Cultural change is big. That’s because cultures are big, and it requires “change.” We generally don’t like change. Change involves risk…and adjustment. Of course, change can be good. So “upside” risk needs to be assessed and measured against “downside” risk. And then there’s the “deciding,” and then there’s “acting” on that decision. It’s big.
Big change is about big things like moving, changing jobs, marrying…and eating. As kids we all seemed programmed (seriously, I mean genetically programmed) to avoid new things and risk in eating by refusing foods with which we were unfamiliar, particularly bitter foods. We tended to like sweet. Is it because they were “safer” and less likely to poison us in the primordial heretofore? There’s science to support this, but it’s OT (off-topic), so back to the subject.
I’m not a cultural anthropologist or sociologist, so I can only comment on what I’ve read about cultural change. I can, however, compare my culture’s eating habits and traditions to my own experience. Like most Americans, I grew up eating three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. We sat down for breakfast, took a lunch box to school, had a snack at home after school, and sat down with the family for dinner, which was generally the big meal of the day.
After an early divorce, I was a bachelor from age 25 to 50, during which time I didn’t cook much for myself. I liked my work, often working 10 to 12 hours a day, and over those years, I perfected some bad habits. I generally skipped both breakfast and lunch and went out to dinner at the end of a long day. I ate a big dinner, then went home and fell asleep. And during those 25 years I gained a lot of weight, going from 225 to 375, and developed type 2 diabetes?
After remarrying, I returned to eating 3 meals a day. I didn’t lose weight, and my Type 2 diabetes worsened. Does this sound familiar? Are you pre-diabetic or a diagnosed Type 2, taking oral anti-diabetes medications, and still eating a “balanced” diet with lots of “heart-healthy, whole grains and vegetables,” and avoiding many of those animal-based saturated fats and cholesterol? Are you overweight with high BP and “high cholesterol” on this “heart-healthy” diet?
Well, in 2002 everything changed for me. At the suggestion of my doctor, I started on a Very Low Carb diet (20g/day). But the BIG CHANGE was that I took control of my own health. I took responsibility for what I ate. My doctor just watched in amazement as my diabetes improved dramatically. So did my blood pressure, dropping from 130/90 to 110/70 as I lost weight. And so did my HDL cholesterol (doubling from 39 to 84 average) and my triglycerides (dropping by two-thirds from about 150 to about 49 average. How did I do it? I CHANGED what and when I ate.
I ate breakfast every day from a street vendor. For 9 months I ate just eggs and bacon and coffee with halt and half and artificial sweetener. Nothing else! EVER. About 5 carbs. I skipped lunch because I was busy and NOT HUNGRY.
After I retired, I ate a can of sardines for lunch. I love sardines. I know they’re “not for everybody” (LOL), but I could (and do), mostly eat them every day, usually 5 to 6 hours after breakfast. My lunch has zero carbs, so I can stay in the ketoadapted state that began some 4 or 5 hours after the previous night’s meal and continued through breakfast.
In retirement my wife and I eat breakfast together, but not lunch. She doesn’t like sardines (to put it mildly); besides, she likes to joke, “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch!” It’s an “oldie” but “goodie.”
Then comes dinner. I think my wife feels that dinner is when she needs to nourish me, as she did with her children. She’s my caregiver. Now we’re talking not just cultural tradition. Caregiver and nurturer are hard-wired into her genes.
My challenge was to convince her that the best way for her to nurture me was to think of “dinner” as “supper,” a small meal at the end of the day. I made this transition as I came to understand the way I thought my metabolism needed to work to best advantage for me. My wife is a good student and has now come to think the same way.So, we just eat a small supper every day. We shared a petite filet last night. She buys them at Sam’s Club. It was almost too big for both of us. The side dish was boiled broccoli finished in sautéed garlic and butter. That’s all. This meal is about 400 calories, which is larger than either breakfast or lunch, but smaller than dinner used to be. And we save a lot of money. It’s like eating “2 for 1,” or going out for dinner and taking half home in a box. We do that a lot now too.