This page outlines the beliefs and practices of Why This Way surrounding food.
Our beliefs and practices about food aim to address many different issues:
- The impacts of food on mind and body
- The environmental impacts of food production
- Transparency or lack thereof in food production
- Humane treatment of animals
- Food tradition and culture
- The enjoyment of food, both the process of making and enjoying food
- The sharing of food together with other people, and the relationship between food and community.
We also are developing a system of food certification that is based on our beliefs and practices here.
Aspects of food
Health of mind and body
The food one eats can influence mind and body in profound ways. As some examples:
- Deficiencies in certain nutrients can produce symptoms like depression and anxiety, which can correspond to changes in the way people think. People's way of thinking can influence their belief system. For example, people suffering from depression and anxiety are more likely to make certain cognitive errors, like the attaching of negative labels to people, or the assigning of blame. Food and diet is thus inseparable from thoughts and belief systems. We see a healthy diet as being critical to maintaining a healthy belief system.
The environmental impacts of food production
The production of food can involve negative impacts on the environment in many ways, such as chemical pollution from pesticides or other chemicals applied to crops, nutrient pollution from agricultural runoff, destruction of ecosystems as land is cleared for use in agriculture, and the spread of genetically modified organisms into natural ecosystems in ways that could alter them unpredictably. In our practices surrounding food, we want to address not only the food itself, but how the food is produced, and minimize and ultimately eliminate its negative effects on the environment.
Humane treatment of animals
There is no clear consensus in society about the degree to which animals experience feelings, including suffering or pain. Among people who believe in souls or assign spiritual meaning to the world, there is also no consensus on fundamental questions like whether animals have souls, or how animals are related to humans on a spiritual level. These differences in beliefs make it hard to reach a clear consensus.
Rather than debate these questions, we want to emphasize one key aspect on which there is a stronger consensus in society: abusing animals, or treating them with cruelty is associated with psychological problems for the person committing the abuse. A person's actions towards animals establish patterns of behavior which can extend into interactions with people. The relationship between abusing animals and abusing humans extends in both directions: People who are abused as children or witness childhood abuse are more likely to abuse animals, and people who abuse animals are more likely to commit violent crimes. See  and .
Rather than debate animal rights, we want to encourage people to agree that the humane treatment of animals is a worthwhile goal to work towards regardless of your particular views on animal rights.
Our ideals of food production, preparation, and eating
- People eat food that is healthy for mind and body; people's diets are adequate to providing them with all essential nutrients, and people are not consuming an amount or excess of any foods or ingredients that is great enough to cause any chronic health problems.
- People have times and spaces to eat food with other people if it fits their needs. The process of enjoying food with others can contribute to community.
- People eat foods they like.
- Food is produced in such a way that is sustainable, that is, without negative impacts on the environment and society.
- Animals involved in food production are treated humanely.
- All aspects of food production are transparent.
- People are aware of where their food comes from, and are involved to some degree in the production of their food.
- People preserve and develop food culture and tradition.
Healthy for mind and body
Food is inextricably linked to the healthy state described in our core beliefs. Two directly related beliefs are our beliefs that in the healthy state, people's basic needs are met, and that in a healthy state, people think clearly. Healthy food that covers the base of all essential nutrients is a basic need. Food also influences thoughts; a deficiency in various essential nutrients can manifest in various mental or pyschological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or irritability. These mental states are associated with various thought patterns and patterns of activity and communication which can conflict with our beliefs and our rules of communication. For example, people who are suffering from depression or anxiety are more likely to inappropriately use black-and-white thinking, or exaggerate, in their own thoughts.
Different people have different dietary needs based on different genetics, lifestyle, and other factors. People also engage in various food practices for practical reasons, or for religious or spiritual reasons.
Science can inform our understanding of which foods are healthy to eat. However, an overly scientific approach to food can cause problems if people come to count calories or other nutrients and stop focusing on food traditions and the enjoyment of food. People can also be misinformed by looking in isolation at specific scientific studies about food or nutrition, rather than taking a holistic approach and looking at the entirety of scientific knowledge surrounding food. Looking at isolated studies can lead to food fads, which can be harmful in a variety of ways. We thus want to use scientific research to inform our approach to food and diet, but we see science as only one part of our approach to food, which also includes a focus on food traditions and the enjoyment of food.
Eating with other people
Eating with other people, rather than alone, can have health benefits and can also contribute to a sense of community. For some people, eating with other people can be inconvenient or uncomfortable for various reasons, including the need to adapt one's eating habits to fit with other people's. Ideally, we would like it to be easy for people to eat together if they want to. We would like to have times and spaces for people to eat together in which there is no pressure for anyone to eat, but people can be there just to enjoy the social atmosphere.
Unhealthy ways of thinking about food
It's good to focus on eating healthy food to an extent, as well as enjoying food. Focusing too much on health or on specific aspects of food that relate to health can lead to an unhealthy obsession with food. Unhealthy ways of thinking about food include:
- Thinking about the healthiness of food on a linear scale rather than holistically. For instance, evaluating food only by the number of calories or carbs in it, and not taking into account the various nutrients that your body needs, or even whether it's a food that you want to eat.
- Applying should statements to eating. For instance, having foods that you "should" and "shouldn't" eat, or telling yourself that you "should" only eat a certain amount. Thinking about food this way can lead people to associate food with guilt, and remove people from the idea of enjoying their food and eating foods that they enjoy.