As it relates to food practices, I really thought that I was in the know from veganism to vegetarianism and everything in between. But last week I received an email from a young man asking me to support his new “initiative” called Reducetarian. Apparently it is the practice of eating less meat for the benefit of human and environmental health. Call me crazy, but isn’t this moderation, an idea that has been around since the beginning of time (note above food poster from WWI)?
In an email exchange I learned that Reducetarian is a meaningful identity drawing on cognitive science about framing and communication. It is also meant to be a better alternative to flexitarian (a mostly vegetarian diet) also called semi-vegetarian and even weekday vegetarian. And aims to be an engaging platform for conducting outreach and research on effective communication with respect to sustainability initiatives.
To be frank, this written conversation struck a chord with me causing a fair amount of rumination. Edible identities (and even the seemingly healthy fad diet), whether old or new, tend to “brand” people thus pigeonholing them into a category that just may not make sense for their health and overall wellbeing (physical and emotional). I see this day in and day out in my practice. While Reducetarian, for all intents and purposes, is moderation with food transparency mixed in (and I love the idea), why not just stick with moderation and lose yet another label?
Several years ago my youngest son was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that leads to hair loss. After visiting multiple doctors and putting my 2½ year old through several tests, I simply took him off gluten and his hair grew back. About a year after his diagnosis I showed his integrative pediatrician a before (without hair) and after (with hair) picture and said, “Can you believe my kid has alopecia areata?” And this is what he said, “Stefanie, your child has the propensity for alopecia. You didn’t allow yourself to get trapped by his diagnosis thus you were able to really figure out what you needed to do to make him a well child. Labels often frame conditions preventing people from stepping outside of the box to seek solutions.”
Back to Reducetarian, while I appreciate this young man’s overall idea, is more food framing necessary? As Michael Pollan so eloquently states, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” How about we just work with that, pick up a copy of his Food Rules and move forward from there? Or grab a copy of my book when it comes out.
I am looking forward to having a productive conversation this week with this eager change agent. In the end, perhaps the best use of his inherent passion for sustainability and remarkable media savvy is to align with decades-old organizations like Meatless Monday, Animal Welfare Approved, Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, Natural Resources Defense Council and more to understand how his assets could add value to their incredible like-minded initiatives. Why re-invent the wheel and add more to the already confused consumer’s plate?