Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Organic Food Lifestyle Coach, My Dream Job?

Today's NYT Metro Section had an interesting juxtaposition of articles: one about closed inner-city grocery stores and obesity and one a "style" piece on a Westchester woman who is an "organic lifestyle coach." Since I've written about the tragedy of the first topic recently, I'll skew to the fluffier piece today.

Wow, I thought, "organic (food) lifestyle coach" that could be the job for me. But as I read on, I saw that, despite the potential upside in pay (clients pay $3,000 and up for her advice), this woman's work is totally not my style.

My first bristles went up when she recommended cutting out "volunteer activities." True, you have to be jealous of your time as you balance family and work, but connecting with others and helping your community, however you define it, is actually a healthy thing to do (Putnam, 2000). I agree with her on the Seinfield issue, though, and that parents need to be able to assert some control around the dinner table (and other parts of family life). But her remedies sound unrealistic. A kid is going to be interested in picking out flavors of tahini? And why exactly should they put "liquid amino acids" on their food? It sounds just as bad as the tempeh meatballs, and scientifically dubious to boot.

The bigger question is why perfectly reasonable women (I assume) would pay for this kind of advice. It's the same reason why people clamored for Michael Pollan, who I greatly admire, to write a follow up to "The Omnivore's Dilemma." He says in that book, as a journalist, "Why would people take advice from me?" on food and nutrition. People have so lost there way as to what real food is and as to what a healthy lifestyle is, that they throw good money after bad and drive their luxury SUVs (I assume) to the Whole Foods to spend precious time and money to be told to buy tempeh. Not that I have anything against tempeh, really. It's just that tempeh, and all its soy brethen, are all so beside the point.

For me, it's about trusting yourself and making changes in your life that are meaningful to you and your family: be it eating meals together more, eating more organics, or more vegetables, or less meat, or exercising more or whatever. It's not about guilt. It's not about judgment. Change is hard; it doesn't happen overnight. But if you want to eat better or simply to eat anything at all with your family, you don't need a lot of advice or even fancy ingredients from Whole Foods. You just have to do it. Start small, start today.

Parents Meet Your Coach on the Organic Aisle, NYT 05.05.08
Strategic Spending on Organic Foods, NYT Well, 4.18.08

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