Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rant: 'Please die ana' and other food obsessions

This is going to be a bit of a rant, so if that offends you I suggest you look away now. The topic of today's rant is food, and in particular the way we have managed to generate obsession in a time of plenty.

In the past week I have watched someone suffering so deeply from an eating disorder I can count every bone in her body put out eating disorder awareness fliers out before she went to work out. I've read a posting on an online community from someone who, trying to instill healthy eating habits in her children said there was no dessert, and then ate candy from her desk; this post led to others (all women) saying they can't open Halloween candy because they eat it all. I've seen one of the fittest people I know actively wage war on half a slice of cake. I've read the story of someone trying to balance blood sugar and digestive disorder, saying that the "healthy" pasta was not worth it for her. I've had someone tell me that they need to join weight watchers because of their risk for heart disease (and their hatred of exercise), but they are worried about it because they have no food or body issues. I've seen a man on TV claim that the meal he cooked at 50 (his first) was the high point of his life, and that until that point food had been merely fuel. Is it any wonder 'Ana's Song' is in high rotation for me right now?

The nexus of all this, of course, is food and the ways in which people do not enjoy it, and all of them in one way or another resonate with me. My relationship with food is only now starting to normalise after a time where I could eat nothing due to illness, and then a time where I would eat a table if it wasn't nailed down because I was on prednisone, and frankly that is enough to headfuck anyone. Part of coming back to food, for me, has been coming back to enjoying it without fear, and part of that process has been noticing how completely and utterly fucked up most people's relationship with it (and I am not letting myself off the hook here) is.

In a time of plentiful food, as many of us in the west are privileged enough to enjoy, instead of enjoying it, food has become an instrument of torture for so many of us. Fat hatred has talked huge numbers of women into imposing artificial famine upon themselves, and when we do break that famine we gorge, because we're not being "good" so why the fuck not? The wester beauty ideal has a lot to answer for, let me tell you. When it isn't famine, it is eating the "right" things as defined by some metric of health; there is even a named eating disorder for taking this to extreme: orthorexia. The specter of "long term health" is being used as a stick to beat food choices with now, for many, and as in the case of my friend above some people can't win for losing. And even for those who are fuelling their bodies, for some it has become utilitarian and there is no joy in it. And lack of joy does not even begin to describe the hell and the demons battled by those with EDs; hell and demons that make me unspeakably sad.

What the fuck have we done as a society? How is it that we have managed to take the joy out of food for so many people, when there is plenty of food to go around? How many people are not performing at their best right now, because they are underfuelled, or obsessing about what they want to eat? How many people are eating chocolate and feeling nothing but guilt?

Do me a favour today: Enjoy something you eat, and don't feel guilty about it.

Postscript: Without meaning to, and truly ironically, I posted this just after the end of 'Love your Body Day' where I live. Life is so weird sometimes.


Nia said...

I have already done you that favor: I ate a lovely truffle as part of my dessert. Even so, I have to admit that I eat a little bit of chocolate every single day as a way to avoid bingeing.

Placebogirl said...

Nia, thank you for eating for pleasure. Your tale of eating chocolate to avoid bingeing--I do it too. I think we are products of our conditioning, and I sure hope I can help break the cycle for some people in the next generation.