Saturday, 10 October 2015

"You should just eat..."

TW: eating disorders, weightloss, food

I recently, for reasons for too personal and boring to explain here, started a very popular and expensive diet whose name rhymes with Benny Laid. I am on it despite finally having made peace with my size and weight, gaining another gold star towards being a strong independent woman who don't need no diet industry or fat shaming.

Only I do, right now.

I'm not trying to lose much, about six kilos or just under a stone if you're playing using the imperial system (why?). I have an unspecified deadline that could be anything from a few weeks to early next year, but it seems smart to get going now.

I'm using the Lenny Slade system because I need to have this taken out of my hands for a while. Years of disordered eating and one brief all-out tumble into the nightmare that is bulimia has meant that dieting is a minefield for my mental health and emotional wellbeing. Paying $170 a week for a friendly young lady to give me a week's worth of ready meals and tiny cookies means that I'm not weighing myself three times a day and lying awake worrying about how that stirfry is sitting in my stomach. If I eat what I'm given, the weight will come off. The end.

This time out from regular programming has allowed me some breathing space to consider my relationship with food, eating and diet. Why is it that it's such a spiky subject? That need we all have to offer advice seems matched only by our defensiveness when that advice is given to us. I'm as guilty on both sides as anyone. When I was trying a month of "clean eating" (yeah, yeah) I was probably the cause of some serious ocular damage to friends and colleagues from all the eye-rolling I was causing them. I still recall suppressing real, visceral rage when, after running a half marathon, I was told that if I "just" went vegan I could shit some stubborn kilos and would find it easier to run that distance next time.

That's it though, isn't it. "Just". "If you just eat......" "You should (also awful) just do......". We blithely offer our advice on whatever food we like at the time without considering the incredibly complex venn diagram that dictates our eating. My nourishment tries to balance four key, and often incompatible, aspects.

Mental health/wellbeing tells me that I can't worry too much about what I eat, but to eat mindfully and with attention to quality. Not to weigh myself, but to love myself.

Ethical considerations ask me to return to vegetarianism, if not veganism. I sometimes wish I knew or cared less about factory farming and animal suffering (even when it's free range and organic and all the bells and whistles) so that I didn't think about the animals that died and suffered for my food, but I do, and my cognitive dissonance that keeps me eating it astonishes me.

Physical nourishment sits quiet, almost unconscious.

My relationship with a meat eater who loves pizza, and friends who are wonderful cooks and love eating requests that I remember them when I think of all the above, and that we live in a society where love, and friendship, and meetings are all pinned by the making and eating of food.

I am grateful that I am financially in a position where the cost of what I eat is not an issue. This is not the case for many, many people.

How do I appease all of these? What dietary choices can I take that will not cause me harm in some way? A dietician or nutritionist might be able to help with some aspects, but all of them?

So, I compromise. Right now, I am eating for my mental health and physical self. I don't eat with my partner or friends. I'm eating frozen meals with beef and chicken and I try not to think about the quality of their lives because right now, my mental and physical needs outweigh my ethics, which is a paradox in and of itself. Once I reach my "goal" weight and pose for a photo with a little cardboard sign, I'll be able to reevaluate my needs and feed myself appropriately.

But it's never just about the food. It's never as simple as "you should". Everyone eats in a balance, even if unconsciously. Those priorities can and will change, and with that the food they eat. Education might help but unless you address those priorities, then telling someone "just eat....." is worse than useless.

I sometimes wish that for me, food was just food. Until then, I'm stuck with cardboard boxes of linguine.


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