Janey

Fat Eats.

Four or so months ago I became a vegetarian. This was because I thought it was hypocritical for me to eat meat; if I can’t actually deal with seeing an animal slaughtered, why should I be eating them? I don’t think this is the right viewpoint for everyone, and I would never -ever- lecture a person about what they eat. Like everything what people eat is a personal choice.

Previously I have ranted about Jamie Oliver and his quest to end fat people. I am being hyperbolic when I say that; I think Jamie Oliver’s intentions are actually not that bad. He’s trying to educate people about what food is good for your health. Now I don’t necessarily think he’s going about it in the right way (shock tactics and body shaming suck, yo) but I do recognise he’s trying to make the world a better place. (And by better I do not mean thinner.) His methods are in a similar vein to Michelle Obama’s. She is trying to get people moving and eating more healthfully and that’s a fantastic goal. Unfortunately she’s doing it by creating the action to end childhood obesity. All this kind of initiative does is shame kids (and adults) who are obese. And while I’m sure that wasn’t her intention, the fact of the matter is that people are going to take a volatile topic such as fat and skew the information to whatever they think is right. Fat kids will continue to be bullied simply for being fat; fat adults will associate the way they look with something bad – thus promoting negative body image. This in turn (however accidentally) promotes an industry that teaches people the way the way you look has direct correlation to your health and attractiveness, so you should change that at any cost.

It’s all too easy to blame particular groups for the world’s woes when really we should be tackling deeper problems; ones that investigate WHY people are the way they are. Often when I bring facts up to people who know little about the size acceptance movement, they say that the idea just gives fat people an “easy out” or an excuse to be lazy. That people are fat because they don’t do enough exercise and they eat like shit. After all, it’s just “calories in, calories out” right? First off, I hate it when people have said that to me, and be prepared to be verbally bitchslapped if you do. Secondly, saying something like that brings a complex societal issue with many different causes down to a few cliche catchphrases that aren’t true for every person. For some people it might be calories in calories out, but not for everyone. And even if that IS the case, what right does anyone have in making a judgement over how a person eats or exercises? Even if you look at it from a health perspective instead of a size outlook, what right does anyone have to comment on how my health should be? It’s my body and my choice. As long as I am not hurting anyone else, I will always feel this way. And frankly, if people were really concerned about health and not weight, then they would preach to everyone equally. I have always eaten more healthfully than my sister who is a size six – why isn’t anyone lecturing her about the benefits of eating more fruit and vegies instead of meringues and packets of nerds?

One of the tactics Jamie Oliver always tries to use is showing that it takes less time to cook a good healthy meal his way than it is to stick something in the microwave. By doing this, he’s skirting the one of the actual issues. People don’t cook full meals from scratch because it might require using a food processor/frying pan/mixmaster/chopping board, and all of those things require cleanup after use. Microwave meals and/or fast food can usually be eaten straight out of their packages. For convenience’s sake I know what I’d choose. Convenience foods are booming because people have less time and willingness to spend on cooking. I totally get it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it!

Another issue I struggle with is that I don’t think it’s anyone’s business on what I eat or how much I exercise. I think as long as a person is educated about what they are eating, then they should be able to eat anything they like. I mean, I have a penchant for a good butter chicken. Now I don’t use chicken these days, but it’s still gt a buttload of butter and cream in it, and I recognise this isn’t going to be the best thing for my health. I know that having too much of it is going to end up raising my cholesterol levels, and heart problems run in my family. I am aware of the health issues associated with eating the way I sometimes do, but in the end it comes down to it being my choice. I don’t insist that anyone else eat or think the way I do, and so I don’t think it’s anyone’s business but my own. I’m well educated on what may happen to my body if I eat the foods I do. I am aware that I probably wont live until I’m 100 years old. But that’s okay for me. I’m not suicidal either – I just want to eat what my body wants without being shamed by society.

 

To eat or not to eat – that is the question! Leave your thoughts about this topic in the comments below.

