Food Is The New Religion

I am certain that food is the new morality. Now that people are no longer afraid of burning in hell, poor food choice has become the new sin. Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of hearing people say they're being 'good' or 'bad' when deciding what to eat. Or that euphemism for good – 'healthy'. I often find myself saying out loud to people, "you know, food is not a moral choice."

Perhaps we've lost sight of the importance of a nice or interesting person – what's important now is appearance. This is what Paul Campos in The Diet Myth, calls the Bimbo Culture. No wonder we're all so afraid of putting on a few extra pounds.

I'm not pretending to be somehow impervious to the pressures of our modern media to look good – which is why I ended up flirting (and briefly getting involved with) the idea of dieting a few years ago.

When I started my physio work, I had to stop exercising entirely, except for some light walking. If certain muscle groups in your body are stronger than they should be, and others are too weak, if you do a lot of strenuous exercise, that's never going to change. The too-strong muscles will never atrophy and the weak muscles will never grow stronger.

Not that I was a big exerciser, but I went to the gym maybe a few times a week. Still, this abrupt exercise halt unfortunately coincided with terrifying chronic pain, the stress of a new job and hitting the big 3-0. I was definitely eating a lot of pizza to keep my spirits up. Needless to say, the pounds started to creep on.

I wish I had been easier on myself then. But no, I was completely wrecked by that excess five to seven pounds (shock horror!). I started counting calories and subsequently went berserk. I couldn't stop thinking about food; I was hungry all the time and guess what? I wasn't able to lose those extra pounds. Even better, when I stopped the craziness, I gained about seven more.

What happened to me was intriguing. Why had I completely failed at this dieting thing? I started doing some research. Eventually I ended up stumbling on a book by Geneeth Roth called When Food Is Love, and it introduced me to the idea of intuitive eating. It also screwed my head back on straight about food and my relationship with it.

In case you're not familiar, intuitive eating is the name for eating by responding to hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full. Eat what your body is asking you for and not what your parents tell you to or what's prescribed by some diet in a magazine.

I'm a huge fan. It really fits into my philosophy of being your own expert. Instead of putting food into 'good' and 'bad' camps, everything is allowed, nothing is forbidden. The idea is that once you are freed from these concepts, you begin to eat a healthy range of foods without feeling deprived or overeating. Mind you, a lot of people are very uncomfortable with the concept of intuitive eating. This makes me even surer that food is the new religion. Even writing about it I feel like a heretic.

There still hasn't been any substantial research on whether or not this method of eating works for weight loss. But from my personal experience, dieting doesn't either. However, eating intuitively isn't a quick fix, it's a long-term attitude change. It also involves taking a good look at yourself and how you relate to food and that often is really tough (there's probably a lot of material here to blog on). I've been experimenting with it for about a year now.

In case you were wondering, I haven't lost the extra weight yet. Who knows if I ever will? But my healthy relationship with food is returning. And honestly, I'd prefer to keep the extra poundage if it reminds me not to go back to the world of dieting.


  1. I recently went sailing with a 50s-something woman who was lean and muscular, and in far better shape than I am (34). Lunch was sandwiches and I noticed that she wrapped her sandwich in lettuce instead of eating it between two slices of bread. We talked about it for a minute and I immediately formed a determination to "Break my Carb Addiction." I find that I don't feel that full unless I've had some kind of carb with a meal, and I honestly decided to interpret that as a "crippling addiction." So I know what you mean about how we're overly extreme about our eating habits. Later on I read an article about how "thin people eat more carbohydrates than overweight people" and was consoled that my addiction was acceptable after all. It's so crazy, but I've been having conversations like that with my mother for years. I guess my question is, after you've figured out how to eat right, how do you stop the mental obsessing or break out of Bimbo Culture once it's been drummed into you?
    Is it just practicing a conscious choice?

  2. You're right. It's really, really hard. But I guess it's an opportunity to change our ingrained thinking patterns. I often think about how when my aunt was dying of cancer she was looking at old photos of herself with my Mom and she said, "I always thought I was so heavy. And I wasn't." She was annoyed that she worried about something that a) wasn't true and b) irrelevant. I guess the test is "would I be annoyed with myself for worrying about this when I'm dying?"


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