Hey Fitties!

I’m back! As is usual whenever I have big events, I’m in recovery mode. The big rush I experience before and during an event is always followed by a an ebb of emotional and physical energy. Now I know to expect it, I know to be gentle with myself and to plan restful, rejuvenating activities until my mojo comes back.

Unfortunately, my blogging muscle gets a little noodley after these events as well. šŸ˜‰

I walk a fine line here on Fit with Lizzie and in my work with people who are looking to lose weight and get fit. I’ve talked before that not all behaviors in the health and fitness world are healthy or fit. It’s a struggle. How far do you push? Where does education end and where does food neurosis begin? It’s frustrating on one hand to witness a litany of complaints (migraines, stomach problems, insomnia, weight gain, thyroid instability, menstrual problems…) and notice these ailments nearly always accompany use of processed “foods,” sugary drinks, chemical sweeteners and an absence of fresh fruit and vegetables. There’s also room for compassion (many people believe that these foods are healthy because they read about them in a fitness magazine or they are endorsed by celebrities and athletes… or simply because if they are available in a grocery store, well, they must be food!).

On one hand, I want to push people to reach for “clean” foods because they will feel better and be better able to gauge their true hunger and satiety levels. On the other hand, I want to respect a person’s autonomy and their right to eat the foods of their choosing. I recognize that “forbidden foods” gain an allure that make them exotic, thrilling and desirable.

We are almost Victorian in the way we have problematized and stigmatized the pleasures of the table. Whereas our ancestors would fetishize a woman’s hidden ankles or her upswept hair, we have our food fetishes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGxHB6skXg4&feature=related

I mean really, come on. Get a room.

I suppose our repressed relationship with food — and the titillation of engaging in forbidden eating — is hardly surprising given that nutritional science emerged in the 1890s. Wilbur Atwater was the first to claim food simply as fuel for a machine (the human body) and he combined scientific analysis of calories and nutrients with a moralistic philosophy about how calories should be apportioned.* Nutrition, then, from its infancy was a science with tinges of morality. It was fuel, plain and simple, but it was also not just fuel since a human who ate “rightly” and dominated his appetites could be seen as more “upright” than someone who simply… ate.

Recently, I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and was blown away by the health changes Joe Cross effected by going on a juice fast.

But is such an extreme method necessary? Do you have to “get through the next 60 days” of culinary self-flagellation in order to reverse your health course? If he’d simply switched to eating fruit, vegetables, lean meat… could he have obtained similar results without the Puritanical regime? And would it still have made for an exciting documentary?

I don’t really know. There’s no question that Western society is deeply anxious about food. We seek to control it, master it… our strong biological drive to be fed adequately threatens our sense that we are masters of our own universe. It’s an appetite that we can’t control. As we monitor our fat, carb and calorie intake and stifle our personal hunger cues, we have the curious paradox of knowing plenty about nutrition and being the heaviest generation in history. We have more food available to us than ever before, but who is actually enjoying the process of eating?

Even our indulgences are prescribed — a weekly treat day is our nod to our human need to eat off the map, away from the calculator. In truth, this controlled cheat is really a binge, a Last Supper mentality in which a dieter eats as much as he or she can, perhaps more than he or she truly wants, because tomorrow the bars of the diet jail slam shut and one must atone for the excesses of the day.

I’ve dabbled in intuitive eating a time or two in the past… but I’ve always retreated from it. Partly because I simply do not trust my ability to eat appropriate amounts of food without tracking everything using an algebraic equation and partly because I work in an industry where it seems everyone is manipulating something in their diet. Either they’re eschewing grains or fruit or meat or they’re outright fasting. It feels strange to be the only one not on some sort of regimen. But the regimen gets tiresome. For what? 3 pounds? Of mostly water weight? What’s the point? All those brain cells devoted to the running tally of calories only to start all over the next day…

Shall I do this for the next 60 +/- years of my life? I’ve done it roughly for the last 20ish years. Is there a better way? I don’t know. I’m willing to find out.

*FromĀ Consumed: Why Americans Hate, Love, and Fear Food by Michelle Stacey