We all know about potatoes, the silent killer, and the horrors of drinking milk, the silent killer, thanks to certain Fox-friendly doctors and the groundbreaking work of The Health Institute of Nutrition. And while the “be healthy by getting skinny even if you’re genetically inclined to be fat which is sorta okay if you’re pretty enough to go on TV” tips provided by Dr. Ashton on the Mike & Juliet show have provided us with barrels of laughs around here (and some exciting lists of delicious food), this kind of “Three easy steps to social acceptability” list is no joke.
Raise your hand if you’ve been feeling guilty about eating white foods for the last two days.
As Fillyjonk, who has known me since I was 14, can attest, I’m one of the least eating-disordered people out there. I’ve struggled with self-image, guilt, and shame (including about food), but somehow that self-flagellation has never really manifested itself in my eating behavior (for which I’m profoundly grateful). I also recently experienced drastic weight loss due to health issues and am actually very excited at the prospect of not losing any more weight in the near future. In other words, I’m pretty unlikely at this point in my life to be triggered into dieting behaviors.
And yet, yesterday I found myself looking at the rice, tofu, bagels, cream cheese, soymilk, and bananas in my kitchen with deep suspicion. I almost skipped dinner, which I never do, because I didn’t have enough greens in the house to cook. My partner is currently ill and can’t handle much more than chicken broth, and part of me seriously considered just eating chicken broth, too, because everything else I could think of was white.
Don’t worry, Shapelings, I got my head screwed back on and managed to eat some of each of the above-mentioned items throughout the day (bagel with cream cheese, natch; rice and tofu in a stir fry; soymilk and bananas in a smoothie) thrown together with a few other ingredients that I chose — and not just for color. But while I ate my delicious stir-fry, watching the brown peanut sauce seep over the oh-so-white grains of rice, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the other people who might have seen the Mike & Juliet show — people who don’t know about FA, who haven’t let go of the fantasy of being thin, who aren’t contributors on blogs with hundreds of warm and hilarious readers to help keep them sane. Maybe a woman saw that show and marveled at how articulate and fashionable and confident Mo and Rachel were; maybe she started to think about how she was about that size and her hair was pretty cute, too, and hey, maybe she should sign up for that dance class after all, if these fat women can exercise without keeling over — and then Dr. Ashton told her not to drink her calories or eat anything white, and that positive voice was replaced by that of the Inner Dieter that this body-denying culture demands we all carry inside us. I ate dinner last night, but I don’t think that woman did.
And this is why, though I have no doubt that (as Rachel reports) Dr. Ashton may be an articulate and thoughtful person when she’s not appearing on TV — as no doubt many “obesity experts” are in their real lives — that’s not enough when your words have harmful effects. We’ve said it here before, and we’ll say it again: Food is not a moral agent. Mental health is part of health. Enjoying food is not pathological. “Bad” foods don’t cancel out “good” foods. You are allowed to eat what you want, when you want it, and to stop when you want to. No one can take away your permission to eat.
We, your fearless bloggers, like to remind you (and ourselves!) sometimes that we are not sprung fully-formed from the head of Marilyn Wann. We struggle with accepting ourselves. We struggle with eating joyfully and intuitively. We struggle because for every two Mos and Rachels who go on TV and love themselves fiercely, there’s four people telling them not to. It is hard not to listen to those four voices. But it is worth it.
If you are craving some white food today, eat it with a smile. I’ll be raising a glass of soymilk to you.