Friday, January 4, 2013

It's All Poison

I have been on the mindful eating journey for about four years now. I can't believe it's been that long already. As my readers know, I initially viewed mindful (or intuitive) eating as a way to ultimately lose weight and indeed it did result in an approximately 10% weight loss over about two or three months. Since then, my goal of intuitively eating down to a more socially acceptable weight (yes, dieting, though by another name) has evolved into the realization that I will be much healthier and happier focusing on healthy practices at the weight I am at NOW (which is about half-way between where I started in January 2009 and the 10% loss) rather than longing for a size that I can only reach through strictly adhering to what I consider disordered eating practices (aka, dieting).

In the past four years, I have become much more attuned to my hunger and satiety patterns while coming to enjoy physical activity to the best of my somewhat limited abilities. I do what I can and try not to compare my arthritic, orthopedically challenged body to that of a younger, less damaged body (my thoughts regarding the pediatric orthopedists and the treatments they prescribed to me as a child and how these treatments contributed to my unfortunate condition today cannot be expressed in a "family" blog...).

So far, so good.

However, my blogging and blog reading over the past four years have led me to wander down paths and develop food fears that I must now fight every day. Based on all the reading I've done, most food is POISON and I'm clearly poisoning myself on a daily basis (yes, I'm being sarcastic).

I regularly eat poisons such as dairy, whole grains, nightshade vegetables, bananas, legumes, red meat, high cacao chocolate, wine. It is truly frightening. It would seem that most food, unless it's been sanctioned by the paleo/ancestral/low-fat/no-carb/nightshade vegetable hit squad is BAD BAD BAD, not mention HORRIBLY DANGEROUS DANGEROUS DANGEROUS.

If someone, forty years back, had looked at what I ate on this typical day, they probably wouldn't have batted an eyelash. And no doubt in forty years time, the food police will have found other foods that are bound to kill us before we know what's hit us.

Meanwhile, back at my ranch (so to speak), I continue to mindfully eat a wide variety of foods, in reasonable quantities and avoid an undue reliance on highly processed products. These are my choices. I also continue to fight the voices of FEAR FEAR FEAR that permeate today's food landscape though sometimes the continuous fear mongering makes me practically sick to my stomach.


  1. LOL! Love this...I think trying to eat too clean can lead to disordered thinking as well..not to mention stress. Eat whole foods as close to nature as you can find should be okay.

    1. For the most part, that's what I try to do. But my motto (and it works for me) is "everything in moderation"!

  2. Agreed! It is frightening...but then again I haven't dropped dead from eating broccoli... THANK GOD!!

    Perhaps we should have a no food police day. :)

  3. Yes! I'm all for the "no food police" day!

  4. Based on my own lived experiences, I'm prone to speculate that much of this cultural frenzy towards blaming particular kinds of food (and the flip side...idealizing the merits of specific foods) arises from the painful experiences of masses of individual people who, like me---for various reasons---go through our lives feeling crappy much of the time (suffering from disabling or debilitating symptoms for which doctors have few, if any, helpful suggestions), and so we look to other sources for help to feel better (or at least not so crappy.) We're sick and tired of blaming ourselves for our suffering, and we're sick of believing that our suffering is all in our heads (we're weak or sinful, etc.)

    Capitalism gets involved, of course, and creates markets for products (images and dreams) that stir up our hopes and our longings to feel better. We want to believe we're not simply stuck in our ruts of suffering. We want to believe there's a REAL and feasible way to escape from our disordered and/or overly stressed lives.

    If we are fat and feel physically shitty, well, market forces (and dominant medical discourses) promise us that we will feel better (physically and emotionally) if we lose weight. And when that doesn't happen quite as planned, many of us buy into various specialized schemes (involving food products or nutrients) in hopes that we will, indeed, eventually find relief as a result of changes in nutrition.

    Similarly, we are told (and we want to believe) that maybe our symptoms (our fatigue, despair, inertia, boredom, etc) are caused by eating certain "harmful" foods. And capitalism is right there to confirm our worst fears and to accommodate our purchases of "healthier" foods.

    Indeed, for some of us who feel especially desperate, it turns out, we try using specific foods in self-medicating ways (sugar-laden foods---like wholesome and natural raw honey--- boost our brain neurotransmitter's access to glucose---assuming our insulin systems still function properly---which increases dopamine temporarily and results in improved wellbeing, ah--sweet relief, briefly), and of course even a very common food product such as coffee seems to provide millions of us with improved feelings of well being and increased productivity.

    It's easy to blame or to glorify foods as the source of our disorders because that approach meshes completely with our culture's individualist ideology. The individual can change what she eats, she can't change the carcinogens/pharmaceuticals/radiation in the ground water. She can't mandate a more equitable distribution of leisure time or wealth. The notion of food(s) as both enemy and ally supports our culture's individualist ideology and our capitalist hegemonic discourses so completely and so perfectly---as if they are tailor-made for each other.

