Tag Archives: eating

Eating and Exercising: The Roads to Living Well Need Better Road Signs

Debbie says:

“The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater” by Erica at Northwest Edible Life is just about perfect.

Before Your Healthy Eating Internet Education:

“I eat pretty healthy. Check it out: whole grain crackers, veggie patties, prawns, broccoli. I am actually pretty into clean eating.”

After Your Healthy Eating Internet Education:

Those crackers – gluten, baby. Gluten is toxic to your intestinal health, I read it on a forum. They should call those crackers Leaky Gut Crisps, that would be more accurate. That veggie burger in the freezer? GMO soy. Basically that’s a Monsanto patty. Did you know soybean oil is an insecticide? And those prawns are fish farmed in Vietnamese sewage pools. I didn’t know about the sewage fish farming when I bought them, though, really I didn’t!

The broccoli, though..that’s ok. I can eat that. Eating that doesn’t make me a terrible person, unless….oh, shit! That broccoli isn’t organic. That means it’s covered with endocrine disrupting pesticides that will make my son sprout breasts. As if adolescence isn’t awkward enough.

And who pre-cut this broccoli like that? I bet it was some poor Mexican person not making a living wage and being treated as a cog in an industrial broccoli cutting warehouse. So I’m basically supporting slavery if I eat this pre-cut broccoli. Oh my God, it’s in a plastic bag too. Which means I am personally responsible for the death of countless endangered seabirds right now.

I hate myself.

Well, shit.

All you want to do is eat a little healthier. Really. Maybe get some of that Activa probiotic yogurt or something. So you look around and start researching what “healthier” means.

You know where it’s going from here. The cycle goes on, through Paleo dieting, Vitamin D, traditionally soaked grains, mussels, vegetables, fermentation, kale, gardening, home-raised rabbit, and back to Activa Yogurt.

Erica’s an excellent writer, and her point could not be more well-taken. The post is particularly interesting when paired with this post from Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist.

There is more to eating than calories, even biochemically – there are vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, antioxidants, electrolytes, fluids, dietary fibre, all the raw materials for repairing and remodeling every single cell in your body. More than that, there is culture, family history, occasion, artistry, skill, growth, feelings of joy or resentment, pleasure or distaste. There are emotional associations and memories, and there is the basic affirmation of life – “I need to eat to survive, and I am worth the effort to survive.” Every act of eating reaffirms your right to exist.

There is more to movement than calories, even biochemically – there is bone strengthening, muscle building, aerobic fitness, neural growth, balancing of hormones and lipid transporters, and every single involuntary movement and chemical reaction carried on below your conscious awareness, working around the clock to stave off entropy. More than that, there is fun, adventure, challenge, mastery, strength, place associations, social bonding, the experience of being an alive thing on a round, blue speck in the galaxy. There is a basic affirmation that you exist in a world you were designed to navigate….

You were made for this world. You belong in it, and it belongs to you.

Eating and moving: your right to exist, and a world in which to exist. They are not rivals. They do not annihilate each other. They collaborate to make a whole person, body and soul.

Erica is being (on the surface) funny; Michelle, in contrast, is being deeply, passionately serious.

And yet, at base, they are both making the same point. There’s more to eating than the pursuit of healthiness. There’s more to exercise than the working off of calories.

The simplified story of eating healthy and the simplified story of exercise both simplify out the most important part–the delight in an ice cream sundae, a perfectly sauteed onion, a ten-mile walk, a good stretch, or whatever it is that gives you delight. When’s the last time (other than from Michelle) that you read any health advice that had something about joy in it?

Thanks to onyxlynx for the Northwest Edible Life pointer, and firecat for the Fat Nutritionist pointer.


Feasting at the Heart Attack Grill

Debbie says:

Over on change.org, I’ve gotten involved in a surprisingly civil and informed discussion, which started with Josie Raymond’s article (link just above) about the lawsuit between the Heart Attack Grill in Arizona and Heartstoppers in Florida:

The Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona, which has been open for years and is often featured on TV, is suing Heart Stoppers Sports Grill in Delray Beach, Florida, which opened in December. Apparently this country, where two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, just isn’t big enough for two restaurants that joke about killing their customers while slowly killing their customers.

The owners of Heart Stoppers did inquire about a Heart Attack franchise before opening their own place, and the similarities are striking — waitresses at both are dressed as sexy nurses and both offer free food to patrons over 350 pounds.

The restaurants themselves are a lot more interesting than a cease and desist letter. The Heart Attack Grill’s website declares “Taste Worth Dying For!” Menu offerings include “bypass burgers” — the quadruple bypass burger has four beef patties. Burgers, of course, come with “flatliner fries.” At Heart Stoppers, which is run by a former paramedic and is the more medical of the two, eaters can order chili chest pain fries at tables that look like wheelchairs. Salt and pepper comes out of prescription bottles. The menu declares, “Consumption of our food will definitely lead to obesity.”

Not surprising, especially in a blogging category titled (really) “Nutrition and Obesity,” Raymond takes the medical party line on this topic: according to the article, the restaurants are “slowly killing their customers.” Of course, she also disagreed with my initial comment, in which I said, in part:

While I have no patience with either of these restaurant chains and their focus on weight, I’m also sorry to see a change.org blogger making the same mistake.

The real evidence on the relationship between weight and health is almost completely ignored, because of our obsessive social conviction on the subject. While high blood pressure is certainly a health danger, and high cholesterol may be, being over 350 pounds is not.

What is wrong with these Heart-Stopper restaurants is a) that they make fun of a social stigma without understanding it, and b) that they fetishize unhealthy eating. In truth, virtually everyone is better off eating a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruit, and getting exercise. For many people, those choices will equate to losing weight. For others, they will not. Acting as if weight and how we live are completely correlated has resulted in mass shaming of fat people (which you engage in when you say that the public weigh-in is embarrassing), and it seems very likely that shaming of fat people is the real reason for any (if there is any) increased risk of heart disease and stroke in fat people. One convincing piece of evidence for this is the similar increase in heart attack/stroke risk in thin African-Americans.

So far, all of this is standard Body Impolitic fare, and I wouldn’t do a whole post just to point it out. But further down in the comments on Raymond’s article, Harold Lewis says:

No matter how much we complain about such repulsive marketing, if we, as a people, were not morbidly fascinated with our basest appetites, our current economic ideologies would fail.

That comment, in the context of the whole discussion, got me thinking about the way fascination with food, healthy food, and orthorexia actually works. I’m basically a supporter of what we currently define and describe as “healthy eating”: fruits and vegetables, fresh ingredients, home-cooked meals are part of my everyday life and I’m very happy with that. But I also love me some junk food.

I was bemused by the Heart Attack Grill when I read Raymond’s article, but Harold Lewis’s comment helped me understand it. As long as we are bombarded endlessly by ever-shifting instructions on what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, we’re going to be irrational on the subject of eating. And what’s one thing people do when we’re irrational? We act out, and go to the opposite extreme. So of course, some of us are going to be drawn to restaurants that give us permission, in fact beg us, to ignore everyone’s contradictory advice. We’re going to resonate to making fun of the directives we hear every day, whether we try to live by them or not.

The people who are so righteously sure what we should eat are the ones who are making these chains economically feasible–and they’re also the ones raising a fuss because the chains exist. Josie Raymond, you’re part of what you define as “the problem.”

I wouldn’t like the waitresses in nurse uniforms or the “tables that look like wheelchairs.” But I’m also not ashamed or embarrassed at a weigh-in, and if I qualified for the free burger, I’d take it with a grin. And if none of us were embarrassed about our weight, these restaurant chains would probably disappear.