Food feeds people. This is hardly a radical statement on its face, but in our culture, it needs to be said again and again.
Food feeds people, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Today, admitting that you like food and the act of eating is tantamount to admitting to a love of heroin and the act of shooting up. We are not allowed to enjoy food or eating because then we might overeat and become fat. If we allow ourselves to enjoy stereotypically unhealthy foods, we will eat ourselves into disability. An inability to stop oneself from moderate eating is viewed as addictive behavior. (The fact that food is necessary for life is not considered.) Anyone who is aware of the physiology and psychology of addiction knows better than to equate an enjoyment of food, even to the point of eating *gasp* seconds, with addiction.
Then again, I paid good money for this pitchfork and I aim to use it.:)
I can’t decide who is more insufferable-those who bemoan their inability to not enjoy eating or those who have successfully conquered their desire to eat, moreso when the foods being given up are “bad” foods. This is how the conversation generally goes:
Person A: Do you want any pizza/ice cream/insert naughty food item here?
Person B: No, I’ve given up all that stuff.
Person A: Really? Why?
Person B: I’m on a diet/want to get healthier.
Person A: Wow, isn’t it hard?
Person B: No, I don’t miss it. It’s all garbage anyway and you realize once you’ve eaten real food how unnecessary it is.
Person A: You have so much willpower! I’m so jealous.
I hate these conversations. More than anyone will ever know. I can’t say anything, of course, because then I am just another jealous fat-ass who wants to justify her gluttony and tear down that poor courageous dieting soul for being so much better than I am.
No one is obligated to like anything too sweet, sour, bitter, salty, too filling, too light, or anything else that doesn’t strike your fancy or meet your feeding needs. If I offer someone a sip of my mocha latte and she declines because it is too sweet for her, I am not personally offended by this. If you tell me, a die-hard chocolate lover, that you don’t eat chocolate because it is too bitter or too filling, that wouldn’t bother me.
What does bother me is that in these conversations, the only foods that are attacked are those foods considered “bad” by our culture and the comments are more than just expressions of personal taste. They are veiled insults aimed at those that do like those foods. Anytime someone offers a comment that pretends to be an opinion but that is really a personal attack on someone else is an occasion to take offense. However, in our virulently healthist culture, these comments take on a whole new meaning entirely.
Under any other circumstances, you might roll your eyes and fight the urge to tell them to zip it. We’re trying to have a good time here and no one cares anyway. There’s a time and place to bitch and there’s a time and place to let it go and relax.
Healthist comments in and of themselves are mere annoyances at which you just roll your eyes and kindly reply, “Let it go.” When healthist comments are made against the backdrop of a deeply healthist culture, they are so much more. They are personal attacks that cut into your worth as a person. The implication is that you are too stupid to know what is good for you and too incompetent to keep away. You are too degenerate to care about the damage you are causing yourself and others, even if no damage is in evidence, or to at least admit you are wrong. You are too lazy to make the effort to be as righteous as I am. You are what you eat, and if what you eat is junk, then…
Healthism disgusts and infuriates me. Those who feel that the need and the desire to eat are sins that must be overcome make me sad. Those who cannot or will not enjoy eating make me sad, too. You have only one life, and there is so much joy to be found in what life has to offer, big or small. Food is one of those small, and for those fortunate people who don’t live in poverty, easily accessible pleasures. Food feeds people, and it can feed you too.
Food feeds people physically. It provides you with the energy and nutrients you need to survive, thrive, and lead an active life. It relieves hunger pains, dizziness, and fatigue. It is essential to the management of countless medical conditions like diabetes. Filling, flavorful foods make mealtimes easier for those who suffer loss of appetite because of illness or who conditions restrict what they can tolerate. For those who find eating painful or otherwise difficult, having a few culinary treasures makes the effort worthwhile.
Food feeds people mentally. Food gives us the energy to think and remember. When food is restricted, it becomes an obsession and our obsession makes us depressed, irritable, and irrational. When we feed ourselves regularly, we are allowed to have lives outside of food and to have control over our emotions. Food is intellectually stimulating for those preparing it. It is a challenge to prepare food safely, properly, and to experiment with new ideas. Creating a dining atmosphere and giving food attractive presentations stimulates our aesthetic senses.
Food feeds people emotionally. It is something we can prepare and share with others. It is a modest pleasure whose taste, texture, and fill can give you a pick-me-up when you’re down, bored or want to celebrate. Giving food, i.e. agreeing to nourish someone, is a way to show others you care and being fed is a sign of being cared for by others. Making and presenting food gives us pride and it is fun to do. On the other hand, food can be easy if that’s what you want. Lots of foods can be heated up and eaten and others don’t need any preparation at all. Food is a benchmark of security. When you have a full pantry, you can take a breath and know that it one less thing you need to be concerned with.
Food feeds us spiritually. When Catholics consume the bread and wine offered at Mass, they consume the body and blood of Christ and become one with His holiness. When Jews celebrate the Passover, they eat matzoh bread as a way to commemorate the pains taken by their people while fleeing slavery in Egypt. When pagans consume an apple, they are reminded of the Divine Energy that allowed that apple to exist. When people of faith obey fast and abstinence guidelines, the guidelines proposed have spiritual significance. Jewish people don’t eat leavened bread for Passover because their ancestors did not have time to wait for the bread to rise. If they waited, they could be caught and punished. For religious people, food is a blessing by the Creator and something to be happy about.
The bottom line is food is essential not just to live, not just to be healthy, but to nourish your whole self. You can choose to deny yourself food, but people who do that tend to starve. Humans are *designed* to want to eat, and this is a *good* thing.
So how has food nourished you today? I want to know.