 

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  • vesta44

    It's not always a matter of having the time to spend on cooking, or being willing to cook. Sometimes it's a matter of “Am I pain-free enough today to cook a meal from scratch, or am I going to nuke something?” Sometimes it's a matter of “I'm pain-free enough to cook a meal from scratch today, but I won't be able to handle the clean-up afterward.” So it's a balancing act for many of us, and people like Jamie Oliver (and Michelle Obama) don't take those kinds of things into account. And I don't much care that their intentions are good (the road to hell is paved with good intentions, after all), what I care about is that neither one of them has bothered to think about how their crusades to end “obesity” will actually affect fat peoples' lives. All they can see is that being thinner = healthy (which isn't necessarily so), so automatically that's a good thing. In the meantime, nothing changes for fat people – doesn't matter how healthfully we eat or how much we exercise, if it doesn't make us thin, we aren't doing it right, even if our health improves (none of which is anybody's business, but they sure think it is). It's one of those 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situations, as I see it.

  • http://twitter.com/boldaslove leisa bell

    I think Jamie Oliver is a little bit bullshit. Like, he is the chef exception to the rule. Most chef's use sugar, fat or salt to flavour their meals. A WHOLE LOT MORE than what the usual person uses in their day-to-day cooking anyway…
    Also, fresh food also implies more time spent shopping. Which is another problem for the time – poor. Not to mention the cost of going to the supermarket more often.

    What gets me the most is the vilification which you mentioned. Like, you aren't a proper person if you're fat. When I was in school, I wasn't the skinniest kid. But the way I was spoken to (mostly by adults), I thought I was the fattest kid in the world. Which meant that when I became a teenager and began to make food – choices for myself, I didn't care what I ate, because I knew I was already fat.
    Looking back on photographs, I wasn't that much bigger than the other kids, but because of how I felt, I did become bigger, and its still a though process my size 16 ass struggles with to this day. My theory is that everytime someone utters “childhood obesity” a kid eats a mars bar. Its a giant cycle.

  • nitrojane

    Excellent points!

  • nitrojane

    You know now that you mention it, I too used make poor food choices as a teenager because I thought I was already fat! Maybe you've got something there.

    Also: when Jamie used to the the Naked Chef he was much more oil/salt/butter oriented. Somewhere along the way he's been brainwashed by someone, methinks.

  • beek0

    This is a huge conversation in the vegan community. It is totally possible to eat only whole foods, only vegan, cooked from scratch–and to still be overweight or obese. Many of us are living proof. It's not about weight loss, it's about ethics, but unfortunately books like “Skinny Bitch” and PETA ad campaigns have conflated weight loss with veganism in the same way Jamie Oliver is conflating weight loss with cooking from scratch. I totally get that there are structural and personal reasons that people can't do this. But I hate to hear people suggesting that eating healthfully or exercising are only for the purposes of becoming thin. They're not. They're for honoring your big fat body, feeling awesome in it, and proving people wrong while doing it.

  • Lilly

    As someone vegetarian, nearly vegan, I know lots of vegans that are overweight or obese. I'm overweight myself and my man is obese. He's been strict vegetarian for more than three years and hasn't lost any mass by the elimination of the small amounts of dairy and eggs that were previously in his diet. He doesn't say that he feels healthier in the process. He says that organic spring mix salad makes him feel invigorated. We eat lots fruit and vegetables not because they'll make us thinner, but because we feel healthier when we do. By healthier, I mean more energetic.

    I also cook food by starch. It also hasn't made me thinner. I can do so because I'm a housewife. When I worked long hours outside the home, I often made mixes. It was easier since I didn't have to think about what to make although there was about the same amount of clean-up. Microwave food for vegetarians tends to be rather expensive so I occasionally bring one to work to eat there, but I didn't usually make that stuff for family meals.

