Spend fifteen minutes watching your average cable news talk show and you are bound to see a three-way split screen; host in the center, two people with opposing viewpoints on either side of him or her debating back and forth. While this helps present both sides of an issue to viewers, it propagates the notion that is so pervasive in today’s society — “you are in camp A, and I am in camp B, and we have NOTHING in common.” While there is no doubt people are bound to have opposing viewpoints on issues, I also think that, in some matters, i is crucial for those with opposing viewpoints realize what they do have in common and band together to bring about change.
Allow me to use my field, nutrition, as an example. If you want to turn an amicable dinner into the epicenter of indigestion, Bring up politics or religion, the elusive-yet-all-knowing “they” say. True, and I would add “nutrition” to that mix.
Whether it’s the Atkins fanatic extolling the virtues of butter, steak, and heavy cream, the vegan who swears that everyone can lose those last ten pounds if they just stop eating cheese, or the world traveler who firmly believes other countries have the right idea by simply eating whatever they want in smaller portions, it can be hard to find a group of people who agree on what the best way to eat is.
Or, at least, that’s what it seems like on the surface.
When it comes to eating habits, we tend to only see the differences in people. The low-carb fanatic dismisses the vegan as “ill-informed”, who in turn thinks the raw foodie is “way out there”, who in turn scoffs at the Mediterranean Diet. And, yet, in all our “no, but I have THIS mountain of research to back me up”, we overlook one critical unifying point — we all are just seeking out health.
Not one of us, regardless of our views on saturated fat or ideal vitamin D supplementation, wants processed food to be the norm. We don’t want artificial dyes in our food. We think the amount of sugar added foods is outrageous. We value health. We are appalled at what the average elementary school student is fed in the cafeteria. We are terrified of Monsanto’s ever-growing power and presence.
Of course we are going to have different opinions; we are human, after all. I don’t agree with the school of thought that considers fiber meaningless, or that thinks fruit should only be eaten on its own prior to noon. As a nutrition educator, I have a need to set the record straight if a bestselling book horribly distorts basic nutrition information.
But, this goes beyond dietary advice. Sometimes I imagine all the power that could be harnessed if individuals, no matter how different our dietary points of view, would ban together on the key issues: getting food dyes and trans fat out of our food supply, demanding that the presence of genetically modified organisms and artificial hormones be at the very least strictly labeled on food items, reducing the presence of calorically-empty foods in schools, facilitating access to healthy foods in “food deserts.”
Who, after all, can claim to be against real, unprocessed food?
Perhaps there is an area in your professional life where the stark differences are eclipsing a few similarities that could lead to real opportunities for progress.