Nutrition Nerd vs. Food Nazi

fruitA few months ago I coined the expression Nutrition Nerd. I discussed it a bit with Jill; we both read a lot about nutrition, but we don’t always know what to do with all this information (this is my basic definition). I was considering the term Nutrition Nag, but that seems too self-deprecating. Jill thought Nerd was also self-deprecating, but I used to work at MIT, and being a Nerd there is a badge of pride, so I picked Nutrition Nerd. Jill told me that she is also a Nutrition Nerd. My father is one, too, so it’s hereditary (my brother got my mother’s genes of “I prefer white rice, thank you very much”).

Turns out there is also a term Food Nazi. I did not coin this term. I read it in The Secret History of the War on Cancer, by Devra Davis. Urban Dictionary defines Food Nazi here.

When I was visiting my friend in Newton this weekend, we spent a fair amount of time discussing food and nutrition. She is on a special diet (no grains, no chickpeas, no potatoes, no sugar, no kale, no spaghetti, no chocolate). This is because she had terrible ulcerative colitis, and the diet has basically saved her life. Soon after she got on this diet, about three years ago, she decided she would have just one bowl of spaghetti, previously one of her favorite foods. Well, she told me, she was sick for a day and half after that. So she hasn’t gone off it since. It is a bit like eating a Passover diet all year round, except without the matza. She eats a lot of nuts, fruits and vegetables, and animal proteins (chicken, eggs, fish, cheese, meat). Incidentally, she related to me that she has a friend with a similar ailment who decided to try this diet. Unfortunately, that friend ended up in the hospital after the attempt. It will not work for everyone with colitis or other digestive ailments. At some point it has been recommended to her that she slowly introduce some foods back into her diet, as by now her colon may have healed; she said she would love to eat chocolate again, but being sensible, she will probably try some whole grains.

Like me, she had a parent who died of colon cancer. Unlike my mother, however, who was basically healthy all her life until her diagnosis, her father suffered from ulcerative colitis most of his adult life. His doctor put him on a diet which she feels is the exact opposite of her current diet. The desire to go back and redo how one’s loved one was treated is strong and powerful.

Getting back to the term Food Nazi: I was talking to my friend and her mother shortly before I left. Her mother was complimenting how healthfully I eat, and I remarked about the term food nazi and how I don’t consider myself to be one. My friend and her mother were both a bit shocked by the very term; I suppose if I had said food fascist, it would mean the same thing, but without the strong effect. I don’t want to force everyone to stop eating any food with margarine, for example, but I would like everyone to know that if you want to spend time with your grandchildren, unless you have the genes of George Burns, you might want to cut out the margarine. Also, I ate three delicious oatmeal cookies at the bar-mitzvah (not all at once). If I were a food fascist, I probably wouldn’t do that. Well, at least, I wouldn’t tell you that in a blog post. We are all human; we all struggle in our own ways.

Finally, did you know that cold cuts have sugar? I know they have nitrates and other preservatives that have been implicated in stomach cancer, but I wasn’t aware of the sugar content.

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5 thoughts on “Nutrition Nerd vs. Food Nazi

  • I love to eat. It is a passion. Unfortunately various things have conspired to make eating less enjoyable for me.

    But I have to tell you that the best thing I did was stop paying attention to labels. I am not suggesting that everyone do this, but I enjoy life much more than when I was worrying about what was in my food.

  • Jack, everyone’s gotta find they’re own path in this world.

    I actually try to eat as few foods as possible that have a label. No label, and chances are it’s a healthier food.

  • Mother in Israel,

    Thanks so much for putting in your comment; I was hoping you would remember! I think the nazi term is used to by people against others; it already exists. Devra Davis, in the book I mentioned, is called a food nazi. I’m going to try using ‘food fascist’, unless the nazi term is really called for.

    I’ve never heard of ‘breastfeeding nazi’, but then again, I don’t blog about breastfeeding. Or talk about it much, even though I read everything I could find about breastfeeding 13 years ago, when my first baby was born. I would call myself ‘breastfeeding aware’ as opposed to a ‘breastfeeding nerd’.

    In speech, I’ve used the term Islamofascist but I would stay away from Islamonazi.

    Thanks for pointing out the sensitivities of speech in explaining one’s views.

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