Breaking the Contract

“…Break[ing] the contract you signed when you were three years old, promising not to ever, ever tell the truth, promising your family secrets would go with you to the grave.”                                           Annie Lamott

Breaking the promise not to tell secrets. Breaking open the entire, so-often-toxic idea of secrets. Transparency has become a buzzword in the public sphere over the last couple of decades. Not that it has gone very well in that sphere, of course. The nature of the beast, public life, seems to include secrecy and behind-the-scenes manipulations in every public arena, from politics to business. But that’s not where I am going with this commentary. I’ll leave that to others who are more knowledgeable about those worlds. Mainly white men and those who have chosen to study and infiltrate those realms… women and people of color, for instance. Although learning a bit about those machinations intrigues me, I’m definitely not willing to invest my time to gain a thorough understanding.   jersey-girl

I am and have always been, perhaps by necessity, more interested in the secrecy and lack of transparency in the private sphere. My personal analysis is that white men, white Anglo Saxon men, men in general, have shaped the rules of secrecy in our personal lives in much the same way as in the world at large. ‘Protecting their power’ and control is one way to frame it. Of course there are widespread cultural differences of degree, but I feel comfortable asserting that this dynamic exists. I was raised in a culture that was rigorously shaped by WASP men and gender roles were fairly rigid. Men did not talk about feelings and if women needed or chose to, it must be kept out of sight. Hush, hush. No good would come of airing one’s emotions, much less troubles; that was the nearly iron clad rule.

On the most tragic level, this injunction forced women to suffer rape, sexual assault and abuse in silence. The victim-blaming and victim-shaming standards held sway for centuries and despite some advances in my lifetime, still hold women in a cage of secrecy. Trauma of any kind was something to be kept private, in spite of the obvious harm this caused to generally blameless humans, even or especially children.

Here we go…

If you have already seen something I’ve written about this, please forgive the repetition. goldtreeWhen my mother gave birth to a Downs Syndrome child in 1963, my baby sister’s very existence was kept a secret. When she died a little over a year later, the (dare I say, natural) need to mourn her death was truncated**, denied by the fact that if people did not know she had lived, how was grieving to take place? I was eleven years old. The package of secrecy and denial was tightly wrapped in a final (and I do mean final) injunction: we were never to speak of her again. The rare times that a spark of self-preservation leapt from my inner self and I spoke her name or referred to her life and our loss, I was smacked down quite vigorously.

There are chronologically earlier, and equally painful, examples in my family of the denial of reality by use of secrecy and others that came later in my childhood. They continued right through to the day I confronted my 84-year-old father about his excessive alcohol use. (The Alcoholics Anonymous program states that only the addict/alcoholic can take on that label and I agree, so I do not refer to him as such.) I confronted him and told him I had taken away his car keys. I named it, his drinking, a secret that had been protected by the family code of silence for my entire life. By naming it (and taking away those keys) I took away some of his power. He was furious, cursing me and trying to hit me with his cane, telling my mother that I did not belong in the family.

Those who know me, I think, would describe me as discreet, someone who can be trusted with confidential information; a compassionate listener, a kind and sensitive person. I also love surprises and will go to great lengths to assist in the planning of happy surprises. But do not come to me with a secret that is being held in order to protect someone who has power or that has the potential to harm someone less powerful. Mainly due to my early experiences, I’ve become a vigilante against toxic secrecy, down to my very core. I will not abide by the code of silence. I am committed to breaking that dreadfully coerced promise whenever I can.

** Truncated: ORIGIN late 15th cent. (as a verb): from Latin truncat- ‘maimed,’ from the verb truncare

I had no idea that truncated was also a mathematical term; I always pictured a tree trunk, like this:    5b3fopm8f7gsmkq7ovdd12xm7dlsjbclzjqimcqa1nlrx5wsughsjrwdgqwhihsc2lmds128 nablopomo_badge_2016

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Gratitude

NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogrollA partial list:

I am grateful to be female. Given the oppressiveness of patriarchy as I have experienced it personally and the persistent ugliness of its presence in the world, that may be surprising, but I am very grateful to be a woman.

