Maybe you’ve seen the latest in my favourite internet genre, Industries the Millennials are Killing, a frankly bananas screed about mayonnaise, political correctness, the greatest generation, and the “Taylor Swift of condiments” all sprinkled with anachronistic young people speak from a Baby Boomer refusing to go gentle into that good night. Instead she is raging, raging against the dying of the light (of mayo-based salads). Continue reading “What it Really Means for Millennials to Kill Something”
If you’ve spent any time on the internet you’ve encountered “wellness.” You can probably list off the things that “wellness” is a euphemism for: whiteness, thinness, able-bodiedness, middle/upper classness, performative consumption.
Wellness, rather than the state of being well, is an ongoing project by which certain (mostly? exclusively?) women either signal their inclusion in an exclusive strata or strive to gain entry.
As the president of Saks Fifth Avenue said,
“The wellness thing is big”…”We’re calling it ‘the new luxury.’ It used to be about fur and leather. But people just want to feel better.”
Wellness, if you were to only examine it through the lens of Instagram and lifestyle bloggers, is about $12 cold-pressed juices, yoga poses that photograph well, $50 water bottles (no, I will never get over how expensive those god damn water bottles are), and something else. What is that other thing? Oh, yes, being young, thin, white, and conventionally attractive. Continue reading “Selling Wellness”
If you listen to as many podcasts as I do, you’ve no doubt heard ads for the new Huawei Fit. The copy goes something like this:
“The fitness tracker for every BODY. You don’t have to be a super fit athlete, the Huawei fitness tracker is designed to meet you where you’re at.” Continue reading “Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: On Empowering Language and New Year Marketing”
I was at the gym today and saw an ad on one of the many televisions for SlimFast. Its selling point, other than a bunch of thin white women smiling, was that it “controls hunger for up to 4 hours.”
It controls hunger.
Let’s think about that. It doesn’t satisfy hunger, it controls it.
We (especially us women but not only) are taught to have an adversarial relationship with hunger. To see it as a problem, an enemy, a danger that must be controlled. Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Hunger”
I’ve had this pet theory, for a while, that capitalism only works if we silence and eschew the animal parts of us. Think about it, sitting at a desk for 8 or 10 hours a day is completely counter to our animal instincts to be in motion. Doing menial tasks (making widgets, if we want to get all Karl Marx up in here) that don’t directly relate to the care and feeding of ourselves or our loved ones makes no sense until we introduce the fear of poverty (and thus hunger, lack of shelter, etc) if we don’t comply.
But instincts are hard to suppress. They’re literally the most base reaction we have. In fact, they’re there whether we heed them or not. That’s how powerful they are. So how does a system that relies on quashing our animal selves counter something so powerful? With shame, perhaps the most powerful motivator there is.
I was recently interviewed by a university student writing a paper on a particular issue in my field and the topic of shame came up. This student asked if shame can ever be a force for good. Absolutely, I said. Shame is one of the ways that we moderate unacceptable and dangerous behaviour. Shame is based on losing in-group status. Humans are immensely social creatures who need acceptance and community to survive. So the threat of losing your connections and community due to hurting another, for example, is a very positive use of shame, teaching people not to hurt others until they can internalize that lesson.
But the power of shame is rarely used for the benefit of the collective in our neoliberal, late capitalistic clusterfuck. Rather, it is used to shut down all of the signals that tell us that what is going on is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that most of us do work that is not only spiritually unfulfilling but is actively harmful for the earth and for humanity. It is unacceptable that most of us live in some form of economic insecurity. It is unacceptable that many of us don’t have access to fresh, nourishing food and instead rely on hyper-palatable, low-nutrient play food for the majority of our nutrition. It is unacceptable that one in three women* and one in two trans people will experience sexualized violence in our life times.
But you can’t start with the big violations and hope they’ll stick. You have to start with the small pieces of animalia that you can tame. We wear clothes because we are shamed for our nudity (I mean, there are practical reasons for clothes as well, but if I strolled down the street naked tomorrow no one would be objecting on the grounds that I wasn’t protected from the elements). We wear deodorant and perfume because it is unacceptable to smell like the animals that we are (this, by the way, is very culturally specific). We hide our emotions at work because we aren’t supposed to “make a scene” by reacting honestly to rude customers or over-bearing bosses like the animals we are.