    I learned that being vegetarian could be a healthy option by the weight loss guru Susan Powter. I didn't lose weight, but I learned to like myself. I felt happy with who I was for the first time in my life. I became vegetarian for me. I didn't have to eat food that I didn't like. I could eat food that I did and that was very empowering. I learned that a vegetarian diet could be healthy which made all the difference in the world.

  • Lindsey

    Okay, well I guess I'm going to be the fat girl who disagrees with everyone…

    While I know just like everyone else about being bullied, called names, battling with your weight as a teenager and finally realizing that your weight does not define you as a person, I just can't jump on the “let's all hate Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama” train so easily. I also know that we all have different reasons for being fat, some of us have health conditions that prevent us from loosing weight easily, some of us have the genetics that make us big and awesome, and some of us just like butter and sugar goddammit! (I think that I fall into the last one there, hehehe).

    I just don't think that Jamie Oliver hates fat people, nor does Michelle Obama. I think that they see a problem in their respective countries and want to change it. I must admit that I haven't seen a whole episode of Jamie Oliver's new show, and I've only read a bit here and there about Michelle's crusade to end fatness in children, but I did NOT get any of this negativity out of it, like you folks did. I never took these two people as fat haters necessarily, just people who want us to live longer, happier lives. And no I don't think that being skinny will make me happier, and I don't think they do either, the intention is that if you eat healthy, homemade meals you'll save money, and save your body from the extra sugar and sodium. I don't know about you guys, but I'm a lot happier when I have a bit of extra cash at end of month and my face is all clear. I also noticed that when I cut a lot of microwave stuff and fast food out of diet that I was just a lot less bitchy overall.

    What I can agree with here is that all the generalizations that these two use to get their points across may not be the best way to go about doing the job. I think that that's the real problem here, especially after reading all the comments. Jamie says if we eat home cooked meals and cut out the sugar/sodium/fat then we'll all be skinny, right? Well, we know that that's not the case for most people, but he also says that these things will help you save money and be healthier overall, these have nothing to do with being fat, they are also FACTS. I couldn't be bothered to look up a bunch of academic journals to support my last statement, but I do encourage you all to. I just think it's a shame to discount everything the man is doing because you think that he doesn't know you and your particular situation. If you look at the demographics in England and America you will see the obesity rates have sky rocketed. It's the same here in Canada where I live. And really as a place that has free health care, I'm surprised that Stephen Harper's wife isn't leading her own crusade to battle obesity in children to save the conservative government some money in the long run.

    The real problem isn't that people have become more genetically inclined to be fat, it's that most foods contain high fructose corn syrup, which is like sugar on steroids. Go look it up, and see what it's in (almost everything fast, easy and convenient) and then see what it does to your body. So we SHOULD be doing something about this problem.

    It's too bad that some people have chosen to be offended by these people, but I do think that they are at least bringing awareness about these problems to the general public. It's also great that everyone who reads this blog seems to eat healthfully and knows a lot about what horrible things go into the foods that are on the market right now, but the fact of the matter is that in places like the US, most people aren't educated on these things, they believe how things are marketed to them (like the water that has 39 grams of sugar per serving). The way our food is prepared and preserved these days is being linked to all kinds of health problems, we can't deny that. So if you're already educated and don't want Jamie Oliver or Michelle Obama to tell you what you can and can't eat then don't listen to them. I really think they're doing what they can to reach the greatest number of people to make a real difference.

    Okay, that's my rant, I hope I don't offend anyone. I do think that fat acceptance is a very important thing (I make plus size clothing and I've been fat all my life). I just don't think we're picking the right people to vilify in this particular situation.

