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Archive for the tag “food industry”

No going back to 1975

I have been thinking a lot lately about how fat people are here to stay. It was a real epiphany for me a few weeks ago when I read an article that pointed out that Americans, and in general, Westerners, are statistically more overweight than we were 40 years ago, and that is not going to change any time soon.

I already knew we were fatter. It was the realization that this trend is not going to get “fixed” that hit me. After all, I learned a long time ago that the first step in changing anything is acknowledging the reality of the situation.

Heath articles and reports of statistics always seem to imply that somehow we could get back to 1975. It reminds me of the way I used to feel about my own body and weight problems. Every time I got fatter, I said to myself that I just had to get back on track and then I was going to lose the weight. For good this time. But I wasn’t doing the things that I needed to do to lose weight and keep it off. And neither is the U.S.

That has me think it’s time for fat representation. That it’s time to stop judging fat people. That it’s time to get used to seeing fat people. That we need to watch them on TV, and in movies. Let’s see them in magazines and on billboards. Let’s stop telling them fat and beauty are mutually exclusive. Let’s stop treating them like they are lazy and shameful.

I read once, a million (or at least 10) years ago, that Ancient Egyptians had high rates of obesity, diseases like diabetes, and lots of dental problems, much like our own society. And that it probably had to do with their high-carbohydrate diet. After all, they may not have had sugar, but they almost entirely ate fruits, vegetables, and grains. Lots of bread. But I remember that they had something else that we have too. A glorification of the thin body. That struck me as more surprising than the fact that so many were overweight.

It seems the fatter a culture of humans gets, the more we adore skinny, and the skinnier skinny is, the more we adore it.

I think we need to stop glorifying skinny, and start representing who and how we really are.

Now, before you freak out and complain that I am promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, stop. Just stop. I am not promoting anything of the kind. What I am promoting is kindness. I am promoting minding your own business. I am promoting respect and honor for the human in front of you.

When I was fat, I hated myself. And I didn’t lose weight and then start to love myself. I took a million small actions that let me like myself enough to take bigger actions that led me to feel like I deserved to take care of myself. I started to like myself and then I lost weight. You cannot shame anyone thin. But you *might* be able to love them thin. And if not, all you lost was your hate.

And if you really want change, then you are going to need to get political. Let’s talk about labeling. Let’s talk about food deserts. Let’s talk about the food industry in general. Let’s talk about how the government lets a cereal company say right on the box that its product of processed carbohydrates is “heart healthy” (even when the FDA says this is misleading.) Let’s talk about subsidies for corn that make high fructose corn syrup cheap and readily available to add to processed food. It’s already too late to go back to 1975.

I am not dismissing personal responsibility. I firmly believe in it. And I do believe change is possible. I am living proof. And I will happily be a beacon to those who want to put boundaries around their food as a means of losing weight, or getting free from food addiction. And I do not pretend that I liked or enjoyed being fat and in the throes of my addiction. But I am one person, making decisions for one person.

When I got my eating under control, I was single. I didn’t have to worry about feeding a family on a budget. And now that I am married and a DINK (Double Income No Kids), I am very well off. I don’t worry about the price of vegetables, meat, or dairy. If farmers didn’t get enough rain and cauliflower is expensive, I buy it anyway. In other words, it was easy for me to get my eating under control, not because I was “good” or had “willpower.” It was easy because my class and my lifestyle let it be easy.

And ultimately, I did it for myself. Not because I was a burden on the U.S. healthcare system. Not because “nobody wanted to see” me in a bathing suit. Not because strangers and/or doctors told me I was ugly or lacking.

So I am calling for our society, and each of us as individuals, to stop thinking, speaking, and acting like another human’s weight is our business. I am telling you that unkind words, judgement, cruelty, and intrusion never helped me. They did not help me lose weight. They did not help me change my life. They really only made everything worse. If you don’t already know, addicts use, in part, to stop the pain. If you are causing pain, you are not helping.

