Read the blog

Food is Not Medicine

  1. This is one of the best articles I’ve read in ages. I want to read it to everyone I know and then shout it from the rooftops!

  2. Sometimes when someone is very sick, the “medicine” they need is really lots of comfort food. Somewhere in the last 20 (?) years that metaphor got distorted into something literal. Love this. You must hear a lot of the cringeworthy crap. Glad you’re shining a light.

    • GlenysO says:

      Yes, somehow “comfort food” was distorted into something quite different. When I had very sick patients on the brink of death at times in the hospital, with no appetite, I would encourage them to eat literally anything they wanted just to stay alive – nutrition supplements if they liked them (full of HFCS), ice cream, brownies, cookies, whatever they could get into themselves. Those aren’t the foods people would now typically describe as “good medicine.” They’re the foods that people demonize – but they’ll keep us alive if necessary. Food is nourishment, sometimes no matter what the food!

  3. […] and nutritional theories. Why don’t we just enjoy our food? ( Do yourself a favor and read NOW ). Your Ducks Will Never be in a Row This article. Yes, so much yes! We all know the people ( or […]

  4. cookwitch1 says:

    There’s so much now that is, essentially, restriction without reason, but called by another name. Clean, wellness, etc.,

    I get that control is appealing, and that it’s the lure when life is disordered in other ways. But I wish that people could or would look further, past the glossy books and the white-tooth smiles, through those and into the actual research.

    The GAPS diet is a case in point, and someone far wiser than I articulates it in a fabulous way here:

  5. […] Source: Food is Not Medicine […]

  6. […] स्रोत: Food is Not Medicine […]

  7. Life Mutated says:

    What makes me cringe is people who decide that the medical industry is out to poison people so they go out into their garden and forage for replacement “herbal remedies” … as though that is any less dangerous, if not more so.

    It’s interesting how people take it for granted to be able to enjoy their food. Due to a genetic anomaly, I neither gain weight, nor have much of an appetite. Even if I wanted to, I can’t force myself to eat when my body is not interested as it just rejects it. I have lost count of the times that a nurse or a new doctor, unaware of my condition, wanted to send me to a therapist because they thought I had a eating disorder. Though I suppose, if you really wanted to you could look at it as such. Yet my weight hovers just below the “Healthy BMI” line, never dipping too low and never being able to raise it just above it.

    Certain foods I have a strong aversion to, like citrus or other acidic foods such as tomatoes, that is if I can even get my body to accept it. It’s almost like my body instinctively know that it’s not good for me and makes it as hard as possible for me to stand the taste.

    I guess you could say, I’m a medical conundrum in just about every way, though I would love to eat myself to bursting without it being due to the fact that the food is laced with MSG …

  8. Nisha Venkat says:

    this was really enlightening! made me realize how I was treating my body by restricting all those calories- i plan to eat what makes my body happy starting now!

  9. Sabine says:

    Couldn´t agree more. The beauty and satisfaction that lies into the ritual of cooking, eating and of course sharing a meal is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Seriously.
    Congrats on being “discovered”, that´s how I found you, too. All the best from PAris, SAbine

  10. Christina says:

    This is brilliant! And I agree this is probably the mentality that causes many of us to have eating disorders of one sort or another!

  11. lovehanmade says:

    Like the first comment, this is the most amazing article – common sense at its best!! Thank you. I will be putting this everywhere I can!!

  12. hannahkenway says:

    Strangely I stumbled on this after an evening at a friends house where I effectively gave away all my low sugar, paleo, clean or whatever else cook books simply because as a relatively healthy intuitive eater I had found myself becoming obsessional about carbs, about pureed raw veg about life and food in general. What you have said absolutely makes sense and I’m now even more delighted to be rid of such over hyped nonsense. Thank you

  13. This is so refreshing to read. I get so tired of trying to dine with friends who have self-imposed diet restrictions just because they think it will prevent something they don’t even have yet. To much of anything can be a bad thing. We just need to be reasonable.

  14. Weezelle says:

    I’ve recently had my eyes open to some of the absurd ways we reimagine food and our appetite. I recently read Small Acts of Disappearance- Australian woman’s writing on anorexia. I did a review on my blog, if you want to check it out.

  15. Christina says:

    Thanks so much for this read! For a while, my mom had a tendency to isolate compounds for their medicinal properties. Unfortunately, it has made me not only question the ingredients of what I eat, but also stress over consuming foods I normally enjoy. I’ve recently come to terms by consuming varied foods that are both enjoyable and nutritious! 🙂

  16. Great post. At the start I would not agree and thought but food can and indeed has been medicine for ages. You argumented so well that got me convinced. Thanks for this read. Food for thought for sure.