  • nitrojane

    Hi Lindsey – thanks for your comment. As I mentioned in my post, I'm not disagreeing with Jamie Oliver or Michelle Obama's intentions here; I think that education is always a good thing, particularly for those who aren't willing to read the studies or be proactive in their wellbeing. Unfortunately, as an above commenter mentioned, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Given there is zero evidence that obesity itself actually CAUSES the health problems that people are worried about (heart disease, liver disease, cancer, etc) I don't think they should be waging a war on obesity. They should wage war on inactivity, or poor eating habits. But obesity? Nuh. I think learning what food and exercise will help you live a longer life is a good thing. And educating the uneducated is always always a good thing when it comes to initiatives like this. But they're participating in selective education. Both of these popular figureheads should be showing people that you can eat healthily and get movement into your life regardless of what you weigh, but instead they go after obesity because it's a popular and easy target. But until there is conclusive proof that obesity itself is a health problem, I'm not buying into this.

    You might want to take a look at Paul Campos' book, “The Obesity Myth” or “Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic” by J. Eric Oliver for some hard researched facts – both of these are written by university men who, when beginning to write their books, believed that obesity was going to kill us all. They came across the studies (all listed in each book, if you're interested) that either disprove that fact, or have absolutely nothing to do with obesity. Yes, obesity MAY be on the rise, but after years of trying to prove otherwise there is no physical evidence that it is the cause of any disease. It may be a side effect, but not a cause. And correlation does not equal causation! As mentioned in Fat Politics, saying obesity is a cause of illnesses is like saying yellow teeth is a cause of smoking.

    And until there is evidence, facets of these programs do villify people who are obese, even if that wasn't their intention on startup. I want programs that are 100% free of bigotry, thanks very much.

  • Lilacsigil

    Jamie says if we eat home cooked meals and cut out the sugar/sodium/fat then we'll all be skinny, right? Well, we know that that's not the case for most people, but he also says that these things will help you save money and be healthier overall, these have nothing to do with being fat, they are also FACTS.

    If you had bothered to look this up, you'd find that it's a lot more complex just using capslock. Fruit and vegetables are not actually cheap – even where they are easily available – and most food outside the US (where Oliver is from, and so am I) don't contain much or any high fructose corn syrup. That's a matter of US economic policy, and yet people in other countries are just as fat without HFCS.

    Education is important, but not in the way that Obama and Oliver are doing it. They are looking at short-term solutions (like “you should cook at home”) not long-term solutions like making fruit and vegetables available, making sure people have enough time to cook, making it safe and simple to be active and use public transport rather than sit in your car. Instead, Obama is trying to eliminate childhood obesity (which is done by what – eliminating obese children?) and Oliver is cooking fatty, salty, sugary meals with tremendous prep and clean-up time and wondering why people won't do it his way.

  • solipsikat

    I have been a vegetarian for 8 years. When I have been at my thinnest (size 10) I was smoking a pack a day, drinking beer and not eating, eating like crap and had chronic bronchitus. Other people's “thin” is an unhealthy place for me. A healthy place for me is a size 12-14 and thats JUST THE WAY IT IS PEOPLE. A view into my fridge would reveal veggies, fruits whole grains skim milk not one candy not one sweet not one junk food item. some people are *gasp* just not meant to BE skinny minnies deal with it people! My calorie intake is higher and I have a sedentary job plus genetic tendencies and that is OK! I am healthy I eat well… moderately overweight people who exerise on every longitudinal study for mortality live just as long across the board…. as normal weight people! *gasp*! really! :)

    Have you read: Rethinking Thin…? It is a MUST read for anyone dealing with body image, the diet industry and what the data really says…

  • Juniper

    Okay I’m sorry, size acceptance and childhood obesity are two entirely different beasts: children are actually dying from heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes!!!! Children don’t have the ability to make constructive decisions about how they live and eat especially when we evaluate those decisions in the context of long-term consequences. This maybe your sore spot and I understand that, but think what you’re writing through. Parents (and societies) that are not providing children healthy options (food, healthcare access, education) are culpable for those children’s failures. We are who we are as adults, and LORD KNOWS I’ve made the decision to live and eat as I do, but a child should have every opportunity for the best lifestyle possible and a child inflicted with a chronic obesity related disease because of the poor decisions by parents and school systems and a larger apathetic over-sensitive society is simply not fair.

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