On Food:: The Trap of Health
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
When I was around 13 years old, my body, seemingly overnight, grew curves in all the right places. I had an ass that was attracting attention from much older boys (bordering on men) in my tiny farm town community. Definitely not the first girl in my class to wear a bra, as soon as I did need a bra, I jumped far ahead of the other girls. It was a rush for me. I grew up around women obsessed with dieting, thinness and competition. I asked my mother to put me on a diet at 7 years old. So when all the curves landed on my body, I was elated at the attention and horrified that I was staring at the reality of having a voluptuous body in this life. I wasn’t “right”, I didn’t match what culture said was beautiful and good for women to be physically. As most women in our culture I have been haunted by chasm between the ideal and the reality of my body.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago and I came across this image posted by a woman I know only virtually. With both bodies having images of “good” and “bad” food overlaid on them, I was shocked at the implications of the image.
To add insult to injury, the image lists life attributes: phrases like “vibrant personality”, “fresh breath”, “clear skin” next to the woman with a small body. Not to mention that the pose of the image is one of sexiness, a suggestion of seduction with her arm raised above her head, her hip pushed out to show her sexy frame. Next to the big woman the phrases were “low sex drive”, “unhealthy”, “low energy”.
You can probably visualize my chin hitting the floor as I viewed this image. The woman who posted it, a nutritionist in the South, defended the image when I commented on it. She replied that there is a healthy weight that everyone should achieve and an ideal healthy diet everyone should eat. When I inquired what those ideals are and who gets to set them, she simply responded “research tells us what we should be and how to eat.”
Well, that is just laughable. If you have spent any time obsessing about food, body or diets, you know that 1) research is CONSTANTLY changing and 2) research and the researchers who do it, are not immune to cultural conditioning, mores and social standards. I beat myself up for most of my 20’s trying to be healthy and eat all the right foods. But my body is my body is my body.
Of course we know that certain foods do really helpful things for the body, and other types of food cause some harm. Of course we know that to feel good, to feel our own optimal state, there are certain behaviors that increase that good feeling, and other behaviors that decrease it. But let me say this, which I think cannot be said enough in today’s image obsessed culture: the number on the scale, the size of pants you wear ARE NOT the indicators of health, as this image suggested. Being thin is not an indicator of health in any form or fashion. Having a fuller, bigger body is also not an indicator of health or disease. And frankly, neither is what you eat. There are many many thin people who eat less than optimal foods who do not eptiomize health simply because they have genes that keep their body small.
Using health as a justification to shame women for the size of their bodies and what they eat is one more way that we police and control how women engage with health, nourishment, food and body. Using scare tactics to get someone to change their body makes them a prisoner in their own skin and keeps them from doing actual powerful work in the world.
What I want for women (and men) more than anything is to tap into happiness, like joy deep in the bones kind of happy. Where you know your center, know who you are and that you can meet life head on knowing that you are capable, strong, amazing, gorgeous and powerful regardless of what size you are. I want women to truly get that a number on a scale is a reflection of nothing that is useful in their day to day life. It is a measure that has been used to keep us pre-occupied with trivial matters that in turn keep us from doing the real, deep and passionate work of our soul.
To be at war with the vessel that carries you around in the world, literally breathes life into you, and allows you to experience the world around you is some of the worst behavior we do to one another when it comes to health, body and thriving. You can’t thrive when your motivation for doing so is one of shame and fear.
As for this image, yes eating food from the earth is preferrable over processed food.
And, as a recovered eating disorder queen, I am here to tell you that sometimes disordered eating, eating too much processed food or eating food that isn’t nourishing is simply a marker of a deeper emotional process going on. It doesn’t make you a bad person, or a good person if you are eating natural foods. It simply makes you a person with an emotional range that who has used food as a coping mechanism, and I say, in that case, THANK GOD you have a coping mechanism.
Don’t shame yourself for what you eat, and chose to eat from a place of embodiment, with food that nourishes you on the full spectrum of life. A question I like to ask is : “Will this food have me feel more alive, more happy and engaged in my life?” If not, it still may not mean that I avoid that food, but I get really right with whatever I’m eating. Your body is the only one you’ll ever have. Life is too short to live hating it, making it wrong and falling into the worn out idea that some foods are good, some are bad and that you need to be different than what’s at your core. Health is the most paramount piece of being alive.
Your size simply doesn’t indicate what’s happening on the inside. No one has cracked the code on what is or isn’t healthy universally across the board forever- amen- this- is- how- you- need –to- be- to- be- healthy. Nature just doesn’t work like that.