I am grateful that I was a child in the 1950’s and early 1960’s; again, somewhat surprising, due to the difficulties in my personal story and the limiting social structure of the times. But I am grateful for the relative innocence of the era: when media was not ever-present and was somewhat more benign; when we children moved more freely within our small world, without the burden of fear and stranger danger; when playing, exploring and making things up was what children did. When our country was ‘between wars’.

I am also grateful to have lived into the 21st century and be experiencing the positive elements of electronic innovation, dizzying, utilitarian, seemingly endless; and the relative progress that has been made in the lives of girls and women.

I am grateful to all of the souls, living and dead, who have influenced me, through their presence in my life and the books they have written; particularly the spiritual teachers whose insights have and do sustain my faith and understanding of the universe.  I’m choosing to name, via initials, a few individuals whose perhaps unwitting guidance, at certain moments in my life, helped me to step onto entirely new paths.

Gratitude to MHB: who opened my eyes to a social political understanding of the world, birthing within me feminist, humanist and progressive values that remain central in my life.

Gratitude to PP: who opened my eyes to the power inside the world of dreams.

Gratitude to PL: who dragged me into recovery from addiction and forced my eyes open to the messages of hope and self esteem.

Gratitude to JC: who has listened to me and by that gift enabled me to speak, who understands me and by that gift has helped me to learn from myself, as well as others.

I am ever grateful to many others.  Although I’ve not named you specifically, you have been stalwart guides, supporters and fellow seekers in my life to date. I hope that you know not only who you are, but also what you and your love mean to me.

Yes, I am grateful for my friends and family, for my health, for the babies and young people that I am privileged to know and love, for my extraordinary daughter and her generosity, for my spouse and her willingness to build our lives together, for my parents who are gone and my siblings who remain, for my comfortable home and the limitless wonder and beauty of the planet and it’s life force.

Like I said, a partial list.

The Day After

NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogrollThe announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the Ferguson police officer who killed Mike Brown, coming on the heels of reading about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the frightening reality of how many of the U.S. soldiers come to be there (joining the National Guard for the chance to go to college, then being deployed to fill the ranks of a ‘volunteer’ army) was too much for me yesterday.

Thus the title of my post: Too much wrong.

In reaction to these shameful manifestations of injustice, I began thinking about and investigating the research on privilege. There are apparently eight or nine agreed upon forms of privilege. I added one. I found the illuminating statements below on the website of Media Smarts, a Canadian organization. They helped me to frame my thoughts.

“… privilege is not merely about race or gender… it is a series of interrelated hierarchies and power dynamics that touch all facets of social life: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education, gender identity, age, physical ability, [and body size.]”

“… privilege, discrimination, and social groups all operate within interrelated hierarchies of power, dominance, and exclusion. Just because someone is privileged in one way doesn’t mean they may not be underprivileged in another (and vice-versa). It is therefore important to be aware of the various groups to which one belongs in order to be able to question our own participation in a system of discrimination and privilege.”

“… the privileged group is the one that is commonly treated as the baseline against which the others are judged or compared – it is seen as ‘ordinary’ [or the ‘norm’.]”

So here is one list of the forms of privilege and who has it, as they are generally present in western culture. The information is mostly taken from the Media Smarts website, with some modifications added by me.

  1. Gender (male authority, stories and perspectives)
  2. Gender Identity (how one identifies and express oneself in gendered terms)
  3. Racial (institutionalized racism: system structured to privilege one group over others)
  4. Sexuality (heterosexuality assumed)
  5. Religious (WASP: religious practices and observances recognized as the norm)
  6. Education (access to higher education)
  7. Class (economic status & social class)
  8. Ability (able bodied, w/o mental disability or addiction)
  9. Body size (“In terms of media, it is extremely rare to find representations of individuals whose [body] does not conform to cultural expectations. In the rare instances that such characters are portrayed, their nonconformity is typically used to elicit… laughter, or may be portrayed as a kind of mental [disability].”)
  10. Age (youth)

This gives me a lot to think about.  I have a renewed awareness of the groups to which I belong.  At the very least, I want to remain more conscious of the ways that my privilege makes things easier for me in my daily life. I do not expect that it will be comfortable, but it seems critical to focus on my “own participation in a system of discrimination and privilege…”

The work I am attempting to do here, addressing issues of fat stigma, sexism, corporate greed and so on, feels like a privileged indulgence, unless I also honor these realities.  These seem like the right thoughts to carry with me into Thanksgiving Day 2014.

