Adele Hite has an interesting take on Michele Simon’s recent report Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?. While she applauds Simon’s efforts to hold the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics more accountable for its relationships with industry, she also points a pretty big spotlight at what she calls Simon’s “hidden agenda:”
Simon is happy to slam the health-washing, cultural insensitivity, and hidden agendas of food manufacturers and the Academy, but if the propaganda, insensitivity, and agendas are vegatarian*—well, then she’s just fine with it, thank you very much.
Note: “vegatarian” is Adele’s term for veganism disguised as vegetarianism.
I’m not so convinced it’s quite a “hidden” agenda (but I follow Michele on Twitter and read her blog), but I do think Adele is correct to highlight it. While I think one can do a LOT worse than a diet focusing “mostly” on whole plant foods, we’re no more likely to convince the larger populace to go vegan or even vegetarian than we are to convince them to go low-carb or low-fat … at least for long enough to make a difference in terms of public health.
It’s time we stop trying to change the eating habits of our fellow Americans—which is the underlying intention behind taxing soda and believing that a diet that resembles your own is best for everyone else—and start trying to change the regulatory, economic, and political framework that restricts access to both the food and the knowledge that individuals need to make their own decisions about their own health.
A quick look at Shift’s obesity influences map is all it really takes to show why this is going to be such a hard nut to crack. Coupling the multi-factorial nature of obesity (which is essentially the same as that for the lifestyle diseases) with our current political environment suggests that there is no easy answer.
That said, if I were to start working more in this space, my own inclination would be to focus on “the knowledge that individuals need to make” (I’ve written before that I’m intrigued by Rogers’ diffusion of innovation theory might apply).
Call me Polyanna, but I’m hoping that those of us with different agendas may be able to unite to fight the fights we have in common. Time will tell.