by Aiano Nakagawa
I bet the topic of food and bodies is nothing new to any of you. It’s pretty difficult to escape - diet commercials, food advertisements, body shaming or body positive articles, etc. there’s so much info out there. A lot of the information being shared really isn’t for the benefit of your health, or anyone else's for that matter. But when a person in on a commercial in a white lab coat, or even some medical professionals tells you that you need to lose weight to be healthy or to be worthy, loved, or powerful, they’re not really trying to help your health, rather they’re capitalizing on insecurity and fear.
As you continue to read through our food section it is very important to us that you understand the lense through which we view food and our relationship to it.
To start, let’s get a few things straight:
1. Our bodies know more than our brains.
In 1928, Clara Davis M.D. conducted an experiment with newly weaned infants called “Self Selection of Diets by Newly Weaned Infants,” in which she let newly weaned babies select their own food to see if we as humans are able to naturally regulate our own diet and know, instinctively, what our bodies need.
The experiment with the infants was successful. Davis found that after a few tries, the babies were able to feed themselves a balanced and nutrient dense meal and THEY’RE BABIES!
So why is it so difficult for adults? That’s because we’ve been infected by all these bull shit messages from advertising, corporate sponsors, and media in general about food. We’re thinking about food too much. We’ve gotten to the point there we’ve drowned out the voice of our body and have exclusively favored our brain to tell us how and what to eat. “I want to eat the chocolate cake, but I shouldn’t. I’ll eat this apple instead.” The part of yourself that wants to eat the chocolate cake, that’s your body talking! Eat the fucking chocolate cake! The part that reluctantly decides to eat the apple, that’s your brain. Once you’ve practiced listening to your body and you let yourself have the chocolate cake, the pizza, the french fries, the cookies, the chips, and everything else you’ve been depriving yourself of, your body will begin to tell you that these foods are not fully sustainable. Then your body will begin to tell you it needs something else. Once nothing off limits, the mind games and power struggle between you and food will be over - a peaceful life with prevail. The first step is to learn to listen to your body and honor what it says, even if at first, you don’t like what it's saying.
2. Fat is your friend!
When you eat “fat-free” ice cream, have you ever thought, “If this is fat free, how is this still creamy?” Well think about it. If they’ve extracted all the fat then seriously, how the hell is the ice cream still creamy? The answer, chemicals: emulsifiers and stabilizers to be exact!
So how did this whole low-fat, fat-free lifestyle begin you ask? In the 1980’s the National Academy of sciences embarked on a “nutritional experiment” that was backed by the USDA which as a result issued its first dietary guidelines. Americans were told to cut out fat to lose weight and lower cholesterol. Four decades later, they say the experiment has failed. By cutting fat out of our diets, Americans are sicker than ever (because we’ve replaced fat with chemicals). Our bodies have been processing fat for however long we’ve been around, right? Our bodies know what to do with fat: how to store it and use it as energy. But what about the chemicals? The chemicals are, well, chemicals - dis-regulating, harming, and slowly killing our bodies as shown by the high spike in certain types of cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
So if you’re still eating fat-free or low-fat, STOP! Get the whole milk in your coffee, eat the full fat ice cream, eat the butter, drink the olive oil, and enjoy your fucking life.
Note: A lot of times health professionals and nutritionists will talk about "good fat v.s. bad fat."
Good fats = monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats including: olive oil, sunflower oil, avocados, nuts, fatty fish oils, seeds, etc. (basically not from an animal).
Bad fats = saturated and trans fats including: butter, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil (things that get harder when cold and softer when warm).
Trans and saturated fats are diagnosed as "bad fats" because they have been linked to high blood pressure and weight gain, but remember: BAD FATS ARE ALWAYS A BETTER CHOICE THAN A CHEMICAL ALTERNATIVE! YOUR BODY KNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH ALL FATS, EVEN "BAD" ONES.
Do not be afraid of fat. Embrace it.
3. Don’t be afraid to gain weight; weight is not an indicator of health.
Each of our bodies has a natural set weight - it’s different for everyone. Mine is between 190 - 200. I fought this fact for SO much of my life. I struggled with distorted eating and severe body image issues that began around age 10 and continued until I was 20. As a growing child and teenager I tried starvation, I tried intense crash diets, I tried purging, I tried diet drinks, pills, bars, a combination of all. I ignored the fact that a) children are supposed to gain weight as they grow, b) I’m just built hella solid and c) the number on the scale meant NOTHING about my overall health.
