I did a short swing into Thailand in my previous post and decided I’d like to keep writing for a while about places I’ve visited, so instead of ranting and raving about diets, food, size and so on, I decided I’d just publish the names of books I’ve found interesting.
The reality is we all have to work out what sort of food and eating habits suit each of us. I’ve avoided the dreaded word “diet” because it implies losing weight and eating naff food and all the horrors associated with a food regime which will likely leave us hungry, unhappy and piling on the weight when we return to normal food.
Like I’ve said, I know emotional influences surround my relationship with food and weight, and I wonder if the fact that so many people are overweight these days (as in seriously overweight, not overweight by the BMI shonky weight formula) is because of the pressures people are under today with long hours, poverty wages, unemployment, fast-paced society and so on.
After all, if you’re feeling stressed, what better way to make yourself feel good than to splurge on food you love in excess quantities. The trick is to eat the food you love in reasonable quantities and make good choices. But aaahhh! if food choices were that easy, we’d all know exactly what our bodies would like, we’d stop eating when we feel less than full, and we’d choose food we like, not food we feel morally bound to eat and avoid food we feel morally bound NOT to eat!
Every man, woman and their dog has an idea of what the best way to eat is and what food is good and what isn’t. Be your own detective: tune into how you feel about particular foods, when do you feel good after eating, when do you feel slow and tired, and so on. Sort out what food suits you!
Be that as it may, these books have been very helpful to me, they dismantle myths about obesity and the great “eat your carbohydrates” brain-washing which has permeated our society to the point of being mythologised and worshipped, and interestingly, the writers aren’t part of the diet/nutritional/pharmaceutical/medico in-crowd (with apologies to some doctors who I know are pretty decent people!).
The Obesity Myth – Paul Campos
The Big Fat Surprise – Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet – Nina Teicholz
Why Diets Fail (because You’re Addicted to Sugar) – Nicole E. Avena
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants – How the Food Giants Hooked Us – Michael Moss
Why We Get Fat – Gary Taubes
Health at Every Size – Linda Bacon
The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and other Incendiary Acts – Hanne Blank
Intuitive Eating – Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch
However, I have to say that I am not a fan of the size acceptance which says if you are really, really fat, that’s okay. I respect people whatever their size and I really loathe the fact that if you’re fat you’re automatically considered fat/lazy/stupid/lack control/greedy and so on. People are worthy of respect and consideration whatever their size.
But I have seen some very, very fat people in Australia, the UK and particularly the US, and the truth is that our bodies are not meant to carry super-weight. I differentiate this from what is called “overweight” these days and which I call “normal” because I Iived in earlier times when there was a far more realistic approach to what our size should be.
As you get older, your body will find it hard to carry severe, excess weight. Simple fact. Sort out what is healthy for you and get your own agenda, but if your body feels uncomfortable at the weight you’re carrying, then it’s a nudge to you to work out how to get fit and healthy. But don’t be dissatisfied with your body if it doesn’t fit the “thin” stereotype you see these days. Along the way you may lose weight, but don’t focus on weight – focus on the fit and healthy part because that’s by far the healthiest way to look after yourself. Like I said, ditch the “thin is good” stereotype, take a good look at your body, and decide what is right for you.
When David Cameron announced his cabinet reshuffle a short while ago and more women were appointed to Cabinet, the headlines talked about “girlpower” and, of course what the “girls” were wearing. No talk of “womanpower” because so often we women are described as “girls” as we are not supposed to become fully-grown, mature, strong WOMEN. (I might add I am wholly cynical about the promotion of women as I see it as a cynical attempt to garner women’s votes rather than a genuine dedication to women’s equality.)
If you have a look at the photos on the right, the top row is of girls, the bottom is of women. The images in the top row are a vision of us as girls, never growing into a womanly shape, shaving our pubic hair so we look like constant teenagers, torturing ourselves with ripping out that hair (and I can tell you, I had my pubic hair shaved once, when I had my tubes tied at 27, and the constant itching of it growing back made me swear NEVER to shave that hair again!) and keeping us confined in the straitjacket of thin as desirable and right.
In the bottom row, the images are of mature women but now, in the same vein of keeping us as eternal girls, it is not considered appropriate to talk about women as “luscious”, “juicy”, “reubenesque”, “curvy”, “succulent” – because they all imply – shock, horror” – women who aren’t thin and possibly look like (whisper) mature, adult, powerful women.
I decided to follow up my posts on women’s liberation with one about weight issues because, looking back from the time I got involved in women’s liberation in the early 1970s until now, I got to thinking that the focus on diets and thinness is an act of sabotage – it has been a misogynist weapon to dis-empower women and keep them focused on weight issues instead of on living up to their full potential. A woman focused only on her weight and shape if far less powerful than one who is at home and comfortable with herself and makes her way in society as a formidable, strong individual.
