure and exotic fruits, vegetables and produce in general feature heavily on restaurant menus as well as supermarket shelves. 

In restaurants, chefs use their creativity with ingredients and opened restaurant goers' palate to a more adventurous style of cooking and seemingly new culinary territory.  Offal, trotters, liver (either whole or as a pâté or in a terrine), off cuts and inferior cuts of meat feature heavily on diner's plates in many of the world's top-end restaurants.  This style of eating is not new; as humans, we have been maximizing our eating and nutritional needs since the dawn of time leading to our survival, with many cultures using "exotic" and obscure ingredients not only in ritual and ceremony but also in daily life with many peoples across the globe eating these things as part of their daily diet; the weirder and obscure the food item (by conventional standards), the more prized and cherished with brains, testicles and eyeballs considered delicacies.

Admittedly, it's confronting and too much for many, with appeal in the choicest cuts of fillets, breasts, loins or legs being ever popular in both restaurant and supermarket, expertly butchered and plated or wrapped in plastic and disconnected from their original form.

I know people and have friends who do not, and would never, eat prawns, oysters, mussels or other such crustaceans with escargot being right out of the equation.  Others who do not eat any part of a chicken apart from the breast.  Those same friends have no problem going to their nearest fast food outlet and eating a genetically modified, hormonally and antibody laced burger meal with fires, a sundae and washed down with a large cola.

I have coached clients through nutritional crises after eating ice cream, popcorn, M&Ms and avocado all on the same day.  The cause of distress was not the ice cream, popcorn or M&Ms, all of which heavily processed items, but instead the fat content of the avocado, a single ingredient, natural food.

Children the world over seem to be full at the dinner table when eating their dinner "protein and vegetables with some form of complex carbohydrate option) but miraculously develop insatiable appetites for ice cream, cakes, chocolate or any other sweets, not ten minutes after their (half eaten) dinner plate have been cleared and the offer of desert arises. Worse is parents advocate this, using "treats" as bartering chips for good behaviour; no wonder Type 2 Diabetes (formerly known as Late Onset Diabetes), a preventable chronic disease based on lifestyle factors and choices, accounting for 85-90% of all cases of diabetes in Australia, is increasingly occurring in younger populations and children due to (preventable) lifestyle factors.

Specifically looking at nutrition and internally feeling better as opposed to weight loss, it's all about priorities and values.  What's weirder? Food from a packet with a list of chemistry quiz ingredients or a single ingredient food (think broccoli or banana as opposed to Doritos or Pringles).

You ultimately have the control as to what you put in your mouth; in any given situation, I coach my clients to do their best and ask themselves "is this the best possible food option right now?"

Taking control of your eating and being familiar with the composition of your foods allows you to take control of the composition of your body. By eating real food, you will have complete transparency and accountability eliminating mental barriers and potential feelings of guilt and falling off the wagon and promote a healthy relationship with food. You'll know exactly what's going into your body, no surprises, added sugar, preservatives or chemicals.

If 70% (at least) of body composition goals and your results are determined by what you eat, can you really afford to be eating from a package and eating for ease and convenience instead of health?

Eat for the body you want, not for the body you have; you are what you eat.



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