I work with a lot of clients who profoundly dislike their body. It affects both their eating and well being. What I want to write about today is the culture’s devotion to thinness. We all have ingrained crazy beliefs that come from deep inside.
These beliefs are familiar and unrealistic, but the ideal of thinness often guides our lives.
For many women, the slender ideal generated by the culture’s devotion to thinness interferes negatively with their body image. Society and family messages are internalized so subtly and early in life that we sometimes forget they are not true. In the same way, we internalize the weight stigma when we come to believe that unfairly negative assumptions are valid (i.e., I am unattractive because I am a size x).
At this point, we may become our own harshest critics.
Making peace with your body is an ongoing process, rather than something you achieve once and for all. In a culture that worships the slender ideal and continually encourages us to go to war with our bodies - to monitor, control, restrict, punish, loathe, and fix - learning to live harmoniously in our body is the journey of a lifetime.
This journey begins when we wake up to the false promise our society has sold us, namely, that our happiness resides in the size of our bodies. This promise is part of our culture devotion to thinness that has many of the features of traditional religion, including beliefs, images, myths, rituals, and moral codes that teach us to define our value and purpose through the pursuit of a "better" (read: thinner) body. Learning to recognize and critique this "Religion of Thinness" is a crucial step on the path to overall health and well being.
This critique involves a paradigm shift: from the illusion that losing weight will "save" you (i.e.; by somehow solving your problems and making you happy) to the insight that various industries are profiting from the sense of inadequacy so many of us, particularly women, feel about our bodies.
Recognizing the Religion of Thinness begins with the simple insight that women are not born wishing they were thinner. Instead, we are indoctrinated into this belief by a society that glorifies the fat-free female figure. Years of exposure to media images of "beautiful" women who are uniformly thin conditions us to associate slenderness with beauty. Though it is virtually axiomatic in our society, this association is actually far from natural.
In our image-saturated culture, it doesn't take long for us to internalize our culture's devotion to thinness. Children as young as 3 years old can have body image issues. One study found that eighty percent of fourth-grade girls interviewed in the Chicago and San Francisco areas said they had already been on diets. Roughly the same percentage of women in the mid-fifties report a desire to be thinner. For many, this desire amounts to a life-long ambition. Whatever our age, we quickly, without giving it any thought, internalize our culture's dictates about body size into our own psyches, bodies, and spirits.
Recognizing the message our society sends us through the media - the Internet, TV, magazines - gives us the freedom to think differently: to think for ourselves. As we begin to realize that we have been culturally conditioned to distrust our bodies and believe that there is something wrong with them, we can redirect our criticism away from our own thighs and tummy towards the industries and ideologies that seek to profit on the very feelings of shame and alienation they stimulate.
The unbelievable variety of greens and fruits in a local Asian store
I went grocery shopping recently in an Asian market in the Twin Cities which had an extraordinary large selection of fresh fruits, greens, and mushrooms, most of which I couldn’t name. I frown at the pig feet and the camel roast, as you may frown at the rabbit I was looking for, a delicacy in France.
I was unpacking the fragrant and fresh greens in my kitchen, and I reflected on the connection between food and culture, and the extent to which a community’s unique cuisine reflects its history, lifestyle, and values.
I wondered, what is the United States food culture?
The significant portions and soda free refills in restaurants? Sodas being cheaper than bottled water? Processed food less expensive than real food? Is this the United States food culture? or is this the work of the Food Industry, the driving force to the way we eat, weakening the USA food culture?
Wait a minute! The rich tradition of American cuisine is alive with the many farms to table restaurants in the Twin Cities, serving seasonal foods from local sustainable farms, the favorite farmers' markets, and the grocery stores filled with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. But also many people show interest in cooking, canning, and using CSA. In the country, Minnesota farmers contribute to sustainable, local, and quality production systems.
The cuisine of the United States reflects its history. The European colonization of the Americas yielded the introduction of European ingredients and cooking styles to the U.S. Later in the 20th century, the influx of immigrants from many foreign nations developed a rich diversity in food preparation throughout the country.
Food is a portal into a culture, and it should be treated as such. Traditional cuisine is passed down from one generation to the next. It operates as an expression of cultural identity. The Minnesota food culture is today vibrant and a joy to explore.
Most of us started the year choosing new year resolutions. For me, they are the usual suspects. Get healthier. Lose those 10 pounds. Go to the gym more often. My action plan started full steam in January. Yet, most of my goals lose steam around mid-February, and it’s back to business as usual: no that much time for the gym; Baguette, cheese and a glass of wine reappear at dinner...
Our success for the most important goals we set involves that we practice every day until they become habits, and eventually part of our life, so we can create lasting changes. The daily practice of our goals is what Mindful Eating is about.
If you are ready to revive your health goals, register for my workshop starting next week on how to create lasting health, food, weight changes using the mindful eating skills.
Southwest high school
Feb 21-Mar 14
Register at http://commed.mpls.k12.mn.us/
Americans spend about $2 billion on candy during the Halloween season. If you are like me, it is difficult to avoid the temptation to have a treat given the ubiquity of candies in October.
Just to think that I'll need to sweat 10 minutes cycling to prevent one Reese's ( my favorite) sit in my hips is enough to think twice. What about you?