    • GlenysO says:

      Well that is the highest compliment, to say I may have changed (or at least turned a little bit) your mind on the topic – thank you!

  17. Madhulika says:

    Awesome article on “food not medicine” but, I always wondered as to how some people would never gain weight despite eating large quantities of food while some never lost no matter how low calories their food contained

    • GlenysO says:

      The answer is our metabolism – some people have high burning metabolisms, others, slow. Some people’s bodies are gifted at storing fat (one evolutionary advantage in times of famine), others are gifted at developing muscle (another type of advantage). From an evolutionary standpoint, diversity in our body types and sizes would likely be the best for surviving all sorts of varied conditions on the earth.

  18. Jean says:

    “However, if someone is a competent eater, getting a variety of food reliably and enjoying their diet, this is the best disease prevention there is, since, as I linked to above, competent eaters have shown to be generally nutritionally (and socially and psychologically) healthier than non-competent eaters.” Competent eater may I add that embraces cultural diversity in their food dishes.

    What is being lost in this whole thing is the influence of culture on one’s instinctive food choices. Competent eating still allows room for human error, human indulgences. It’s just a person has to recognize if they’ve eaten too much of something less nutritious, they will naturally turn away and choose something better later.

    However acquiring competence in food selection, does help a lot if one is raised as a child with broad, healthy views on food. I can see how tough it is if a person doesn’t have that benefit.

    • GlenysO says:

      Eating competence also assumes the intuition skills of being able to recognize when one is full or has eaten a lot of one thing. Eating competence does not put an emphasis on food selection other than to provide meals that include the 4 food groups. One of the most important aspects of the eating competence model is to provide regular, times meals and snacks. Ellyn Satter does not discuss in depth choosing of foods, quality of food, etc. Ensuring regular, planned meals will generally ensure variety, which results in nutritional adequacy. This can work very well for people with low economic status as well (she emphasizes in her training how to work with this population as well). I don’t believe cultural diversity is necessary to good eating. It’s nice that we can have that here, but it seems to me to be a particularly American phenomenon. Growing up in a small town in Canada, I had access to food from only one culture; and that probably is true still for a lot of areas there and here and for most of the world.

  19. C U T E c says:

    Really enjoyed reading this. Food is something i am still trying to approach in a positive way. 🙂 XX

  20. Such a great post!! As a nurse practitioner, I often see patients forcing themselves to consume foods they HATED in hopes their health would benefit. I’ve had cancer patients eat a pescetarian diet because they read somewhere that this would decrease their cancer’s absorption of the nutrients and help shrink their tumors. It was especially sad to see when I worked in hospice because these individuals were clinging to that last hope that they would be cured, all the while being miserable in their last days.

    • GlenysO says:

      Yes, I’ve had a similar experience and it was so sad. A man in the last stages of cancer was being so severely restricted to manage his diabetes…she would not hear of letting him have sugar or any dairy products. I asked him what he would like to eat and he said, “I want ice cream but my wife won’t let me.” She was trying to save his life with nutrition when what he really needed was comfort. So sad!

  21. I’ve enjoyed this post and found myself,by and large, in agreement. One point you made, though, I would like clarification. I have hemochromatosis (iron overload)and, as a result, type 1 diabetes. This, you will understand, creates its own, theoretically, contradictory dietary needs, but when you made your point about the Asian and Swedish people eating Thai food, are you implying they absorbed less iron because the food was mush or because they didn’t like it as mush and, therefore, didn’t eat it? When I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1994, I was coached by nutritionists and dieticians about how and what, I should eat in a ludicrous system that involved measuring the carb value of everything I ate as ‘exchanges’. I ditched that as soon as I left the hospital. Since then, I’ve adhered to a very simple dietary mantra; low fat, high fibre and no sugar. I love food and my blood sugar control is so rigid and regular, it makes my endocrinologist want to do a happy dance. I have two blogs that might interest you, and

    • GlenysO says:

      To answer your first question about the study I referenced, I believe the study authors concluded that the lowered iron absorption was more likely due to the decreased enjoyment of the food, since chemically, the food would not have been altered (mechanical alteration of the food does not alter the food chemically). So while of course we can rarely point out causation, there was an association between the mushy food and their lack of enjoyment of the food. You can read more about this study in Linda Bacon’s book Health at Every Size and Ellyn Satter’s book Secrets of feeding a healthy family. As a type 1 diabetic, I’m sure you know now that insulin regimens are so improved that if a person doesn’t want to, they don’t need to avoid sugar, and many people get quite good at carb counting and consider it worth the headache if it means they can have a less restricted diet. However, if this is your diet preference, enjoy it! (that’s my basic mantra). I will check out your blogs, thanks!