And when we routinely over-ride our instincts we stop trusting them. Introducing the element of doubt is an incredible tool for controlling someone. This is an issue that impacts everyone, certainly, but it is also exceptionally gendered. Think of all the ways women (and other people socialized female) are taught to ignore our instincts: we are taught to distrust our hunger, routinely. Whether that’s through extreme calorie restriction, or the mind-games so many of us play as we try to negotiate down our hunger (“Am I physically hungry or emotionally hungry? Maybe I can just have some celery and hope my stomach will stop growling. Maybe I could have some gum instead. Maybe I’m just thirsty!”).How many times have you been told that “we often mistake hunger for thirst”? Ten? A hundred? Coming up on a million? Have you ever stopped to consider how ridiculous of a statement that is? If you took it out of the context of women’s continued disavowal of hunger it makes literally no sense. You’d never tell someone that has to poop that they actually need to pee and have just mistaken the two. Or that someone who is complaining of being cold is actually dehydrated. If someone is hungry they’re hungry.
We are taught to ignore our gut in favour of politeness. I tell my clients constantly, “your gut is smart. Trust it.” How often do we override that niggling feeling because we want to be “nice” (one of the most toxic words in the English language if you ask me)? On the bus, with that creepy guy who won’t get out of our space. Walking home with that dude who’s been behind us for too many blocks and turns. On a date with a cute guy or girl who keeps pushing minor boundaries? With the roommate situation we knew immediately wouldn’t work out?**
We are also taught to ignore our basic comfort, from the clothes that we wear (ever notice how many women change into sweats or pjs the second they walk in the door while their male partners are perfectly comfortable in their un-restrictive pants and shirts?), to the shoes we teeter in, to the absurd and painful lengths we go to remove the body hair that is our god-damn birthright as animals.
I’ve been doing a lot of personal work lately, including going back to therapy after almost a year break. And what I realized today is that almost all of the work I’ve been doing is allowing myself to get back to my animal self. It has been about trusting my gut, honouring my instincts, trusting my body, and seeking embodiment.
I recently had a dating situation where someone did a couple things that threw up yellow flags. Not red flags. They weren’t “DANGER WILL ROBINSON” infractions. They were “psst, hey, Will Robinson, maybe make a note of this, it’s a little hinky.” One yellow flag is something to mind but not a deal-breaker. But in quick succession there were three or four yellow flags on the field and I was suddenly flooded with anxiety. Not because I felt unsafe, but because I was at war with my gut. My gut was telling me “you know about boundaries. You literally teach workshops on boundaries. You tell your clients every day to trust their gut. You can’t talk the talk if you won’t walk the walk.”
I had a really clear signal from my gut that there were too many yellow flags on the pitch but I was fighting it because I didn’t want to “overreact” or “be rude.” Despite being in possession of the world’s best early alert system I was fighting something I champion because I’ve spent my life being subtly and overtly trained to ignore it for fear of shame–god forbid a woman “overreact” be “hysterical” or “a bitch” to a man who is over-reaching his bounds.
This personal work has also included embracing my hunger without questioning it or trying to barter it down, and listening to my body’s signals that it needs movement or rest.
Recognizing when we are safe or not, when we are hungry or not, and whether we are tired or not are literally our birthright as animals (ever seen a cat that’s feeling any of those? They don’t fuck around. They get their needs met whatever it takes), and yet we are taught from a very young age that all of those instincts are wrong (let Creepy Uncle Jerry kiss you, you don’t need seconds, go to bed even though you’re not tired). And so our work as adult humans is, in many ways, to get back to our animal selves.
*This is a contentious statistic for a whole lot of reasons I’m not going to go into here, related to disclosure, shame, measurement, etc. This statistic comes from Stats Can in 1993, the last time they did a Violence Against Women survey. The commonly cited American statistic comes from RAINN and is one in five. My instinct is that that is a low estimate.
