So I read a couple of good posts today. Well, ok, more than a couple, but a couple that made me kind of stop and think. Well, more than a couple that made me stop and think, but a couple that I’m writing in reference to now! Geez! Do you have to be so literal? 😉
I split my time fairly evenly between reading the stuff on the Fatosphere (and other Body- and Size-Acceptance blogs) and reading fitness sites that are full of commenters talking about dieting. It’s a funny balance, but I like it.
Today I was reading something that linked to ANOTHER post where the author was talking about comfort food. Her take on it was that food is NOT just fuel. There is a whole cultural phenomenon surrounding food – it’s how we express love and caring for each other. (Think about telling your Aunt Mildred that you don’t want a piece of her famous pecan pie, and watch the hurt on her face – she looks like you kicked her kitten, doesn’t she? It’s not about the food.) And she commented that there was nothing inherently wrong in eating for comfort: people do it all the time: fat people, thin people, in-between people, healthy people, unhealthy people . . . you get the idea. (I of course can no longer find the article I wanted to link to. *sigh*)
On a different (fitness) post I read a lot of commenters talking about how food is fuel, and shouldn’t be used for any other purpose. Food is there to help our bodies run properly, and that just as we wouldn’t put bad fuel into our cars, we shouldn’t put it into our bodies.
Can I just say that I agree with BOTH points of view? But at the same time I think they’re both incomplete. The first idea, that comfort food is never bad, that eating for pleasure is never bad, that food and love are tied up together too intricately to tease apart . . . well, yeah. But there is also a difference between sitting down with a bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese once a month when I have cramps and feel like hell and sitting down with the same bowl of mac ‘n cheese every night because I just can’t deal with the compulsive voices in my head. I’d argue that the first instance really is an instance of “comfort food” at its finest, but the second instance is more an instance of hiding from uncomfortable emotions. There is a big ol’ freakin’ difference there, and I don’t think they should both be lumped under the heading “comfort eating,” alhtough in my experience they often are. Additionally, if you’re celebrating something unsual (a major holiday, a promotion, a wedding) or mourning something unusual (a breakup, a death, a job loss), I don’t think there’s harm in temporary celebration or sedation via Ben & Jerry’s. If however, you come home EVERY NIGHT and feel so overwhelmed with life in general that you reach for the B&J’s, that’s different. That’s not eating for comfort – that’s eating to avoid emotional stuff.
On the other hand, the “food is fuel” mentality (when strictly adhered to, as I’ve known some folks to do) discounts those big celebrations, those nights out with girlfriends (or boyfriends) eating cheese sticks and drinking margaritas. I’m not interested in being the kind of person who is so wrapped up what I “can” and “can’t” eat that I miss the celebratory nature of the gathering. (Not to say that everyone, or even most people, are that way, but I’ve definitely known more than a few.) I’m not going to skip the mashed potatoes every Thanksgiving because OMG THE CARBS, THE CARBS!! It’s ONCE a freakin’ YEAR, for fuck’s sake! At the same time though, the “food is fuel” folks are generally better about examining WHY they’re eating what they’re eating. I see more self-awareness along the lines of, “I’m just eating because I’m upset. Maybe I should deal with what I’m upset about instead of eating pasta.” (I’m getting hungry writing this post, btw. Mac’n’cheese, pasta, Ben & Jerry’s. And I’m not even upset about anything! LOL) I think the comfort food-advocates sometimes miss that part of things. (Or maybe they don’t miss it at all; maybe they just choose not to address it on their blogs. Beats me.)
I can’t help looking at the two sides and seeing them both as extreme. I’m not willing to give up carbs (or whatever) for the rest of my life, but neither am I willing to eat an entire loaf of garlic bread every night and pretend that it’s just fine. There has to be a middle ground.
Now if I could just find that damn dotted yellow line down the middle, I’d be set.
Edited to add: I also think that if folks DO want to eat badly, that’s their prerogative. We’re all adults. We get to make our own decisions. And the whole, “fat people cost more in healthcare” thing is bogus. The actual studies that have been done show that fat people (who are unhealthy) end up costing us LESS in healthcare, because they die sooner. Those folks in good health (whether fat or thin) end up costing a LOT more because they’re more likely to live long enough to get Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, senility, and other diseases that require a lot of care (and money) over a long period of time. In comparison, Type 2 diabetes and heart attacks are downright economical.