The fear of food is called cibophobia. For people that legitimately suffer from this phobia, it is mostly related to expiration dates and food going bad that has them afraid.
But I often come across a different kind of cibophobic--a whole-food cibophobic. This person usually doesn't have an issue with "old food" or left-overs, but rather has an issue with preparing their own food and prefer to leave the task of preparing their foods to corporations and food plants. This kind of person is also usually the kind of person that can't NOT eat anything but toast or cereal for breakfast, can effortlessly ramble off grams of carbs and fats within a packaged food item, and are endlessly loyal to specific brands for specific food items.
Ok ok, so I'm poking fun by using the term "cibophobic"--but how else should I describe the person that will only buy carrots and lettuce out of a bag, takes the word of a marketing slogan on a box over the word of their nutritionist, and is morbidly afraid of making their own almond butter?
The Food Nanny State
Partly to blame for this are the big food corporations and their ingenius marketing. They would have us believe that we can't make our own french fries, burgers, soups, dips, condiments, etc., and that we need their pre-made products. I suggested a patient of mine make her own frozen fruit smoothie popsicles in order for her to get her "cold sweet" fix, and she looked at me with a blank stare and asked, "how do I go about doing that?" I explained to her it only entailed making a fruit smoothie and freezing it in either ice-cube trays with toothpicks, or store-bought popsicle maker molds. She was shocked that it was possible and thought I was a creative genius for suggesting the idea. Why was she so dumbfounded? Because food companies want you to believe that they're doing something special. They're not, and you can do it better, I promise.
The Disconnect From Our Food
An issue that is very much being brought to light lately is our disconnect from the food we consume. We have no clue where it came from, who grew it, cut it, and put it in those nice, convenient bags we purchase at the store. We don't know what the animal ate that eventually became the steak we eat, nor how it was treated, or even where it was raised. The great majority of people are blissfully ignorant of these details, but has this ignorance evolved into fear of knowing where your food came from?
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with someone about how we're about to get chickens. "Real chickens?!" my friend asked. Yes, real chickens, I assured him. "For what?" he asked incredulously. For eggs, and maybe meat someday, what else?! He was disgusted. He just couldn't wrap his head around the fact that I would eat an egg that came from a chicken that lived in my backyard (I didn't go too deep into the possibility that we'd eventually slaughter the hens when they were done laying at eat them too, I'll save that for another conversation...).
Overcoming Your Fear
I encourage my patients to of course buy whole foods before pre-packaged garbage chock full of preservatives and artificial colors. Yes yes, I know, you don't have time to make everything yourself. Excuses excuses, but try making these things just once yourself before you lament how little time you have to spend on your own wellbeing. I guarantee some of them will stick, only because yours tastes much better than store-bought:
- burgers -ditch the bun, buy your own ground beef and load it up with all kind of stuff--onions, garlic, seasonings, throw on some avocado, salsa, etc.
- marinated chicken - quit buying pre-prepared marinated chicken--usually it's made with soy oil, sugar, MSG, and high-fructose corn syrup. While you're at it, stop buying Chick-Fil-A and other "healthy" fast food chicken breast, and here's why.
- iced tea - this is a must. Why would you buy the junk in stores when making it yourself is so easy?--AND can actually be healthy. Bring a large pot of water to boil and throw in some tea bags. Steep for 5-10 minutes and let it cool. Pour it into a pitcher and keep it in your fridge to serve out whenever you'd like. This will keep for weeks in your fridge.
- salsa - make your own from tomatoes, onions, peppers, artichoke hearts, and all kinds of seasonings. This is a staple in our house, we make it every week or two and it keeps in the fridge for as long and we use it on everything from eggs to burgers mentioned above.
- guacamole - if you make your own salsa, there's no way you can NOT make your own guac. You literally spoon some of your salsa into a mashed up avocado, spritz some lime juice, sprinkle some garlic powder and cayenne, and you've got fresh, delicious, nutritious guac.
- hummus - I usually use canned chickpeas, it's true, but if I ate it more regularly I'd probably use dried ones I've pre-soaked and cooked. Got a food processor? Empty a drained can of chickpeas into it with a couple cloves of garlic, some olive oil, and any other kinds of goodies (we like basil, spinach, red pepper, etc.) It will keep in your fridge for two weeks just fine.
- soda - brew yourself some raspberry zinger tea, let it cool in the fridge, mix it with club soda, and voila. No it does not taste like cherry coke. But it's got the zing that a carbonated beverage has, and 100% less high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.
- sauerkraut - my new found love, we make our own now every few weeks. Chop up some cabbage, layer it in batches with salt in a large tupperware container, and mash it down between layers to squeeze the water from the cabbage with the help of the salt. Leave it in room temperature for about a week to ferment, refrigerate when it's sour enough to eat.
These are only a portion of the foods I've attempted to make for myself instead of buying store-bought kinds. I will do this especially for things that aren't exactly health foods, but that I enjoy occasionally anyways, like bread, yogurt, sports drinks, eggnog, potato chips, protein bars, beer, and whipped cream.
You too can make all of these things, safely, enjoyably, and you should, at least once. That way when you've decided on the items you actually can't spend time making, you can at least look on the packages of food at the store and decide that you're not picking the salsa that contains sugar, Red 40, and xantham gum--you didn't have to make your salsa with those things, why should they?
Enjoy making your own "pre-packaged" foods and give up your phobia of whole-foods. It can become a fun hobby, a way to get kids interested in different foods, a fun family activity, a way to de-stress, and an art form--you never know if your guacamole will become the coveted dish at the next party you attend.