PS:  How to be a White Ally by Janee Woods

The Care & Feeding of Friends(hip)

I believe it was Descartes who said: “I think, therefore, I am.” I could say, or certainly in the past could say, “I feed, therefore, I am.” This is (has been), obviously, not always a good thing. Particularly when used against myself, as in “My worthiness is determined by my service to others… i.e. feeding them.” But that is the shadow side. There is so much that gives me pleasure about feeding others. I am proud of my knowledge and my skills and I love to share them, as well as the resulting food for consumption. Random associations include:

  • long time friend JR saying: “Cathy used to bake all the time… ” which recalls the years when I worked as a baker and constantly baked sweets at home for my friends;
  • talking with a young mother about ways to put together quick, easy, nutritious and varied pureed food for her baby;
  • making a Key Lime pie for my elderly grandmother every Christmas for 15 years;
  • cooking up large batches of Guatemalan black beans and rice for family and friends;
  • trying new recipes and food/flavor combinations;
  • playing with fresh produce or herbs from my own garden or a farmers market…

Many happy memories. I am quite sure that I could continue adding to this list for a long time and that it would more than out weigh [sic] the ‘cooking as a responsibility and burden’ occasions that are also a part of my history. And I do want to share my thoughts about the subject line: The Care and Feeding of Friends and Friendship.

Nurturing is what makes a friendship strengthen and grow, just as feeding a child is essential for its growth and development. Sharing food is an elemental manner of nurturing; preparing the food adds another layer to the connection. In virtually every culture, the act of eating together represents an essential bond for family and community. There is some powerful magic that can happen when humans focus on their food, setting aside, even briefly, the contentious stresses of everyday life. Sitting together to eat or drink can bring forth the conversational sharing that solidifies relationships. I’m not saying that people must share meals in order to have healthy meaningful friendships, but it doesn’t hurt, does it?

Alright, I am going to move away from this warm fuzziness for a bit, because I need to share something from Caitlin Moran’s book, which I mentioned yesterday, How To Be a Woman. I’m just going to put the raw material out there, which for some reason I’ve avoided doing in this blog, thus far. I think that I’ve begun to understand why I shied away from putting it out there.  When I first read it, it knocked the wind out of me, in both a good way and a terrifying way. Good, because she put into words something that had been my experience, but I could never have articulated. Terrifying, well, for the same reason, I guess. It explains a piece of my personal psychology and experience, in part by placing it in a larger cultural context, which is devastating in its simplicity, obviousness and outrageousness.

from How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

[The fact is that]… people overeat for exactly the same reason they drink, smoke, serially f**k around or take drugs.  In this trancelike state, you can find welcome, temporary relief from thinking [and feeling]… Overeating, or comfort eating, is the cheap, meek option for self-satisfaction and self-obliteration. You get all the temporary release of drinking, f**king or taking drugs, but without… ever being left in a state where you can’t remain responsible and cogent.

In a nutshell, then, by choosing food as your drug… you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, pop in on your mum and then stay up all night with an ill five-year-old… something that is not an option if you are [shooting/snorting drugs] or… knocking back quarts of Scotch.

Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of f**king yourself up while still remaining functional, because you have to.

Fat people aren’t indulging in the ‘luxury’ of their addiction making them useless, chaotic or a burden. Instead they are self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that’s why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice.     [Emphasis is mine.]

Well, it happened again. Every time I read this, I am struck dumb by the truth of it and the power of it. In one fell swoop it deconstructs so much for me about addiction (of all kinds) and women, food, care-taking and responsibility.

