Body Shaming and Real Food
I am eagerly awaiting the film coming out of Australia entitled “Embrace”, which is about the debilitating effects of body shaming.The author realized she wasn’t happy or healthy as a thin, featured model that everyone admired, but she is happy and fulfilled at her current size, though the world considers her overweight.
I have also recently watched “Fed Up” which is a documentary about the insidious presence of sugar in our daily foods, and how the USA is on a track to have 50% of adults as diabetic by 2030 and 95% of people “obese” by 2050. Fed Up – the documentary brings the film “Wall-e” to mind, with stagnant people in motorized moving lounges, sipping from oversized to-go cups.
I found myself compressed between the notions that we need to NOT be critical of our bodies while we MUST be critical of our bodies. This has morphed into we must not be critical of our bodies’ appearance, but must be critical of its performance and certainly aware of what we put into it.
Can we make changes to our food systems without introducing more body shaming? I certainly hope so, but at this point in time I have serious doubt that we can make any changes at all. We are surrounded by advertising touting processed foods, and 80% of the products in a typical grocery store have added sugar. The sugar increase has come about while we were demanding low-fat options to improve out health (based on the idea of calories in/calories out). When you remove fat you remove taste and sugar adds the taste in without that nasty fat! Unfortunately, sugar is processed by the body very quickly, turning right into fat in our system. Ironic. Even sugar alternatives (zero calorie Coke, anyone?) cause the body to create insulin, and over time the body learns to create more insulin responses more quickly, thereby turning actual sugar more quickly and even more efficiently into fat. So all those fake sugars are just teaching your body bad responses.
The issue is NOT the age old mantra “calories in = calories out”. The issue is getting the right calories which primarily means seriously reducing sugar intake. Sugar is empty calories…of no purpose. I would say not just empty calories, but actually dangerous calories as based on mounting evidence that cancer cells feed and grow very effectively off of sugar.
There are over 60 names used for sugar on food labels. Sugar is hidden in everything from peanut butter to salad dressing to 10 plus teaspoons in every 8 oz glass of soda. The World Health Organization recently revised its recommendation, saying adults should not intake sugar for more than 5% of total calories in a day. Previously they had set this recommendation at 10%, but the world health crisis is just that – a crisis, and one of epic proportions. For a normal weight adult, 5% is about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day. Remember, one glass of soda is 10 teaspoons!!! Even my wonderful Sweet Potato tortilla chips, 100% organic, has added sugar! And 3 grams of sugar in 6 measly chips – that’s about 1/8th of the sugar I should take in over a whole day…for 6 tiny little tortilla chips with no salsa, no dips, nothing.
Back to the body shaming. I can be frustrated with my body and its performance. I want to trim up a bit because when I hike up the ADK mountains I know that carrying ten pounds less would be amazing for my knees and back. On a more personal note, I feel my breasts are too big (and get in the way of cool yoga poses) and I’ve always hated my neck, but I love my legs and my eyes and my feet and hands. Weird, I know. I can love me overall and still want to improve. But I have no right to look at someone else and suggest they eat more carrots or try yoga unless they are my friend and are actually asking me what I think supports good health. And I can never tell someone they are fat or thin or wouldn’t they be happier if they were a size smaller or if they were less lazy (really?). Women are especially at risk for body shaming. Muscled women are told they are not feminine and there is a whole different level of response factoring in big breasts or little ones…and let’s not even get to the obsession with butts.
What amazed me from the film “fedup” was his statement: Obesity is the most prominent form of malnutrition…think about that phrase. The film pointed out that there is obesity (30% of the USA population) and there is TOFI (thin outside fat inside) where poor food intake has created all the symptoms and risks for degenerative long-term illnesses tied typically to obesity, such as diabetes, dementia, poor healing, heart conditions, eyesight issues, etc. It was interesting and terrifying. This increase in diet-created illness is costing individuals their lives and our nation billions of dollars in healthcare, when addressing the food intake issues would be so much less costly and dangerous. We need to get the food lobbies out just as we got the tobacco lobbies out.
Why am I talking about body shaming and our food systems, together? I have been struggling with the concern that campaigning for elimination of body shaming could be detrimental to a need to improve our food systems and improve our personal nutrition. Are we in some way saying “all sizes are fine, no matter how unhealthy?” Absolutely not. No. There should be no need for a 12-year old to have gastric bypass surgery. We should not be trending toward 50% of our USA adults being diabetic. In the course of writing this blog I realize that one does not have to undermine the other. We need to celebrate bodies and all they can do and all the shapes and sizes they come in AND we need to insist our food be real, every day. In all honesty, many of us have bodies that are not real either, as they are based on fake foods, foods overly designed and processed to sell and to literally addict us for future guaranteed sales.
- We need to decouple the notion that thin means healthy, because it does not.
- We need to figure out what % the sugar is in the stuff we buy. This info needs to be on the labels, people. It currently isn’t.
- We need to stop blaming overweight and obese people for being lazy. Lack of activity is a direct result of sugar intake and influence in our bodies. It is a symptom of the disease, not a cause of it.
How can we stop this cycle when 80% of what we buy contains added (unneeded) sugar? How can we break the habits when cartoon characters insist Fruity Pebbles are part of a nutritional breakfast? How can we sustain our health and wellbeing when a single “healthy” granola bar pitched to the spin class contains 13 grams of sugar (half of our daily recommended intake)?
Be aware. This is bigger than tobacco. This is costlier than war. This is an amazing blend of personal response and governmental oversight (currently failing to perform) and it is a point of pride. Can we take pride in our bodies and our wellbeing? Can we stop body shaming as we realize that we have many shapes and sizes and the issue is not appearance but performance? Can we kick the habit of sugar, even when it is being fed to us mostly without our consent?
Yes, I am fed up… and I choose to embrace my healthy body as it responds to real food.
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