Too Much Stuff, Squashed Into a Little Ball

Things are crazy around here.  (Then again, when are they NOT?)  So I’m going to space some of this stuff out over the next few days, and you’ll just have to come back if you want to read the whole post!  Muahahahahaha!!  In the meantime, I’m trying to stop by and read at least a couple of blogs a day, but when push comes to shove and I have to choose between reading and exercising, I have to choose exercise.  So, apologies in advance if I’m not commenting so much.  (I might have to go back to working out in the morning, although that comes with its own set of hassles.  Meh.  I’ll figure it out.)

ANYWAY. 

I was at the bookstore the other day about 2 weeks ago (what can I say, I’ve been thinking about this for a while), loitering in the cookbook section (which I do way, WAY too often).  Having browsed the Food Network section and the vegetarian section and the cook-it-fast section and the slow-cooker section, I made my way over to the “healthy” section.  I found a lot of good stuff there: a Best of Cooking Light book that had some yummy-looking stuff, a “Comfort Food Made Healthy” book by Eating Well that was definitely a jackpot find, a Williams-Sonoma “Essentials of Healthful Cooking” that was ALSO a jackpot find. 

And then I glanced down toward the bottom shelves, where I found books with titles like, “Eat Everything You Want Without Gaining a Pound!” and “Gain Taste, Lose Weight!” and “Eat Like a Devil, Look Like an Angel!”  and “The Skinny Girl’s Guide to Gluttony!” and so on.  And on.  And on.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  The books that manage to make you feel bad about yourself before you’ve even THOUGHT about food.  The books that basically boil down to one title: “How to Pretend to Stuff Your Face (Using Lettuce) So You Don’t End Up Looking Like the Fat, Disgusting Cow You Are.”  Books about food that simultaneously scream “Embrace it!” and “Run away, run away!” 

No fucking WONDER our culture is so neurotic about food.  On the one hand we have the eliminate-a-food-group dieters and the Calorie Restriction dieters (though some are doing it for health, not weight, which is a whole ‘nother discussion for a different day), and on the other hand we have Nigella Lawson, described by the Los Angeles Times as “the queen of come-on cooking.”  Food is both fetishized and forbidden (triple points for alliteration!), something we dream about and something we “pay for” at the gym.

Really?  I mean, come on: REALLY?

I wrote a couple of posts back about going back to pre-crazy dieting: about eating off the cuff, on the fly, not worrying SO MUCH, not planning out all my meals and snacks a week in advance, not counting calories, not devoting all my waking hours (or at least a sizable number of them) to pursuit of the RIGHT numbers, the RIGHT exercise, the RIGHT Way To Live (TM).  And what that basically boils down to, for me, is to acknowledge that every meal matters, but that no single meal matters.  That I should get some exercise every day, but the kind doesn’t really matter too much.  It’s just not that big a deal.  It can’t be.  It’s when I let it BECOME a big deal that I slip down into craziness.

And hand in hand with that comes the knowledge that I need to start cooking again.  It’s weird to pore over cookbooks while eating a diet frozen dinner.  It’s WEIRD, ok?  I need to remember that food really IS more than just fuel, at least for me, and to acknowledge that THAT’S OK.  I think food is more than fuel for most people, and honestly I’m not sure I’d want to be any different about it.  Frozen dinners don’t carry that sense of nourishment that real food does.  (I hadn’t realized until recently just how much I’d been relying on pre-packaged food again.)

So Sunday night I ate an enormous dinner: I roasted a chicken and mashed some red potatoes with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  I roasted some asparagus with prosciutto.  And sat down at the table and ate.  Now, don’t misunderstand: for some reason, I was ravenous last night – I wasn’t eating just to eat.  But pulling chicken off the bone, sitting in a house full of the smell of (literally) Sunday dinner, it wasn’t just food.  It was a symbol of self-care. 

And in our culture, if you are fat or plump or chunky or even just carrying a LITTLE extra weight, you are not supposed to care for yourself.  Oh, you’ll be told, “take CARE of yourself – lose some weight!” but the very process proscribed for weight-loss is so often to DENY ourselves that most basic symbol of care: eat less, eat diet food, eat non-fat, low-carb and whatever you do, restrict.  Slash your calories, cut your food intake.

The irony there is that for ME, when I eat food that nourishes me – not just my body, but my emotions too – I eat less.  I don’t need food to fill that hole inside because there is no hole.  And so my calorie intake drops, and my portions get smaller (last Sunday notwithstanding!) – all without feeling that I’m missing out on something.  But it’s astonishing (and appalling) to me how HARD it is to do that – how hard it is to take care of myself when I’m surrounded by conflicting messages like “Food is decadent!” and “Food is fuel!”  How hard it is to tune out the chatter and the hyperbole used to sell books and magazines and movies and the Latest! Greatest! Celebrity Diet! EVARRR!!!  This is a seriously schismed culture when it comes to food.

Argh.  I don’t have a good way to wrap this up, either.  I’m all over the place tonight.  This is why I haven’t posted in the last few days.  It doesn’t seem to be sorting it out in my head any better with time though, so for now you get my disjointed ramblings. 

And now it’s a little after 8:00, and I’m going to bed.  I have to get up at 4:00 to go to the gym, and me on fewer than 7 hours of sleep is NOT a happy thing.  😉

*I have to interject here that there are many “diet” books I don’t have a problem with, even if I don’t always like the way they cook.  I’m objecting specifically to the types mentioned at the start of the post.