**Oh do I have stories. And for every bad roommate story I have a matching story of ignoring my gut instinct.
There’s something about the internet that brings out the basest parts of us. Can you imagine if people lived their day-to-day lives like they were on a Facebook thread (or, god forbid, in the Youtube comments section)?
I’m vegan (for political reasons) and gluten-free (for IBS reasons). Here’s what such an announcement would look like on the internet:
Commenter 1: I’m vegan too, but I don’t eat soy, corn, oil, sugar, grains, or joy. Anyone who does isn’t a real vegan!
Commenter 2: Fuck veganism. I’m paleo. Veganism is for [redacted misogynistic slur]!
Commenter 3: Gluten-free is such a fad! Stop being so pretentious! Fuck you!
Commenter 2: Fuck you! I’m gluten-free because Grok didn’t eat glutens! Do you even lift, bro?
Commenter 4: I can’t be vegan because as a man it will turn me gay and make me grow breasts. STOP TRYING TO FEMINIZE ME YOU FEMINAZI!!!!
Commenter 5: I make $900 an hour working from home! Ask me how!
And so on and so forth into perpetuity.
Here is what it looks like if I tell a room full of people that I am gluten-free and vegan.
Person 1: Huh. That sounds hard.
Person 2: I think the cafe around the corner has some stuff you can eat.
I think part of the problem is that the internet is, still, kind of like the Wild Wild West and people are trying to find their people. One way to do that is to make big, extreme statements, hoping that doing so will bring your kind of people out of the woodwork. If you eat in a restricted or unusual way, it can be hard to find people who get it and have tips and recipes and can commiserate. I’m sympathetic to that.
But, more than that, I think the internet lets us conveniently forget that every username and avatar belong to a real person with real feelings and so we say the nasty things we would never say out loud but feel emboldened to say on the internet.
Pair that with the fact that a lot of the extreme, exclusionary diet talk is based on a type of moralizing that sounds, frankly, bananas, when said out loud in mixed company, and you have a perfect storm.
A lot of the extremely restricted ways that people eat don’t actually make any sense, and so they can create a lot of cognitive dissonance. Do we know what Grok was eating 10,000 years ago? Kind of. It was varied. Climate and geography have a huge impact on what foods are available at a low energy and safety cost. It wast mostly vegetarian. With maybe some grubs thrown in. And, more importantly, if given the chance, Grok would shovel down pastries by the fistful because he lived in a time of scarcity. (Plus, you know, evolution didn’t just stop 10,000 years ago–as evidenced by the various levels of lactose tolerance around the world and so many other things.)
Really thinking about why you’re eating bacon on bacon on bacon with half a sweet potato might lead you to some uncomfortable places. Are you swept up in a fad? Are you deathly afraid of carbs? Are you tied to an outdated ideology that is less and less acceptable in nominally liberal spaces?
Durant constructs an image of the “natural” that is entirely ideological. The real appeal of hunter-gatherer life is what he imagines to be its strict partition of gender roles, where “Men were hunters, women were gatherers” and where “women rewarded great hunters” with sex. Paleo eating is here connected with an image of society which reproduces itself largely through masculine competition.
Or maybe you have embraced “healthy veganism” wherein you exclude all “processed foods” such as flour, oils, sugar, and perhaps grains. And let’s throw soy in there for good measure because of something The Food Babe said. And maybe you’re doing it based on the promise that you’ll feel better for it, yet wondering why you are so tired and cranky all the time. So maybe you start eliminating more foods. And maybe you’re starting to get really afraid of food. But you’ve been sold a bill of goods that eating the right way will extend your lifespan, cure all known diseases, and make you a good person.
You can’t exactly walk away from that, can you? So how do you silence those doubts? You double-down. Maybe you start a new blog about “clean eating” or start trolling your friends’ pics of pasta on instagram. Maybe you just remove everyone from your Facebook feed who isn’t also paleo or raw vegan or orthorexic.