When I turned 20, I stopped all forms of dieting and began to - for the first time in my life - listen to my body. It was difficult at first. I didn't know what my body needed and all I wanted was foods I had deemed "bad" and off limits. As I saw the numbers on the scale go up, I got anxious, so to alleviate that, I decided to nix the scale completely because weight is not an indicator of health and this arbitrary number was causing me unneeded anxiety and stress. Once it was all about what my body wanted, I started gaining weight - happy weight. I ate all the things I’d always wanted to and was fully present with no judgement. And yes, while the first year was filled with a lot of pizza, burgers, bread, potatoes, rice and so much more - after a while, I stopped wanting those types of food for every meal. If I wanted a salad I’d eat it without judgement, and if I wanted a double cheeseburger stuffed in a deep fried chicken, rolled in a pizza, I’d eat that too - without judgement.
Before my trip to Thailand this past summer I got on a scale to weigh my suitcase. It was the first time I’d gotten on a scale in 2 years. Since my eating disorder, at it’s worst, I’ve gained around 45 pounds. While this might sound “unhealthy” to some, my blood pressure is awesome, I’m not at risk for any diseases, I am not sedentary, and most important, I’ve never felt healthier, stronger, happier, or more present in my own body. I have enjoyed gaining this weight so much that I don’t really even think about the weight I’ve gained (which is amazing for someone who used to weigh themselves 2x a day). I have so much more space in my mind for things that matter and so much more room in my heart for wonderful friends to share delicious meals with.
4. BMI is such bullshit, I can’t even handle it.
If someone even tries to talk to me about BMI in a serious way, I will stop listening and walk away. I just can't. (Okay, I usually end up explaining why it's BS).
For those of you who don’t know about BMI, here’s all you need to know. The BMI (body mass index) is used by some doctors to determine “healthy weight.” You want to know what they take into account to determine if you're healthy? Height and weight. That’s it. NOTHING about activity level, nothing about blood pressure, nothing about stress level, nothing about anything else in your life is taken into account - just your height and weight. So yeah, you can take your BMI scale and bury it with your low-fat and fat-free products. Kbye.
When I had my eating disorder, for all 10 years, I was NEVER diagnosed because of the fucking BMI. I was actually - when my eating disorder was at its worst - still on the cusp of overweight and obese. I’d constantly type my height and weight into the online BMI calculator and would get severe anxiety when I’d see the words “overweight” or “obese” on my computer screen, sending me into another downward spiral of intense panic, crash dieting, and tears.
While I wasn't diagnosed with an eating disorder, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression which I, after research of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, learned are side effects of starvation. Now that I am no longer harming and am actually healthy, I no longer suffer from anxiety or depression. (I am not suggesting one should stop taking their medication, I'm just sharing my experience).
So just remember, that the number you see on your scale means nothing about your health and seriously doesn't mean a damn thing about who you are as a person.
5. Eat REAL food.
If the food you’re eating has a commercial - it probably isn’t that great for you. If companies need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars to convince you to eat their “food,” that might be a sign that it’s not actually worth eating.
Also, if you can’t pronounce the ingredient/you don’t know what it means - don’t eat it!
This comes after you’ve let yourself eat whatever you want. Also, once you’ve been eating real foods, your body and your taste buds begin to change and become very sensitive to fillers and chemicals added to food. I’m tellin’ ya, your body knows what the fuck is up. Personally I don’t want to live in a world where the most horrible, terrible, awful thing you can do is gain weight while ingesting poisons and pumping yourself full of chemicals is advised in the name of health!
NOTE: eating "real" food is a privilege. Healthy food access is an economic, feminist, and racial issue. Many people do not have access to "real" food and are being robbed of the opportunity to heal and sustain their bodies through food. This is a structural, systemic, and economic problem that needs to be addressed. Everyone deserves the right to healthy, real food & the only real preventative medicine. I encourage you to read, Why Food Belongs in Our Discussion of Race, to learn more about how food and race intersect.
Welcome to FOOD TALK. We encourage you to take a look at our post "FOOD TALK 101" to gain some insight into how we view food here at AFO. To do this, you can use the search bar above and search for the post "FOOD TALK 101."