The cult of “thin is good” didn’t always exist. Because I grew up in the ’50s and 60s, I have a perspective which isn’t possible for younger people, and that is, I can remember when women were weightier than accepted cultural norms now. It was accepted that as you had children and headed to your senior years, that weight gain was a normal process of life on earth. So it seems to me that the focus on thinness (mainly for women but now affecting men too) started getting stronger around the time women’s liberation erupted and started questioning women’s status in society. But thin is “in”, so to speak, at least on the part of women’s magazines, the diet industry, the medical establishment, the fashion industry and so-called fashion mavens who we’re supposed to follow like headless chooks.
While we’re busy focused on diets, size, weight, fatness or thinness, we are diverted from standing strong in our own right – as juicy, strong, powerful women, at ease with ourselves regardless of our weight, getting to know our own bodies intimately so we know what weight is right for us, and leading full, adventurous lives . As this quote from Naomi Wolf puts it so succinctly:
Marilyn Monroe would now be considered obese – which sounds ridiculous given the sex goddess she was. Yet we are repeatedly lectured that what I see as normal women are obese/morbidly obese/likely to peg it overnight because if they’re overweight they must be harbouring god knows how many life-threatening health challenges, and so on and so on.
This of course is a godsend to the enrichment of the diet industry, Big Pharma and medicos who see what is considered a fat woman now (but wasn’t when I was young) and like Pavlov’s dogs immediately start talking about diets, losing weight, yada, yada, yada. I know when I’ve walked into so many doctor’s room, their eyes light up as they order tests for diabetes and cholesterol levels and heave out the good ol’ blood pressure apparatus. Sadly for them, and they look quite taken aback, all my health signs are, well, healthy!
And as we’re on the subject of medicos, I have to say that I personally find the term “obese” quite offensive. It’s as if doctors conjure up a word which is designed to make normal/not so fat/ and fat people seem as sub-human as possible and to cow us into submissive slaves of thin worship. I sometimes wonder if the medical industry creates such words as “obese” or “geriatric” to elevate the power of medicos and reduce us patients to obedient, malleable, cowed, uncertain, unquestioning clients. I also despise doctors who lazily judge the health of overweight women by their size rather than their uniqueness and medical history.
I can remember having a meal out with some other women, all good-looking, fairly slim, about my age when I was in my late ‘thirties and the whole damned dinner talk was about weight, thinness and diets. I mean – what a ruddy great waste of women’s lives to spend it worrying about weight and what diet you’re on and whether you’ve gained or lost a couple of pounds from one week to the next. Being frightened of food, obsessing about calories, fat levels, carbs and all the other catchphrases of the thin mafia is absolutely ridiculous.
All the research which gets pumped out about what makes you live longer,what causes cancer, how to avoid heart attacks, etc., simply doesn’t take into account that people are individual, have their own genetic heritage and shape, and need to consider what their heart and soul tells them about what is good for them, not scientists and health gurus who change their minds a few years down the track or even from year to year and, dare I say it, month to month, week to week.
And having gone through some literature on this subject, I have found out – and this will no doubt amaze you – that if you carry more weight than that which is supposed to be healthy these days and you are fit, you are far more likely to live longer than a socially acceptable thin, unfit woman. Also, wasting your life on a yo-yo of dieting, losing weight, then gaining weight again and often extra weight than before you dieted, is putting your health far more at risk than a woman who looks at herself, smiles, smacks her booty gleefully and tells herself she’s a yummy individual with far more to do with her life than waste it on worrying about what is a current societal obsession about thinness.
Plus we need to get a perspective on the health hysteria which prevails at the moment – new food fads, super-foods, how to live longer, anti-ageing tucker – and so on. You can be the healthiest, fittest person around and then drop dead of a heart attack or get a life-threatening illness for no apparent reason. And everyone says it’s unfair because someone who doesn’t exercise or is fat doesn’t die at an early age. But it’s LIFE, outrageous, unpredictable, unfair, fair, dropping surprise health bombs into our lives – our time of death is unpredictable so get the most out of each day and you’ll have a wonderful life – exciting, adventurous, questing, humorous, fun, loving, fully adult, powerful and, above all, SATISFYING.
I can pretty much guarantee that when the truth comes out about – as it will – that the current BMI holy bible is a heap of old cobblers with no scientific foundation, and thinness is recognised as a trumped-up cultural creation to control and disempower women – the pendulum will swing towards an acceptance of women as they are meant to be – short, tall, medium, thin, fat, stocky, lean, weighty, or whatever is their natural, womanly shape. And if they’re pink with purple spots, or orange with red stripes, or green with turquoise hair – so be it!