On most Fridays, I host women writers here for a day of silence and writing. At lunch, we talk about different things and often about food. One of the women is on the Paleo diet (and writing about it). Feels better, is losing weight. Another struggles with food allergies and addictions and has gut issues. Portland seems a hotbed, as it were, of doctors sensitive to food issues. Or maybe it's because the town is full of naturopaths who are trained to think of diet and digestion as the root of most problems. (We have lots of naturopaths because we have one of the biggest naturopathic training colleges here.)
I've become rather skeptical about food allergies. My friend Pam appears to be allergic to lots of foods (she has migraines), but her careful diet doesn't seem to keep the migraines away. And when I travel in other parts of the country, people don't seem to have food allergies. They eat what's served and don't appear to be in any worse health than people here. Maybe it's a fad, maybe it's real. I don't know.
But what really struck me yesterday at lunch, after our elaborate conversations about what we will and won't eat, and what we can't stop eating, and what we wish we didn't crave, was a quiet comment from Judy, who spends half the year in South Africa working with poor women. Over there, the issue is getting enough to eat. She made that quiet comment and then held her peace. I admired her restraint and suddenly our conversation, real and important as it is, as health always is, took another perspective.