I encourage you to check out the whole book, which is, as stated by the reviewer I quoted yesterday “… as much attitude as analysis. … in equal measure, intellectual, rebel[lious] and goof[y].”  Or at least to take a look at this article about the chapter from which these lines are drawn: I Am Fat. Moran describes a visit to a friend in a British rehab center who reveals to her the ‘ranking’ of addictions being treated there. And Moran plays out a pointed and hysterical tale about dysfunctional and beloved rock and roll musicians, whose behavior and unreliability are forgiven and somewhat glorified.   What if they used food instead of drugs? They would show up for every performance, but how would their fans react to the fact that they look not wasted, but fat?

In closing, a comment about an editorial in today’s Boston Globe. It expresses a very sensible opinion, with reference to some very interesting research about food labeling. You can find the full text here.  But…

Can someone please tell me why the editorial writers or staff decided to include a photograph of two XXXL women, taken from behind, which emphasizes their XXXL butts? The headline is One soda = a five mile walk. The research tracked the behavior of black teenagers. So, is this choice of image perhaps playing to the basest responses of the reader? Is it about shaming? Misogyny? Shock value? Comedy?

It is cruel and wrong, wrong, wrong. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, for furthering erroneous stereotypes.  It makes me so mad.

What if…

Another line of thought, springing from: What if… I had been told, ‘don’t worry about [my] size’… is more concrete: my actual body size and eating behavior over the years. I was first placed on a diet at age eight and my food intake was restricted for the next ten years by my parents. There was a lot of stigmatizing, teasing by my siblings and parents (there was a post about this last November…) a lot of shame and a concurrent, childhood pattern of ‘secret eating’ began. If your siblings are given ice cream after dinner and you are told that you cannot have any because are too fat, I think that it’s a fairly predictable response from a preteen. It’s the same as hearing: you can’t go out after 8 PM and sneaking out the window to meet your friends; or any other prohibition that triggers a defiant response from a child.

Some forty years ago I first heard about ‘yo-yo dieting’ and the body’s ‘set point’. The most basic explanation made sense to me immediately. It seems obvious that the body needs and expects a certain level of nutrient intake for optimal health. As an organism, it responds to an experience of starvation (read, restrictive diet… and the diets of the late 20th century were certainly restrictive) by drawing on its reserves (stored fat, then muscle) and adjusting its expectations/needs. As I understood the concept at that time, the body changes its ‘set point’ and proceeds to operate in starvation mode. Add a few extra nutrients (calories) and the weight piles on. In the case of yo-yo dieters, where their weight goes up and down repeatedly, the body’s internal regulatory systems get completely messed up.

That’s pretty much how I understood the concept back in the 1970’s: simplistic and undoubtedly containing medical inaccuracies. However, over the years, a lot of research has been done and mountains of literature have been published about the ways in which the body reacts to healthy and unhealthy eating. Remember, overeating and dieting are equally unhealthy eating patterns! I have found much of the latest research into the neurological aspects of this issue is fascinating. One such article crossed my path recently.

“Emmanuel N. Pothos, associate professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics and neuroscience in the Tufts School of Medicine’s Department of Integrative Physiology and Pathobiology and his colleagues are focusing on the reward system in the brain that motivates us to seek out food…”

“When an animal eats a meal, the brain’s food reward system releases dopamine, one of a group of chemicals called neurotransmitters that relay signals between brain cells. Dopamine produces a pleasurable sensation that lets the animal know it has satisfied a primal need.”

“A number of factors can knock the reward system off kilter… Gaining weight and losing weight alter the system… as can certain diseases, including addiction.” (Ah, addiction.)

“Starvation… will alter this reward system’s otherwise tidy feedback loop. When an animal is having a hard time finding enough food… the brain doesn’t want it to feel satisfied after just one meal. The brain wants to compel the animal to keep looking, to keep eating, all day if it can.”     Here is a link to the full article.

Fed Up

Just back from a preview showing of the movie I mentioned last week, Fed Up.

So much damning information about the PFIC (Processed Food Industrial Complex).  And I may need to revise the title I’ve given, to include the US Government’s role in this horror story.