      • GlenysO, so they didn’t like it, they didn’t eat it, unfortunately, were it that simple, people with an iron overload would simply eat less and maybe, starve to death. Ok, I’m being over dramatic but the point is, the correlation between diet and iron absorption is not an exact science. As for ‘insulin regimens are so improved’, I presume you are referring to the DAFNE programme (Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating) which, in my estimation, never did anything but provide modern medicine with another attractive acronym, since what it does is make a practice of what people like myself and many other sensible people did long ago, ie, stop ‘counting’ carbs and eat sensibly, a balanced diet, full of healthy, tasty, flavoursome things. I haven’t eaten anything processed for the past thirty years. Tonight, I had a baked fillet of hake with a spicy couscous crust on a bed of rainbow chard salad and mixed nuts and seeds. Delicious, How many carbs? I don’t know. What was my sugar level before I ate? 5.6 and what was it, after I ate? 4.7 How much insulin did I take? 2mls. Do I feel ok? Hell, yes. Did I enjoy my meal? You better believe it.

        • GlenysO says:

          Well, I assume their intake was accounted for and that the decrease in iron wasn’t simply due to a decreased intake of the food (that would be pretty bad science). The study is old but I’ll see if I can get a copy of it. With respect to your disdain for the improved insulin regimens (I have never heard the term DAFNE here), I think if you’re a child dealing with diabetes and whose parents don’t want to have to restrict that child’s intake, improved long-acting/fast-acting insulins have been a god-send. If we can avoid restricting children in what/how they eat, they can learn to become normal eaters in adulthood and avoid a lot of other problems, especially as they have to continue to manage their T1DM. If you’re an adult with full control over what you eat, perhaps it’s a different matter.

          • I agree and I don’t mean to sound glib or facetious in my comments. I do realize there are people with far more problems dealing with insulin, than I do. I wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes until I was 38 years old and, even though presenting with type 1 at that age, there were no symptoms apparent, pointing to the root cause of my condition, hemochromatosis, until six years later. I live in Ireland, where diabetes is classed a ‘long term illness’ and therefore, all medicines related to that condition are free and covered by State health care. It’s the same in many other European countries. All of this makes the production and supply of insulin and related products, a billion dollar/pound/euro, blue chip, industry that questions the resolve or imperative for research institutes or the people who finance them, to direct their energy towards a cure for diabetes. It would, you must admit, be like corporate hara kiri, killing the golden goose, so to speak?

          • GlenysO says:

            My view of that industry isn’t quite so jaded. I think if and when possible, they’ll figure out a cure without worry of insulin sales dropping off. I’ve never bought that view of the pharmaceutical industry. I think most researchers developing cures just want to help people. Perhaps I’m too much of an optimist!

          • Researchers, yes, but you can’t be so naive as to believe the pharmaceutical industry is not operated on profit and share dividends. If it’s not profitable or counter-productive to their bottom line and shareholders, then they’re in no rush to alter the status quo. When they reach a point where research has found a marketable cure, like a pancreatic stem cell treatment, they’ll have worked out a way to trade the cost of that cure for the shortfall in insulin sales and production. It’s simple because it’s all about money, not people.

  22. samratkel says:

    Interesting. I look forward to reading more!

  23. ReignofFaith says:

    Many people gain weight when they go vegan because they don’t actually cook. They eat a lot of processed foods. I went vegan a few years ago and felt great. My hair was long, eyelashes thick and I had a lot of energy. It can be a healthy option when done correctly. Of course, its not the only option.

    • GlenysO says:

      Many people assume my patient had been eating junk food as a vegan. I have no reason to believe this, since the diet-style he went to next involved copious amounts of fresh cooked vegetables and fresh meats. I’m not sure why he would have eaten junk food as a vegan and fresh, home-cooked foods as a non-vegan. I know thin vegans who eat a lot of Oreos – so I’m not sure the “junk food” theory holds much water.

      • ReignofFaith says:

        I definitely ate Oreos it’s funny you mentioned that lol. But everything else I ate was so healthy it didn’t have a negative impact on how I felt. I’ve done vegan where I was healthy and vegan where I was not. The times where it was unhealthy I just simply wasn’t putting in the cooking time I had previously. It can be hard to cook things that are filling if one isn’t used to that type of cooking. But who knows not everyone’s body type may be vegan friendly. Some people may do better with meat in their diet. Anyways, interesting post.

