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.)
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.