So can we stop treating fat people like they owe us something? Can we stop acting like their weight gives us the right to invade their privacy? Can we start showing them we see them? And can we actually start seeing them? Not as a problem to be fixed, but as other people just doing the best they can to get through life. Like all of us.


There is still joy in foodville now that sugar is cut out.

This week I was interviewed for a documentary about people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for a certain period of time. I was excited to do this interview because I am frustrated by the way the media often covers weight loss.

There is a lot of talk about the “obesity epidemic,” specifically in the western world. And there is an underlying assumption in the way it is covered by the media, and I would dare say even the way it is studied: “No one can entirely give up ‘comfort food.'”

We’ve got Oprah managing her bread. We’ve got contestants on The Biggest Loser exercising for 6 or more hours a day and ruining their metabolisms in the process. We’ve got Dr. Oz recommending sugar in moderation rather than artificial sweetener. In fact, we have an army of nutritionists recommending eating what amounts to junk food in moderation, so people won’t feel deprived.

What I think this does is perpetuate the myth that if you give up junk food, there will be no joy left in life. And this is a belief I see and hear all the time. When you give up cake, the first thing that everyone asks is, “But not for your birthday, right?”

I gave up cake entirely. Even on my birthday. I gave up my grandma’s lasagne for Thanksgiving and Christmas the last few years she was alive.

The idea that food equals joy is not entirely foreign to me even now. I have favorite meals. I look forward to them. I sometimes do a little dance, or talk to them in a baby voice. (This is not a joke – ask my husband.) I love to eat. I love food. It brings me joy, it’s true. The difference is that the food I eat now is all nutrient rich food. It’s all real food. It’s all whole food. It’s mostly stuff that grew in the ground, and can still be identified. 

I don’t know how to stop this idea that a person both cannot, and should not be expected to, give up unhealthy food, because that would be cruel. A punishment. 

But there is something important that I would like to point out. It was not always this way. This “obesity epidemic” is new. And I know that it is, because when I was growing up fat, I was the exception, not the rule. I was the weirdo. I was the one who was considered lazy and shameful. So I remember a time when most people were a healthy weight. I was not one of them, but they were the majority. In 2011, the U.K. medical journal, The Lancet, reported that obesity rates world wide had doubled since the 1980s. 

So here is my point, this idea that people cannot be expected to control their eating is ridiculous. There is no biological reason for it. But there may, in fact, be a reason for it that has to do with money, specifically profit.

There is a whole industry out there making food as addictive as possible. There are scientists in labs working on “food optimization,” doing whatever they can to make everyone feel the need to eat more. Even if it is killing us. They are looking for the perfect combination of fat, salt, sugar, and texture to keep you eating past the point you know is healthy. They are trying to get you to eat without ever feeling satisfied. They have buzz words like “mouth feel” They are working to create “addiction.”

I put “addiction” in quotes, because I don’t know how much of it is what I would consider a real addiction. “Addictive” is a word we use for everything now: TV shows, video games, songs, apps, just about anything. So the truth is, I don’t know if the salt, fat, sugar, mouth-feel, and crunch combination is simply “tricking” us into eating more than is healthy, but ultimately we still have control, or if it is really creating an inability to stop. But when we are talking about food, especially junk food, it is having a real effect, with real consequences on our lives and our health. Real whole food that can be identified (i.e. is not or is minimally processed) does not keep one on the hamster wheel of more. 

Here’s the deal: I’m fine. I am a-ok, and I am going to continue to be just fine. I found a real and lasting solution to my eating problem. I live a free and happy life. I am not saying this for me. I am saying this for the people who are suffering and keep being told that there is no solution, because, apparently, “nobody can avoid junk.”

If you want to avoid junk, you can. And perhaps we should all, as a culture, be asking who is gaining from our weight gain, when seemingly everyone is telling us that losing it is impossible.

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