Whatever the case, you begin to build your identity around your diet. And that is a dangerous place to be. Not only because there are so many cultural and economic factors behind who eats what (and, make no mistake, both Paleo and mainstream veganism are not financially available to most low-income people, and are culturally irrelevant to many people’s traditional foodways), but because there may well come a time when you can’t eat that way anymore. And what happens to your identity if its prevailing factor is no longer available to you? The vegan community has seen what happens when people stop being vegan and become militantly ex-vegan. It’s weird and ugly.
The truth is, there are conversations we should be having about food. They involve the scarcity of good quality, varied foods in food deserts; the inequitable ways food is grown and distributed around the world; the subsidies high calorie/low satiety/low nutrient food producers get and their obscene advertising budgets; the lack of time and access many people have to the knowledge and means to cook for themselves between multiple under-paying jobs; the exploitative practices of using temporary migrant food workers for food production in Canada and the US which often involve unsafe work and living conditions and criminally low pay; the abhorrent realities of CAFOs which damage land and water while torturing animals and traumatizing slaughterhouse workers.
These are the conversations we should be having. And these are the food issues we should be moralizing–these are all incredibly unjust, unethical practices allowed and propped up by systemic issues of class inequality, racism, colonization, neoliberalism, and undue corporate influence on government policies.
Focusing on anything less is navel-gazing, us-vs-them bullshit that hides the real ethical issues of food politics and I’m tired of it.
Food rules are a pretty contentious topic–some people live and die by them. Some feel that healthy eating habits (especially for those in recovery from disordered eating) can’t include them. Some like to reframe rules as “guidelines” and some seem try to delude both themselves and their audiences that their food rules are different and, no matter how restrictive they seem, they aren’t like that other person’s restrictive food rules.
If you’re on Facebook (or the internet) you’ve encountered a plethora of food rules: Whole30, Paleo, plant-based, vegan, raw vegan, “clean” eating, Weight Watchers, intermittent fasting, etc. etc.
I’ve tried more than my fair share of rules: raw vegan (cold all the time but felt great–possibly because the body’s response to starvation is a push of energy); Eat to Live (that way madness and–with 3 pounds of produce and a cup of beans a day–pooping lie); extreme calorie restriction; Geneen Roth’s (generally sane) guidelines; obsessive calorie tracking; and the one freeing but problematic rule: fuck it all. I’ve tried intuitive eating (and had a fair bit of success). I’ve done low(ish) carb (as an ethical vegan there is only so low one’s carbs can go). I’ve done low GI. I’ve paired both extreme calorie restriction and a more moderate intake with obsessive exercise. I’ve toyed with orthorexia.
What I’m saying is, I’ve tried a lot of rules. They’ve all, with the exception of intuitive eating, been a substitute for the control I was lacking in life, and a tool with which to punish myself.
I, like many of us, was never taught or modelled healthy eating/food patterns. So, when I’ve thrown off the shackles of culturally supported food bullshit, whether out of burgeoning self-love or politics (and, let me be clear, my self-love is intimately tied to–and a result of–my feminist politics) I have found myself floundering. What does a healthy relationship with food actually look like? What is normal eating?
This is a remarkably stressful question. Because, really, in this culture at least, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer. If I were to try to answer that question it would look something like this: a pattern of eating that keeps you nourished without angst or worry.
But what does that look like in practice?
I’ve been working through Making Peace with Food by Susan Kano. It has been revealing and hope-inducing. From it, I have incorporated three rules into my life. Rules that feel sustainable. Rules that give me a framework within which I can eat with freedom and care for myself, by nourishing both my body and my soul. The rules I’ve incorporated are:
1. When you are craving something, eat it. Indulge that craving. Enjoy it whole-heartedly.
2. When you’re not craving something particular, eat health-promoting food (fruits and veg, whole grains, protein, etc.).
3. When you start feeling stressed or compulsive about food flip the script from “Can I resist to this?” to “Do I want this?” If the answer is yes go to number 1. If not, go do something else.
In order to embrace these rules I have had to (start to) accept that weight-loss might not be in the cards. That my choice might be sanity at this size or angst at, well, this size. And that I can focus on a healthy and nourishing relationship with food and I can focus on getting really strong, fit, and capable, and that the mental/emotional work is to accept that my body will do what it does within those habits.
