A few articles recently got me thinking about food in our culture. I’ve been reading Mark Bittman’s columns in the New York Times for awhile, and he focuses on bringing the focus back to real food. Many of his suggestions for improving the food ‘industry’ are great. But the Times publishes articles on eating ‘this’ and not ‘that’ all the time, and the Wall Street Journal is just as guilty, reporting on research that we should restrict the time during which we eat – until, of course, the next piece of advice rolls around or the government changes its mind again. And these, for a New Yorker, are some of the most reputable publications we look to for news. Don’t even get me started on all the ‘diet tips’ and ‘secrets to weight loss’ that appear on the cover of every girlie magazine around!
One of the many downsides to this constant focus on how we treat food, instead of on just eating food, is that everyone begins to feel like it’s completely acceptable to comment constantly on the eating habits of other people (or even worse, to act like an amateur nutritionist dispensing advice that may or may not hurt the recipient). I get so many comments from acquaintances, ranging from shock if they’re with me at a post-run brunch at the volume of food my sturdy 5′ self can consume, to lectures on eating more when I just have a cup of tea or small glass of wine while out (because they don’t know that I’ve already eaten my fill, or simply am not hungry, and somehow don’t understand my routine of eating when I’m hungry, even if it’s at weird times!). I’m motivated to spread the word that this whole commenting on what other people are eating thing is not okay, unless the comment is (a) how delicious it looks, (b) ‘can I have the recipe?’ or (c) a question about my allergies (which some people hate, but I don’t mind, because some of mine are weird and most people have never met someone allergic to oranges, so I consider it a learning experience). But otherwise, my mantra is live and let live.
Even though I’ve moved past letting those comments affect my behavior, I still think they have a bad effect on promoting distorted body image and eating habits, especially among the young. I used to read those lists of ‘Top 10 Foods to Avoid’ or whatever they’re titling them these days, and suddenly decide that I had to cut out salmon, or something else completely ridiculous, and feel guilty if I slipped up. I’d try to copy ‘guilt-free’ recipes and in the process I didn’t just retain the guilt, I lost the joy in food. Now, I basically ignore everything I see and hear that purports to be advice on food, because the best advice, it turns out, is listening to your own body (and your doctor, of course!) I’m eating way more than ever before as I ramp up my running and add in new workouts, making sure to fuel and refuel properly. Between that and the fact that I need to eat every couple of hours to feel alert and focused, what I eat on a daily basis (showcased in my WIAW) tends to be mostly whole, unprocessed foods (with some ice cream and my own homemade baked treats, of course!) in pretty large quantities – I can put away a LOT of fruit and yogurt! And it suits me just fine.
But I didn’t just decide to share my own eating habits as a snapshot of my own life – I want to make it part of my effort to show the world that food means something different to everyone, and that no one should have to deal with other people commenting on what they eat, or feel ‘guilty’ at any time. There are some inspiring reads out there from other bloggers on this same topic, and I’ve linked a few of them here: Better Than Sprinkles on ‘Guilt-Free’, the Pickyrunner Food Story, and focusing on food itself at Running With Spoons. It’s wonderful to know that others out there have the same goal, and it’s my fervent hope that change is possible!
This is my Thinking Out Loud Thursday – I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you ever get frustrated when others comment on your food choices? Do you think we’ve all become a bit too food-obsessed?
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