    • Yes…only if done correctly
      And eating fresh not out of the cold storage.

  24. ReignofFaith says:

    I’ll also add that variety can be a struggle for those who aren’t used to cooking vegan.

  25. Even as a fitness expert I still use food for comfort.

    • GlenysO says:

      I think food for comfort is fantastic! It’s when people don’t do it well – ie, using it for comfort and still not dealing with what bothers them – that it goes awry. But absolutely, food and feeding ourselves is comforting!

      • I agree. I have a very judgmental friend who thinks my love for food is a sin. And well, her life is pretty boring so there you go:) Good to meet you. Best of luck <3

  26. Simply wonderful…. Very well written. I’m myself a health freak and all along I felt I know a hell lot about healthy food, though I never equated food with medicine though I agree food does have a healing element.more so I believe food is very therapeutic. Eating food is a ritual…a meditative activity… And like any meditation it should be held in high esteem. Eating food is not just masticating and digestion,there is much more to it. I respect my food.
    But still…today with this articles some of my misconceptions have been shed away. One like eating food without enjoying it will not bring about any positive change rather can have adverse affect.
    Thank u

    • GlenysO says:

      Thank you! I think what you describe is “nourishing” – I love thinking of food that way instead of “medicinal.” Nourishment is still so important to us!

  27. […] on the day the books were dispatched I came across this excellent post written by a dietician on Dare Not To Diet giving refreshingly sane advice on the wisdom of savouring food, treating it as a trusted friend […]

  28. […] appreciated this post from a registered dietitian who makes a case for the importance of enjoyment in good nutrition.  She also explains […]

  29. Erik says:

    I agree and disagree! Food is what we humans started with and we were given everything we need to survive (nutrient wise). It is essential to stay healthy and I believe that it can also help us recover from illnesses because without the nourishment (as you have commented) we would simply not be equipped to fight off the illness. But we cannot ignore the wonders that modern day medicine have done for us, but in moderation, as it is proven that our bodies start building ammunities. So I say start with good food and leave medicine as a last resort!

    Check out my story and journey

  30. […] A reminder that Food is NOT medicine. […]

  31. Thank you for sharing this

  32. Cindy says:

    This is great information!

  33. Great post. Thanks for the share.

  34. Thanks for writing this! I’ve never thought of how importance it is to enjoy your food, rather than dieting and everything else.

  35. I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for sharing.

  36. Finally someone had the balls to say this! Struggled from bulimia for years, and I can’t stand listening to all these food snobs that have suddenly spawned and preach about cutting out this and that.

  37. Sara R says:

    As someone who has to avoid certain foods because they literally make me sick, I really struggle with enjoying my diet. I used to be such a foodie and loved to cook and bake all sorts of things. Finding my joy in cooking and eating has been a struggle of over a decade. I’m not there yet. At first it was fun challenge to alter recipes but as time went on it became cumbersome and I began to dread eating out. Even if I found a restaurant that had something I could eat, just not being able to choose anything from the menu began to restrict my enjoyment. I understand your points but I don’t understand if there is a solution for those who cannot eat anything they choose.

    Also, for me medicine didn’t work and made me more sick. It gave me pancreatitis and liver damage, so changing my diet has been the only way to control my Crohn’s disease. Why do we have to worship medicine? We also don’t want to take it unless absolutely necessary, not to make up for poor lifestyle choices. Also there is no medicine that cures cancer, and I do know people personally who have reduced tumors with diet and herbal medicine. I know you mean well but I think you also need to be open to accept other options may work for some people. We can’t be dogmatic either way and allow people to find their own path.

    • GlenysO says:

      What you are talking about is different from the point I was making. Treatment for Crohn’s falls under medical nutrition therapy as I mentioned. However, there are otherwise healthy people who become obsessive about their diets and longevity and prevention and also stop enjoying their food. First and foremost, food is meant to be enjoyed (for those without illness that have that luxury) and our current foodphobia/healthmania culture is working against that enjoyment. Sorry for your illness, that does make it harder for people to eat enjoyably. However, as you well know, there isn’t any food that cures Crohn’s – and this is the mentality I’m addressing. I don’t think I’m advocating for the worship of medicine, and I also don’t think the need for medicine should be stigmatized.

book a free
discovery call

It's easy to get started

schedule a chat with glenys