Honestly, I can’t think right now.  My head is swimming with factoids and my heart is churning with emotional reactions.

So, for now, I am going to say, go see this film.  Here is a link to the trailer.  Here is a link to the list of theaters where it will be showing, starting in the couple of weeks.

On another topic:  I’ve been writing about corners.  More next time.

Re-view

brocFor more than six months I’ve been ingesting and digesting thoughts from many disparate sources, regarding shame, body image, addiction and fat stigma.  Chewing and pondering these various bits of information and insight, sometimes semi-publicly on the blog and also in private writing, has helped me move toward shame reduction. At moments when I feel most ‘out of body’ (which is a hysterical turn of phrase when talking about body size), I feel ‘shame-less’ or shame free.

That is, without shame, in a positive way.bana

This reminds me of my desire to re-frame the words self-ish and self-less, which desperately need to have their connotations expanded. To be self-less is actually not always positive.  It can mean not acknowledging or valuing the self. In fact, it can indicate blatantly negating the existence and value of self, as if others – people & things – are of greater importance, to the point where there is no room for self. Oh yes, there are positive meanings of self-less, but for women, I dare to say that being without self, as part of serving others, is far too common and self-destructive. Of course, destroying the self  implies having a self and, to speak for my self, the insubstantial and mightily distorted sense of self with which I came of age didn’t require much effort to destruct. Addiction is a speedy tool of destruction.

clemmySelfish, of course, has virtually nothing but a negative connotation. Greedy, not caring for others… It is thus a perfect word to use when accusing a woman of not taking sufficient care of others. In fact, any lapse in care taking, of spouse, children, parents, friends, colleagues, who-ever, is a spot-lit, glaring event. Over the course of centuries, patriarchy has inscribed the edict quite deeply, (like the Harry Potter character writing, scarring his own skin, as punishment), that females exist to service males.

This invisible writing, the tattoos of the established female role, has been diluted bit by bit, over the last century or so. And there were always exceptional women, (the exceptions) who were not, for whatever reason – and I would love to understand the hows and whys – fully oppressed by the code, the cultural norms. But for a woman to elevate self-care, even to the level of other-care is still a radical notion.

Mothers, particularly, speak of needing ‘me time’. It is a commodity, marketed now, of grapishcourse. (I think of those intensely sexual television ads for chocolate, where a woman swoons while nibbling a small square of chocolate while in the background a man stirs & pours sensuous vats of molten chocolate…)  ‘Me time’ for a woman is promoted as if it is something apart from ‘normal’ life.  On the other hand, with the exception of ads showing men driving cars or drinking alcohol and watching sports (since cigarette ads have been banned for many years), one rarely sees males yearning for ‘me time’.  They freely ‘indulge’ in these pastimes as a matter of course, every day.

It is the ‘norm’.

Okay, I went off on a bit of a tangent.  I drifted into this diatribe on self-less and self-ish rhub(behavior) due to their similarity to the expression shame-less. Another generally negative expression, with the implication that some wrong is being done and one ought to ‘be ashamed’ of the behavior. In fact, this connotation is not inaccurate for some situations. When I think of particularly obscene avarice or bigoted behavior, I wonder:

‘Do they have no shame?”

But this is a far cry from the shame of which I have been writing: the inlaid shame which hobbled me for so many years.  I feel tremendous gratitude that I walk comparatively unencumbered today.

 

“Should.” “Don’ Wanna.”

Everything seems to be taking a little longer today.  I am out-of-sorts and easily irritated. “Should, Don’ Wanna” is my theme song.

Is there a pressing should?  Well, I could do X, Y or Z. Yeah. I could.  I try to remember to say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’.  It’s definitely a less violent word than should, but still triggers an apathetic “but I don’ wanna”.

Where am I going with this?  Into a dark, self-defeating hole.  Think I’ll stop now.  I’ll come back to this negative chant – which can be viewed from a more positive angle in terms of choice – some other day.

I do have a piece of (potentially exciting) news to share. Here is some information about a new movie called FED UP, that’s coming out in May. It’s clearly promotional hype, but there is one sentence, which I have highlighted below, lest you miss it (grin) that speaks directly to so much I have been trying to say in this blog. I am so, so eager to find out the veracity and the source of this statistic.

