From unique choices to eating disorders, there are a variety of unusual diets.
Choices of Unusual Diets
Freegans practice freeganism, which is a lifestyle that includes “reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded” due to “anti-consumerist ideology” in order to limit resource consumption and economical participation. The word freegan derived from a mixture of “free and vegan”. Food is obtain through “dumpster diving” (urban foraging), or finding discarded items. This could consist of food that is just past the sell-by date or that just has damaged packaging. “Scree” is “lower quality food” that is not sealed, and that food might attract disease-carrying rodents and bugs. Foragers harvest medicinal plants and foods that are growing in their community. Rural freegans might educate themselves on sustainable native wild plants to cultivate or forage. Some also employ alternative energy sources and raise dairy livestock to live “off the grid”. Another freegan practice is sharing, where freegans can share instead of discard food via social events or a temporary “free store” to exchange services and goods. There are freegans who happen to be vegan, but this is not true in all cases. In addition to anti-consumerism, freegans have a lot in common with environmentalists in the desire to reduce waste and limit destruction.1
Possible Safety Issues of Freeganism and Foraging
In terms of safety, sell-by dates are not considered the same thing as safety dates; they are dates that are guidelines for the best quality or flavor. To be safe, freegans should avoid meat, seafood, eggs, sprouts, cut melon, dairy, and unpasteurized juice. Lack of refrigeration can pose a hazard. If someone else has also started eating the same food item, it should be avoided in order to prevent the spread of diseases, such as hepatitis. After touching any seafood or meat, freegans should thoroughly wash their hands. They should also avoid bulging cans. Mold can be trimmed away from hard foods, as long as the knife doesn’t come in contact with the mold. Soft foods with mold should be avoided, as the mold can grow more deeply in these foods. Fruits and vegetables should be washed as well. The most cautious groups should be the very young and the elderly, pregnant women, those with compromised immunity, people with liver disease and alcoholics, and those with reduced acid in the stomach. As Dr. Michael Greger said, “If in doubt, throw it back out”.2 Foragers of wild food should also take precautions, such as making sure a plant is not poisonous before consuming it, practicing conservation (not over-harvesting), avoiding toxic areas near busy roads, knowing the safe plants in each season, being aware of the water source, foraging only healthy plants, and getting permission to forage (respecting property rights).3
A Craving Disorder
Pica is a craving for and consumption of a non-food item, regularly and in large amounts. The list could include chalk, balloons, metal, crayons, soap, paint chips, and more. Pica is believed to be medicinal, in some cultures, as with a Nigerian practice of eating a type of clay to fight diarrhea. In other cultures, satisfying a pica pregnancy craving is thought to keep a baby happy during pregnancy. Some people eat non-food items for the texture, taste, and smell. Others practice pica behavior to reduce anxiety. Pica carries risks, including poisoning, bowel obstruction, nutritional deficiencies, damage to gums and teeth, infestations, high blood pressure, and low birth weight and birth abnormalities. Pica is considered an addictive or obsessive-compulsive disorder, it and should be treated by doctors and mental health professionals.4
Learn about chiropractic care for eating disorders.