When it comes to our food we’re eating better, for the most part. Yeah, we’re eating more vegetables and we know wholesome food is good for us, but many of us are still eating too many processed foods due to time and cost constraints.And despite an increased focus on our health and what we eat, our “diet” is still the leading cause of preventable conditions like obesity, heart disease, and death. We understand the concept of food as medicine, yet we predominantly eat crap.
So let me ask you something: if we, as women, know that something as simple as eating better can help us live longer, reverse negative health issues and keep us out of an early grave, why aren’t we all shouting ‘All Hail Kale!’? The answer is:
We’re disconnected from our food just as much as we are our own bodies. Instead of figuring out what works best for us as individuals, we’re caught up in the latest fads –– micro fasting, keto, low carb, – and are constantly looking for the easiest solution to inherently complex issues.
We buy into the quick (expensive) fixes rather than doing research, putting effort into building healthy habits, and creating positive behaviors that will change us for the long-term.
As a result, our understanding of nutrition, of the micro and macronutrients our bodies need to function and thrive, has been rendered almost non-existent. To put it succinctly:
Our relationship with food is broken. The mental, physical and physiological connections that make up our health have become inherently dysfunctional.
So, how did we get here? Well, we –– you and I –– arrived at this place for several reasons.
Let’s start with culture. Ladies, we’ve been groomed to self-objectify. For centuries, women have been thought of and treated like objects. While men have long objectified women (and certainly still do), we have internalized this objectification, and have quote-unquote ‘learned’ to do it to ourselves.
Instead of seeing ourselves as the beautiful, living, breathing beings we are, we often see ourselves as a thing to be “possessed.”
This has led us to hate our bodies and to be ashamed of the way we look. This in turn has led us to develop anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
Next, let’s look at the American media. A large part of this cultural conditioning comes through the media. We’re bombarded by images of the so-called ideal woman ad nauseum. You know what I’m talking about. The “skinny” ideal, the one that’s hatefully created in Photoshop.
Did you know that the idea that women should be thinner began in the 1840s? It goes that far back! A Presbyterian minister named Sylvester Graham began advocating a plain, abstinent diet for women as the key to health — and morality. In the 1860s, the Banting diet — a protein-heavy prototype for today’s Atkins diet — became wildly popular. In the 1920s, weight-loss drugs were introduced and dieting started to gain momentum, especially in Hollywood. Thin was in. Over time, size 10 became size 8, which became size 4, which eventually became size double zero.
But let’s be honest, the narrow-minded stereotypes perpetuated by the media are part of a larger systemic problem. Namely Capitalism. We live in a world that thrives on our insecurities. Companies offer solutions to deficiencies that they’ve created. Just follow the money. The health and wellness industries are worth more than $4.5 trillion worldwide according to the Global Wellness Institute. Women are conditioned to suffer from low self-esteem, and we’re taught to believe our self worth is tied to our physical appearance. All of it in an effort to sell us solutions that have dubious benefits at best?
Over time, the media (fueled by Capitalism) has led to the cult of healthism; the belief that we should prioritize so-called ‘optimal health’ above all else, regardless of the environmental impact, or the socioeconomic conditions we face.
If healthism is the big bad bully on the block, then diet culture is its evil, younger sibling. Diet culture has never been about health; it’s about deprivation (restriction of calories and food) and reinforces the belief that the media-specific ideal of “health” should be our #1 priority. It implies that our reward for achieving thinness is social acceptance. But, the truth is that the psychological impact of both healthism and diet culture is neither healthy nor rewarding.
Due to the recent introduction of these two concepts into the cultural conversations, the body of science-based research directly correlating diet culture and healthism to negative behavioral outcomes like anxiety, various eating disorders, and depression is still in short supply.
However, given that we live in a society in which three out of four women suffer from some sort of eating disorder, it’s safe to say, there are relationships and correlations. And that’s to say nothing of the socioeconomic factors that go overlooked in our culture.
While quality food, health, and wellness are marketed to all, in reality, they’re much more accessible to people with higher incomes.
Marketers and advertisers rarely take race, cultural heritage, and living conditions into consideration; and this is especially true for women who don’t have the financial means to “invest” in themselves.
When did feeding ourselves (food and its nutrients) become the tool for destroying women?
All of this begs the question: How does a mixed-race woman such as myself navigate the byzantine system I just laid out, one in which the reference points for guidance are predominantly geared toward affluent white women?
How do you begin to fix your relationship with food?
Well, in the next blog, I’m going to take you through an exercise that has the potential to help you to both reconnect to and create a healthier relationship with food, and do so in a manner that’s not going to break the bank.
Want to learn more about what your body actually needs to thrive? It’s not that complicated. Grab a copy of my book, Love Food, Love Yourself, for free.