    Hmm. Even a common cultural metaphor, such as "food police," can inform our critical perspectives.

    Wow, what a great topic for discussion! Thanks NewMe!

  5. As usual, hopefulandfree, your analysis is spot on. Many thanks!

    1. You're welcome!

      It also occurred to me (see what you started? LOL) that our beliefs about food (and/or nutrition and health in general) have come to serve, in interesting ways, almost as substitutes for commonly held (shared) values (e.g., faith in something unseen) and powerful beliefs about reality (e.g., god or religion in general)--thus, these food discourses function as post-modern ideological (metaphorical) realms through which we can connect with like-minded others who share OUR (i.e., superior or more rational) values and beliefs (e.g., our common reverence for--and trust in--the goodness of "whole foods"); and, in addition, these food discourses offer us value-realms through which we can disrespect those OTHERS (e.g., extremists or puritans) whose beliefs about food conflict with our own.

      So these food discourses give us ways to still talk to and connect with each other (in agreement and/or disagreement) about seemingly *safe* yet still-open-to-conflict topics (food/nutrition), in place of talking about (or arguing about) much bigger and much more *dangerous* topics, such as the values represented by (and advanced as a result of) capitalism or religion or philosophy.

      So. We get to have these very interesting social groupings (divisions) and discussions (and/or arguments) about ideas that SEEM extremely relevant and important---and in a sense, of course, they ARE socially relevant---but maybe they also serve as *necessary stand-ins* for (and distractions from, or ways to avoid talking about) OTHER ideas (having other kinds of conversations) that are far more threatening ("...voices of FEAR FEAR FEAR") to our shared social existence (shared ideology) and that remain below the surface (or outside the value-realms) of our shared (*safer*) dominant discourses.

      Just pondering out loud here. I hope that's okay. :)

    2. AND ALSO...

      LOL. Gosh, I don't mean to imply that these ideas and conversations about food ("moderation in all things", etc) are not valuable or truly "relevant"-- or unworthy of blogging about!

      Rather, it's as if we (as social beings) are also discussing those other--more threatening--issues (e.g., the values and ideologies advanced by SCIENCE as a dominant worldview) but we are using coded (i.e., less threatening and scary) language (discourse).

      In other words, sometimes when it seems like we're simply arguing about our conflicting food beliefs, maybe we are also (simultaneously) arguing about those other, more threatening, subjects. For example, when we talk about "obesity", it often seems like we are debating about notions of "free will" or whether or not the individual can override (or have control over) very powerful external (social or physiological) pressures.

      ("With faith all things are possible...")

      Other times, it seems like people are *debating* about, say, how much trust should we be putting in modern, scientific research results that may or may not be *tainted*--made "unwholesome", like "junk food" aka "junk science"--by conflicting interests...or whether we should, er, blindly keep putting our trust in *better* technology to save us all...or to make us all healthier.

      Hmm. I'll stop now. Thoughts? :)

  6. Hopeful and free, those are some damn brilliant comments! I particularly clicked with the idea that discussions of "correct eating" or "obesity" can actually be seen as proxies for such as the extent to which "free will" actually exists in our society.

    The day we realize that no, you can't "just do it" (as Nike says) is the day we admit that there are forces much larger and stronger than our simple "free will" and they wield extraordinarily immense power over us.

  7. Read before pressing publish.

    The sentence should read "...can actually be seen as proxies for issues such as the extent to which "free will" actually exists in our society.

  8. If you look at eating throughout history, there has always been a lot of superstition involved with it. The difference these days is that beliefs are supported by cherry picking scientific research to support various views. The people who say that this, that, or whatever is toxic are doing just that. They ignore evidence which undermines their worldview. For example, Paleo eaters who eschew grains pretend that ancient peoples did not eat or process grain despite archeological evidence that sunflower flour was consumed. They also ignore the bleeding obvious, which is the fact that people who ate in the Paleolithic age didn't live very long relative to the life span of modern people.

    All of this behavior is looking for something that can't be had - a guarantee of a long and healthy life. The zealotry you see and the fanatical adherence to certain eating plans are about fear. Much as religious zealots act on their fear by trying to convert the nonbelievers, diet zealots have to convince you that they are right. It's really all about convincing themselves that their sacrifices are worthwhile, and the public's inability to buy into the same perspective shakes their confidence.

    Personally, I take it all with a grain of salt and am not troubled by it. Eat everything in moderation, healthier things in larger portions, less healthy things in smaller portions, and live your life the way you want to. Ultimately, it's not a sexy way of living because it lacks the extremism and over the top sensationalism of the latest diet fad, but it is a good one.

  9. If you need a grounding reality check and voice of reason, don't forget to stop by! I'll have you enjoying pastries again in no time ; )