And that sounds like a pretty damn good place to be.
If you are someone who uses the internet to look at recipes, or workouts, or workout gear, or seek workout inspiration, or diet info, or pretty much anything targeted toward women you’ve seen them. Tonnes of them. Life coaches; holistic coaches; health coaches; health and wellness coaches; holistic health and wellness coaches; holistic health, wellness, and life coaches.
And if you’re anything like me, when you see that in their “about” section you think to yourself “hmmm. What the fuck does that actually mean??”
See, anyone can call themselves a coach. Watch this: I’m a feminist blogger coach. Boom! Now to do some social media marketing…
Now, I truly believe that all of these various coaches are well-meaning. They feel like they’ve figured something out and they want to share that with the world. Often, it seems, they have overcome (whether fully or partially) a disordered relationship with food and want to share that newfound freedom with others. That is commendable and lovely. It is also really, really worrying to me.
First, my observations about coaches: they are almost always middle-class white ladies who are dissatisfied with the jobs available to them and wanting to both help others and be their own bosses. I can dig that. I’m a white lady who is just about to squeak into the middle-class with the start of a new job (and I was raised culturally, if not always financially, middle-class). I am often dissatisfied with the jobs available to me and would be happy to be my own boss. I am also committed to helping people. I get it. (I also think this can be tied to the neoliberalization of health–in short, it eschews regulation, mandatory training, and any kind of job stability or benefits while putting the onus for health on the individual in very visible ways (health coaches are pretty much always thin, conventionally attractive white women)–but that’s a post for another day.)
But here’s where I have a huge concern with coaches. Anyone can be a coach. There is no legal restriction on who can be a coach. There is no regulatory body that ensures all coaches are certified. And then there’s that question…certified in what? There are lots of health coaching certifications. They seem to span from a weekend to months. But, to paraphrase some graphic novel I haven’t read, who certifies the certifiers (sorry)? What does it actually mean to be a certified health coach? Who are you capable of responsibly and ethically working with?
I’ve worked in the anti-violence movement for a long time. I have been a victim support worker. I have a masters degree that focused on the intersections of mental health, physical health, and policy. What I’m saying is, I know a lot about mental health, I know a lot about how to support people who have experienced horrifically traumatic events. I have a lot of training and even train others. But I am not a counsellor. I am not a psychologist. There is a whole lot of mental health stuff that I am not qualified to do and it would be unethical for me to do it.
And that’s what concerns me. I recently read an article by a health and wellness coach who specializes in treating eating disorders. Red flags started shooting up left and right for me. Trained and registered therapists (psychologists, clinical counsellors, clinical social workers) need years and years of specialized training in order to be able to work with people with eating disorders. They also have their own clinical supervision which ensures they are not only providing good, competent, ethical care, but they they themselves are mentally healthy enough to be working with clients. I have seen far too many health and wellness coaches who seem to have their own unresolved eating disorders putting that skewed information out into the ether (and, presumably, into their clients’ lives) and that is profoundly worrying to me.
Therapy is not one-size-fits all, and it’s certainly not a perfect field. But it is backed up by rigorous training, it’s well regulated, and it has a lot of academic literature to support the efficacy of many modalities. If I want to visit a clinical counsellor I can check with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors and ensure that she is registered with them, which means she has at least a Master’s degree in an approved field, has references which speak to her abilities as a counsellor, has completed a 100 hour practicum, has a broad base of skills and knowledge, and has pledged to follow a strict ethical code.
Whereas someone who lists themself as a life coach or health and wellness coach could have some kind of certification or none. And if they do have a certification it’s quite difficult to find out what that actually entails (I’ve tried). And, unlike with a registered clinical counsellor or psychologist, they have a lot of leeway in what they do. An RCC or psychologist has bounds they can’t step outside of–they can’t start giving you dietary advice or prescribing workouts, or any number of things–while a health coach can tell you pretty much anything they want to, regardless of the efficacy, safety, and sanity of their recommendations.