Thirty years ago the U.S. Government issued its first ever dietary guidelines and with it one of the greatest health epidemics of our time ensued. In her documentary feature debut, executive producer and narrator Katie Couric joins Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), Regina Scully (The Invisible War) and Stephanie Soechtig (Tapped) to explore why, despite media attention and government policies to combat childhood obesity, generations of kids will now live shorter lives than their parents.

Upending the conventional wisdom of why we gain weight and how to lose it, FED UP unearths the dirty little secret the food industry doesn’t want you to know — far more of us are sick from what we are eating than anyone has ever realized.

The truth is, only 30% of people suffering from diet-related diseases are actually obese; while 70% of us — even those of us who look thin and trim on the outside — are facing the same consequences, fighting the same medical battles as the obese among us.

Following a group of children for more than two years, director Stephanie Soechtig achieves a profound intimacy with them as they document their uphill battles to follow the conventional wisdom, ‘diet and exercise’, in order to live healthier, fuller lives. They are undertaking a mission impossible. In riveting interviews with the country’s leading experts, FED UP lays bare a decades-long misinformation campaign orchestrated by Big Food and aided and abetted by the U.S. Government.

Here is a link to the trailer, which doesn’t address the 30% and 70% statistic, but it’s worth a look.  Sugars

 

 

Sugar and fat

Another article in the newspaper this morning about the sugar being pumped into processed foods:  A little extra sugar tied to fatal heart disease in study, says the headline by Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press.Sugars

CHICAGO — The biggest study of its kind suggests that sugar can be deadly, at least when it comes to fatal heart problems.  It doesn’t take all that much extra sugar, hidden in many processed foods, to substantially raise the risk, the researchers found, and most Americans eat more than the safest amount.  … in the new study, obesity didn’t explain the link between sugary diets and death. That link was found even in normal-weight people who ate lots of added sugar.

“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The researchers focused on sugar added to processed foods or drinks, or sprinkled in coffee or cereal. Even foods that don’t taste sweet have added sugar, including many brands of packaged bread, tomato sauce, and salad dressing.”

Why does this seem so obvious to me?  I guess the scientific world needs studies to prove things.  Prove them to whom?  The politicians who could work to regulate the processed food industry?  Or could ‘facts’ like these encourage the PFIC (processed food industrial complex) to modify their own profit-driven choices?  How can our addiction to sugar possibly be broken?  Surprisingly, the answer might include adding more healthy fats to our diet.  WHAT?

Here are some thoughts about fats from the blog of the well-known Ayurvedic practitioner and teacher, Dr John Douillard.  He notes that ancient humans

“… ate tons of fiber and didn’t eat sugar. We eat way too much sugar and have insufficient amounts of fiber to block its absorption into the blood, leaving us with raging blood sugar issues.

“As the population grew, foods were processed so they could sit on a shelf longer. This was accomplished by processing good healthy fats, rendering them unhealthy. As a result, our dietary intake of good healthy fats has dramatically declined, leaving us searching for satiety elsewhere.

Remember, that feeling of satiety and satisfaction we get after a meal is due to the fats that stick to the ribs and make us feel full.

“Without sugar in their diet, hunter-gatherers were satisfied primarily by fats, while we have been deprived of such satisfying good fats in comparison.

“To [meet] this need to feel full and satisfied, we have gravitated to a diet of carbs and sugars, which deliver a more temporary version of satiety. The feel-good, satisfied sensation is delivered much quicker – and modern humans have become addicted to it. When the food industry began using processed fats in foods that we don’t digest well, the carb content in the American diet began to soar. Foods have to be pleasing and tasty, and this was accomplished with starchier foods with less digestible or usable fats.

“The more good fats you put in your diet, the less you will crave, want or need sugar and sweets.”