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10 responses to “Too Much Stuff, Squashed Into a Little Ball

  1. I do think of food as fuel but not in the way that you think. It’s fuel but I need to feed my body good, nourishing fuel. Frozen meals are not nourishing. They are full of preservatives and sodium and whatever else. A good roast dinner? That’s fuel for the body and soul. And that’s the kind of fuel I go for. Yesterday I made a massive pot of Veggie, Bean and Barley soup from scratch. Good, nourishing fuel for 3 meals!

    And don’t get me STARTED on those diet books!

  2. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but this is how I feel about the whole she-bang.
    I think that in this modern era, we don’t have to actually physically WORK as hard at simply surviving, and it is far too easy to fall into the trap of finding something to fill the gap left in our days by not working hard. If you are obsessing about finding shelter for the night, or getting all the chores done before dark, or simply finding enough food to get you through the night; you aren’t obsessing about your appearance, or how many calories you have consumed verses how many calories you have expended, etc.

    Did that make any sort of sense?
    Okay, never mind. It’s time to do the chores……
    🙂

  3. Meh. I’ll figure it out
    Oh good. And when you do, please let me know the secret!

    Methinks the Bag Lady could rent out a week on the ranch to people who want to go to a different kind of boot camp. Kinda like The Biggest Loser Ranch, only with cows 🙂

  4. For me fiood is a big deal…BUT I think eating food you like is the key to becoming healthy. I could eat a lettuce leaf and some sprouts and lose weight and I’d be a miserable sod.
    Balance…and healthy eating. It’s a challenge for me. But I’m a pie hole stuffer by nature, so I have to deal with such things…:)

  5. “And in our culture, if you are fat or plump or chunky or even just carrying a LITTLE extra weight, you are not supposed to care for yourself. Oh, you’ll be told, “take CARE of yourself – lose some weight!” but the very process proscribed for weight-loss is so often to DENY ourselves that most basic symbol of care: eat less, eat diet food, eat non-fat, low-carb and whatever you do, restrict. Slash your calories, cut your food intake.”

    i love how you mentioned this because if you talk to really anyone who’s been successful with weight loss/healthy living and genuinely happy with where they’re at … it’s because they took the time for themselves. they took the time to care for their bodies/selves.

    i’ve known several people who were in outstanding shape that thought of food only as fuel … and they were “happy” by all outward appearances, but you could tell if you looked closely that they really weren’t.

    ENJOY food. food is not decadent (though types of food certainly are) and it is not only fuel (logically, food fuels you; even cheesy puffs and mini donettes; fuels you WELL is a different story); food is so much more. food should not be feared; it should be enjoyed and used to nourish – body, soul and mind.

  6. Yeah Gemfit, I definitely agree that it should also fuel the soul – but I don’t think that’s the message that’s conveyed to the general public, you know? It seems like in small pockets of the health and fitness blogosphere, and in groups of “healthy living” advocates you see that, but the average person looking for weight loss info is NOT greeted with that POV at all. They’re greeted by the “restrict” mentality. And then a lot of us have a really hard time overcoming that – we learned what we were “supposed” to do so thoroughly, and now we have to UNlearn that, plus re-learn that what we knew innately all along was better. Argh.

    Bag Lady, I totally agree. Eating disorders and obssessive thoughts of food are definitely a hallmark of a first-world culture. I’ve wondered if something in the human brain is hardwired in such a way that when the stimulus it needs goes missing (what kind of stimulus? Don’t know) the brain sort of turns in and consumes itself in neuroses.

    Merry, that’s a BRILLIANT idea! Bag Lady could make a fortune!

    Geosomin, maybe that’s what I’m hitting. I like food WAY too much for it to be “just” fuel, at least in the way that the diet books say. I read a lot of stuff about letting go of our attachments to food, and while I think that it’s important to let UNHEALTHY attachments go, I’m not convinced that ALL attachment to food is inherently unhealthy. Some of it is, but I don’t think that all of it is. Does that make sense?

    T, I’m really starting to think that the “taking time to care for our bodies/selves” has a lot to do with people talking about how they had to love themselves as they were before they could successfully lose weight and keep it off. (And I have to admit that I also believe that some people WON’T lose weight by taking better care of themselves, but I also think that if the drive to take better care of ourselves eventually comes from a place of pursuing health instead of thinness, then the weight won’t matter.) And YES to the “food is fuel” part. There are certainly people who have little or no emotional attachment to food, and I don’t think that’s bad either, but I don’t think that HAVING an emotional attachment to food is inherently bad. Obviously anything taken to an extreme can be unhealthy, but I have a hard time believing that if roast chicken and asparagus calms me down on a Sunday, that it’s a bad thing. *sigh* I’m rambling again. 🙂

  7. Oh I love this rant!! Especially about the diet books/cookbooks. I am SUCH a sucker for those. I know logically that they won’t be anything different and yet… I keep reading them. Excellent point about when you eat nourishing food, you eat less. Me too.

  8. I love looking at cookbooks! I have a “Best of Cooking Light” from a few years ago that has some great ones. I have to stop myself from getting anymore right now because I haven’t made it through all the one’s I have now.

    So true about the: taking care of yourself via dieting by slashing calories/food intake.

    By the way I just realized my usual username wasn’t coming up. Oops!

    bjbella5 or Brittney or whoever the heck I am 😉

  9. Charlotte, the bit about eating less when I eat well is weird, isn’t it? I mean, obviously I’m not alone, but I find it fascinating. And I give WAY too much credence to all the “experts.” *sigh* Grr.

    Brittney/bjbella5, I LOVE cookbooks. I think I have somewhere around 40 or 50. It’s kind of an obssession! 🙂

  10. Oh, crap. I just counted my cookbooks. SIXTY-FOUR. Wow. And believe it or not, I just cleaned them all out! The ones that are left are the ones I actually USE!! (Or at least read.)

    Wow.

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