Now, this isn’t to slag off every “coach” out there. As I said, I think they are well-intentioned and truly want to help people. And sometimes having a facebook page or blog that focuses on movement that feels good and mostly whole foods is just what you need for motivation and inspiration. But I think it gets into dicier territory when money starts exchanging hands and recommendations are being given.
But don’t listen to me, I’m just some lady on the internet.
I know, I know, it’s that time of year. The time the diet industry goes into overdrive, salivating over the guilt-ridden masses vowing to finally, finally make that change. Hire that trainer, start that diet. And, by the grace of god, be bikini-ready by May. (Here’s a secret: got a body? Like bikinis? Congrats! You’re bikini ready!)
So it’s no wonder that everywhere you turn you’re hearing about super foods, fallen super foods, new food trends, old food trends, food trends to watch out for. And, my favourite: 10 Leafy Greens Healthier Than Kale.
Kale is pretty darn healthy. It’s got boatloads of fibre, it’s got tons of nutrients, it’s got a surprising amount of protein per calorie, it’s got a high volume:low calorie ratio which helps fill you up if you’re seeking weight loss or maintenance. Yeah, maybe chicory’s got a few more per polyphenols (which do what, exactly?) than kale, but so what? Are you finding chicory in your grocery store? Would you know what to do with it?
Much like with exercise (the best one is the one you do), the best leafy green is the one you eat. Anything more than that is veering into nutritionism. 8% more calcium or twice as many polyphenols doesn’t mean anything if you don’t like it, can’t find it, can’t afford it, or just won’t eat it.
These types of articles that focus on the micro-micro-micro level (the micro level being individual behaviours and choices, the micro-micro being eating behaviours, and the micro-micro-micro being this particular plant for that particular nutrient) do us all a real disservice.
The reality is that most of what impacts our health is essentially beyond our control: poverty, infrastructure, agricultural subsidies, structural racism, pollution. And those things that are within our control (for those of us privileged enough to have such control)? They’re really simple. Dead simple. Embarrassingly simple (which is certainly not to conflate simple with easy): eat lots of plants, eat a diverse diet, don’t eat too much, move as much as your body and lifestyle allow, ditto sleep, don’t drink pop, don’t smoke, floss your teeth.
That’s about it. But how many articles can you write about that? How many diet pills does “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” sell? How many clicks does “move your body every day, lift heavy stuff sometimes” get versus “the 19 fat-burning secrets THEY don’t want you to know!!”?
And, moving beyond that, what advertiser is going to pay for “Poverty Larger Risk for Diabetes Than Diet” with their right hand when their left hand is in Washington lobbying against raises to the minimum wage?
Rather than worrying about the precise micronutrient makeup of our diets and which “superfood” is trending highest (for the record, goji berries taste like literal dirt), or wading into online-fights about CrossFit, why don’t we all try to hit those basics: fresh food, lots of plants, adequate sleep and movement, lowered stress, good oral hygiene, and then spend some of that time and energy working on ensuring that those are available for all (write your representative, get involved in elections, volunteer at the community garden, organize for a living wage, donate your garden’s excess to shelters and food banks, stop supporting magazines and TV shows that peddle harmful crap).
And a friendly reminder that a lot of food banks and shelters are hitting hard times this winter. If you can contribute food or personal goods (socks, hats, mitts, scarves, toiletries and menstrual products are always needed) or even better, money, that is one small, concrete thing you can do to help the health of someone else.
Kelly’s amazing post over at The Superbalanced Life has got me thinking today. It’s this sentence that was like a clanging claxon, speaking a truth I haven’t fully processed:
My big epiphany yesterday was that what I am most angry and sad about is the realization that I will have to be mindful about food for the rest of my life.
After a life time of being fat*–being a fat kid, an awkward fat teen, a fat young adult–all the pieces came together and I was at a great size/weight for myself, easily. I ate mostly what I wanted and exercised a ton because I’d just learned the joy of distance cycling and used my bike and my feet as my primary means of transportation.
