26 March 2010

The food-obsession-shame spiral

I just read Ainsley Drew's blog post about being anorexic. It was honest and well written and intimately describes something I've been observing in and around me.

There's a cultural pattern in which so many of us are food-obsessed -- for whatever reasons: genetics, allergy issues, veganism, concern for the environment, etc. -- to the point of religious fervor (psychologists might even be tempted to call it "scrupulosity"). Ainsley Drew in her blog said what so many say these days: "I became obsessed with food and ashamed of my obsession." Just as she phrased it, it's all of a piece: the food-shame-obsession spiral. Much in our landscape today shoves many of us toward this obsession about food, whether it's the proliferation of organic food options, the detailed labels on food products, the fashion magazines, and the skinniness of our pop stars, just to name a few. It's a difficult tide to resist.

As I see it, having struggled with different dimensions of food obsession myself, all we can do is choose what to take into our bodies. Contrary to common wisdom (e.g., "Your body is your temple," which may not be so helpful right when you're in the throes of food- or body-obsession), we may have to learn how to be slightly less-vigilant gatekeepers. I see personal power and taking up space as elements of this, too, and think this is why more women and gay men are likely to fall victim to this strain of obsession. I think what has kept me from becoming anorexic is that I have learned to take up space and exercise my power in the world. I like having mass, presence.

For any of you who are struggling with food- or body-related obsessions, I wish you balance and health. Also, I would love to hear what has worked and not worked for you. Peace be with you.

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