To borrow, and flip on its head, a phrase from the show Iron Chef America, I am engaged in ‘Battle Sugar’.  And I know I’m not alone.  There are two major ways that the desire, the craving for sweets seems to be hard wired.  One is more biochemical, which is an addiction habit and the other is more psychological, an emotional habit.  Together they have a powerful impact, particularly if visual or olfactory stimulation is present.  See a box of chocolates?  Want it.  Smell cookies baking?  Want them.  Watch someone eating ice cream?  Where did they get it?

With many thanks (not) to the advertising industry, we are bombarded with images of sweets, real or artificial, everywhere we look.  And painstakingly created chemical scents (and sometimes tastes) that mimic the delicious natural chemistry of butter and sugar attract us like little wavy cartoon lines.  Sensuous sells.  I love to share pet peeves here… the TV ads for Lindt chocolate truffles, where the image of a male chef, dripping molten chocolate from a large whisk, is followed by the picture of a woman swooning. Another candy maker has an ad showing a woman nibbling on a tiny corner of a small piece of chocolate also swooning.  Really?  Women are so easily satisfied…

Anyway, with a major chocolate holiday approaching next week, here is an early Eating Art Work drawing of a Valentine heart.

Choc heart

In My Humble Opinion

You may remember a post I wrote about a month ago, about Maria King’s ‘fat-bashing’ Facebook post.  Well, this week in the Boston Globe there was an Op-Ed piece championing Ms. King’s viewpoint.  The headline reads:  “Pro-fat is an unhealthy status quo”.   I must say, Globe editors, unless the author, Cathy Young chose that title, it seems like a provocative choice of words. The Globe is fairly consistent about presenting both sides of political issues, but there was no balancing opinion piece on this topic.  Which raises the question of whether the American attitude toward fat people is a political concern…

Ms. Young’s point appears to be that the ‘fat acceptance’ movement is dangerous.  As she critiques the promotion of ‘fat pride’ and the normalization and celebration of body size acceptance, I would ask Ms. Young to consider three questions.

First and most importantly, as she references the ‘rise in childhood obesity’, I ask, does she mean to say that it is better for children to grow up obese and filled with shame and self-loathing?  Does she really believe that it is irresponsible to present children with models of self-acceptance, regardless of body size?  She states that fat-bullying is not okay, but in the absence of any positive role models, the fat-bashers (adult & child) would seem to have cultural approval for expressing their negative opinions.keylime

Ms. Young quotes several studies, some which support her p.o.v and another, which she disparages as flawed, which is invoked by ‘pro-fat activists.’  Her reasoning is confusing and frankly, insults the intelligence of the participants in the study.  Plus, we all know how easily one can find studies to support or debunk any point of view.

My second question for Ms. Young is whether she has done any research into the role of processed foods in childhood (and adult) obesity?  For more than half a century, the processed food industry (with near-silence – or complicity – on the part of our government) has knowingly sold/fed the American public ‘food products’ that contain heavy loads of salt, sugar and fat.  These addictive substances have fueled billions of dollars in profits for the processed food and diet industries.  I would suggest that Ms. Young read Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat, or at least the opening chapters, and educate herself.

Lastly, Young disparages the ‘the left wing notion that anti-obesity stigma equals bigotry (and patriarchal oppression, when directed at women)’.  I’m sorry, but seeing the words ‘left wing’ in this argument made me chuckle.  However, I guess in a way she’s right – it is a human rights issue – albeit one that the average progressive individual may not be comfortable espousing.  Be that as it may, I ask Ms. Young:  do you really, honestly contend that sexism/patriarchal oppression is not a factor in fat stigma?  There are thousands of studies that confirm that girls and women are judged on their appearance.  They know it, from a terrifyingly young age, and they strive to meet unhealthy standards of ‘beauty’.  Yes, fat is a feminist issue, (with a nod to Susie Orbach).

Young closes by likening obesity to alcoholism.  There may be parallels, but I would say that to call either ‘condition’ a ‘self-inflicted’ one demonstrates a lack of sensitivity and insight on her part.  She is simply incorrect when she closes with the accusation that promoting self-acceptance is ‘assist[ing] in denial’.  In my opinion, health, in every meaning of the word, requires a foundation of self-acceptance and pride, not shame.