And I stayed there for a good few years. Until I had a catastrophic year of everything you can imagine going wrong (two GI parasites, ibs, vertigo, a gallbladder that malfunctioned entirely and had to be removed, a devastating break-up, a high-stress, dysfunctional work environment) and I gained a bunch of weight. Twenty pounds after surgery that seemed about right after a year of not being able to eat (and losing too much weight quickly) due to GI shenanigans and being on bed-rest for two months. And then twenty more pounds that coincided/caused(?) the development of PCOS. Those second twenty pounds were thanks to a sedentary job and very slow recovery from surgery which left me very inactive, eating take-out because I was too beat to cook, and emotional eating because my work situation was slowly killing me.
As my weight stabilized and I got PCOS under control and I’ve slowly started to lose weight I’ve found myself faced with that anger: I’ll have to be mindful about food (and movement) for the rest of my life. But it’s so UNFAIR! *stomps feet*
Why do all my thin friends not have to worry about this? Why am I the only person that has to think about what I’m eating, how much I’m eating, how much I’m moving? Why do I have to course-correct when I get too busy for a week to be as active as I’d like or I go out for dinner too many times in a week? IT’S NOT FAIR!!
But hold on…I’ve been spending lots of time with a friend who is very slim. And you know what? She thinks a lot about what she’s eating and how much she’s eating and how much she’s moving. And though she eats the things she loves, she eats small amounts. And I had lunch with another lovely friend who is both slim and petite. And she ordered a huge wrap and fries. Why can my lovely petite friend order a huge wrap and fries and be slim like that? Oh, it’s because she ate all her fries and just a little of her wrap. And then there’s my other dear friend who regularly takes half of what she orders home.
So maybe…it’s not that they can eat whatever, whenever, and as much as they want. Maybe it’s that they eat the things they love but in just-enough quantities. Maybe it’s that they are well attuned to their bodies’ needs and can, at this point, self-regulate quite easily. Maybe there’s all this other stuff happening behind the scenes that we don’t normally see. Maybe they’re stressed and so they’re not eating enough. Maybe they are a lot more active than we think.
And so maybe it’s not actually all that unfair. Maybe I just have some more work to do on heeding my body’s signals and being active and eating in a way that supports my goals.
But I did title this the Unfairness of It All, right? So if we’ve figured out that there isn’t actually some karmic injustice in which slim people can eat anything and everything they want whenever they want without thinking about it, where’s the unfairness?
The unfairness is in how our society has taught us to think of slim people versus fat people. The unconscious associations we make about worth and goodness and intelligence. The messages that tell us that someone above a certain size isn’t fuckable, no matter how gorgeous their face, how luscious their body, how sexy their brain. The ways that we, especially (but not solely) women, have internalized this toxic bullshit, often regardless of size. I am as happy (most days) in my body now than I was 40 pounds ago because what I was seeing 40 pounds ago was skewed by society’s bullshit. This is the body I’ve got now. I might as well love it and create sustainable change rather than trying to hate myself thin.
And the unfairness is in the subsidies agriculture conglomerates get to market and produce highly-palatable, nutritionally devoid play food to poor people and people of colour. The unfairness is in the inner city food deserts and the single mom working three jobs who doesn’t have time to cook. The unfairness is in the astronomical price for Crossfit when millions of people don’t even have a park where it’s safe enough to go walk and play. The unfairness is in a society that teaches us to strive to be thin while enticing and inducing rampant consumption.
It is unfair, it is terribly unfair, that we now live in a world so overrun with corporate greed and malfeasance that we must be on guard against the advertising and marketing and laws that make it a lot easier to eat 1000 calories of Doritos than 100 calories of broccoli. And it is unpleasant (at first) that we must go so out of our way to undo the effects of the sedentary North American lifestyle. But there is no injustice in being responsible for your own energy balance and activity if you have the privilege of time, safety, and access to attend to it. That is the piece we are each responsible for as we fight the broader systems that wage war against food security.
*I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being fat. If that is what your lifestyle and genetics team up for and you’re happy there, you go on with your bad self. I didn’t feel happy or healthy above that size.