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Beauty, Health, Happiness: They Don’t Have To Be Nerve-Wracking

People used to seek out a fulfilled life. Now many seek out life-lite…

Mental dis-ease. Two words that have gradually been associated with the food and fashion industry, or to put it plainly, with eating and looks. Scores of people have over the decades become obsessed with how to look great and what to eat and what to wear in order to make an impression, afflicted by what has turned into a modern plague. Appearances are everything nowadays, selling books, shows and fanfare at will, and the French dandies of the 18th century must be turning in their graves, livid for being unable to take part in such a vainglorious opera.

Well, appearances are not everything. They can be deceiving, and, pertaining to the article, unhealthy. Especially when they force people to obsess over things that ought to be enjoyable. Whatever happened to putting on some clothes and enjoying food, eating and dressing up, you know, just doing it rather than rummaging over wardrobes day after day, short-circuiting one’s brains over the next meal?

Farce or bad dream, the phenomenon is widespread. The food and fashion industry have managed to enforce an ongoing nightmare on modern society, one which imprints itself on our increasingly impatient, virtually-jazzed offspring. It seems that looks are everything after all, with substance finishing tired and second best.

The process has received some dubious aid from some confused benefactors, of course – the mental health industry, for example. Here’s a field that has flourished in the wake of these newly-defined, challenging disorders, rushing to ease the dis-ease by prescribing medication that only serves to galvanize their presence; in the wake of therapy, the mental problems become institutionalized, and food disorders, a favorite mental health cluster of disease, turn into a permanent feature of the cultural landscape.

Have your pancake and eat it too? Photo by charmednblum on

Adding to this fixture with a vengeance came the medical industry, which, spurred on by rising disease of all kinds – much of it due to insufficient regulation on preservatives and other food additives, plus rampant pollution that translates into various forms of toxicity and ill health – rushed to the rescue of society by pushing the healthy-eating, organic agenda onto the market, making sure people got savvy about what they ate.

The organic initiative was a phenomenon, bursting through the scene with a glorious vibe. Based on informed and healthy dieting, free from toxic additives and other radicals, it transformed and revolutionized food, if not life in general. Eating healthy is not a dietary requirement anymore. It’s a lifestyle.

Unfortunately, it comes with a price. I mean, you have to pay through the nose for organic produce, reminding everyone that quality of life is neither free nor cheap.

But let’s not dwell on that point for now. Let’s focus instead on the cultural and mental costs with which healthy eating comes. Why? Because everyone’s raving about the merits of this new, revolutionary lifestyle, and no one dares approach it with a critical eye, lest they be branded grinches.

I’m feeling rather greenchy today, so here I go. Let me tackle this initiative from a different angle, just so we may get some perspective and not get carried away in one massive organic groupthink.

Organic produce is good for you – as long as it is not stuffed dow n your throat. Photo by eatw on

Firstly, eating organic and healthy is no revolution. It’s a return to basic, home-grown food, period. Not that anyone is saying any different, but let’s set the tone and call it as it is.

Secondly, the control over what one eats, and, thus, over better health, which healthy eating (cl)aims to deliver, has been unwittingly counterbalanced by our continuous uncertainty about what to eat, where to eat it, when, how and why to eat it, not to mention the constantly shifting points of view, backed by constantly shifting data that make people jittery and unsure of what’s good for them at any given time. Facts come and go like clothes off a prostitute. Salt is healthy – it’s not healthy – it’s kind of healthy at low doses – it’s very healthy when taken in conjunction with XYZ. It’s good for low blood pressure, but not always, it’s good for the skin, but so is healthy fat, yadda yadda yadda – so read this book to find out more, and this one and that one, and ask your doctor about it, and your dietician, and your local organic guru, and you’ll figure things out and live a happy and beautiful life. But don’t stress over it. Just live your life, enjoying every moment.

Yeah right! Thanks for the advice, Nurse Pratchet! May I go back to my padded cell now? I fee like bashing my head against the wall without breaking it. Just a little bruising will suffice, the kind the institution loves to nurse.

Clearly someone hasn’t thought this through. Organic, healthy eating needs to be healthy on all counts, including the mind. If that fairly important element of ours gets completely screwed up in the process of choosing a meal, we’re in need of – you guessed it – happy pills, therapy, mental health treatment. And down the vicious circle we go.

‘I have to eat healthy, I have to look good, I have to, I have to.’ Photo by A imee L ouise 2 on

What’s the point of this harangue? Firstly, to point out how ridiculous some things are, not because we mean bad – bar the food and cosmetic executives who devise campaigns that prey on people’s vanity and insecurities; they take the cake on ‘meaning bad’ – but because we’re a paradoxical kind of creature, humans I mean. Freedom to do what we want lends itself to constructive as well as self-defeating attitudes.

We know this by now, well enough to try and make the best of it. Our limitations need not be limiting, if only we play into our strengths and forego our weaknesses. Be informed, not obsessed. Be willing to mind our health without losing our minds over it. We also know that it’s good to identify these contradictory and unnerving attitudes every now and then, should we succumb to them, just so we can keep perspective and focus on the reasonable side of things.

Secondly, we have so much going for ourselves and are wasting our time by overdoing it in insubstantial areas. Beauty for the sake of beauty is a waste of energy, and so is obsessing over stuff we have no control over. We can go organic and eat tomatoes that grow without pesticides, but what about the water we use to wash them, the water we drink and bathe in? What about the air and soil? They’re not chemical-free, thus, neither is our produce, and we can’t make it as such, not on our own. We clearly have some ways to go before we can screen and clean our entire food supply.

Does this mean we need to stop caring and surrender ourselves to wanton indifference? Not at all. We can still work on improving our eating habits, putting pressure on the food industry to clean up its act and provide us with truly healthy nutrition. But until we reach the stage where we’re truly cleaning up the planet, from top to bottom and inside out, including the air, water, and soil, let’s not obsess over what we eat and enjoy our food. Let’s put nutrition back to nutrients and feel good about it.

An informed but relaxed attitude brings about a healthy body and a beautiful life. Photo by Beders on

This brings us to the third and final point: feeling good. At the end of the day, looking good and eating good is supposed to make us feel good. So let’s reintroduce an attitude of well-being to our diets and outlooks, starting with our lifestyles, doing what we need to with an air of je m’en fous. It would make our lives more beautiful, healthy and happy, reminding us of the old proverb: quality is better than quantity. Or as Clement Freud once said: “If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don’t actually live longer; it just seems longer.”