We need to talk about Food, We Need To Talk
Calling all my fat friends, or those of you who think you're fat, which is probably all of you because our society is a turd
Photo by Garreth Paul on Unsplash
I love love love love love the podcast Food, We Need To Talk, hosted by Dr. Eddie Philips and Juna Gjata. In a nutshell, it’s a very young woman who is very, very smart (and so young!) paired with a fatherly doctor of Lifestyle Medicine (which, confusingly, is about how to live a healthy life, not your polyam fam). They discuss all the things none of us understand (like nutrition, exercise, metabolism, etc.), interview experts, and come to reasonable conclusions.
I love this podcast because I resonate so hard with Juna, which makes me SO SAD because she is so much younger than I am and yet she has still been shoveled full of the same bullshit diet culture that I was and I know so many of you were. She grew up dieting, hating her body, and believing the only purpose of exercise was improved physical appearance.
Thanks for reading Reading + Writing with Nicole Peeler! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Much of the podcast is debunking diet culture and health fads, but the reason I love it is that it talks about what is, probably, genuinely good for you. And that’s important. It talks about what’s good for you—what makes you feel better—not what shreds you, or gives you a thigh gap, or “cleanses” you.
So when these two released a book, also called Food, We Need To Talk, I snapped it up and I’m writing a whole newsletter just to tell you to do the same.
Everything I love about the podcast is here. LOTS of science, lots of jokes, and lots of honesty. Indeed, it can be hard to read, for those of us who were raised to hate ourselves for not looking a certain away, and for whom any talk of food and “healthy” eating can be extremely problematic.
But what it also does, for me, is offers me the opportunity to reclaim my narratives around food and exercise.
Exercise has been pretty straightforward. Currently, I lift weights three days a week. Every other day I either do the elliptical or a nice walk, and then a stretch. Sundays I do yin yoga, which is more like napping than yoga but but great for your fascia.
I’m more committed to my body than I’ve ever been, and a huge part of that is because I haven’t weighed myself in years. I have no clue if all the exercise is making me bigger or smaller. I don’t measure myself or examine my clothing for looseness or tightness.
Instead, I think about the future. I want to be able to sit on the floor when I’m old. To go up and down stairs. I want to walk a mile to my local market to buy a pint of milk and a donut and gab with ever-patient cashiers.
Right now, I also want to be strong. When my trainer asked me what my goals were I said, “I want to be extremely difficult to kidnap.” I want to carry mattresses out to the curb (and I just did that), to never make a second trip back to the car for groceries (that is for CHUMPS), and to walk from one weird bar to the other weird bar three miles away and not even think about it.
I also know how good exercise is for my mental health. If I’m feeling depressed I could wallow for a day (and I sometimes do! Melancholy is an important antidote to our culture’s toxic positivity) OR I could go for a walk. A half hour later I inevitably feel better.
A recent FWNTT also talked about how lactic acid basically washes your brain with grow juice and helps you maintain, and develop new, brain cells. Now every time I’m sore I’m like LOOK AT ME WASH THEM BRAIN CELLS! and then I do something dumb like walk into a door, but the last part isn’t on purpose, I just often walk into doors.
Food, of course, is another story. But one thing the book (and the podcast) does a great job of is reassuring me I’m not insane, nor am I a failure. Those diets never worked, and there’s reasons why. In fact, they really fucked us up.
This is still a hard subject for me and I still have a lot of anger around this issue. I was put on diets as a very, very young child, not because I was dangerously unhealthy but because I simply wasn’t small enough. There was an aesthetic ideal I wasn’t living up to and that was made very clear to me from an age where I should have been allowed to, you know, be a child. Not a future Sexy Lady.
So my relationship to food is still fraught. I try thinking in terms of nourishing my body but my meter is still set to “good” or “bad” food, and half of the things I was taught were bad are actually good for you, and what was “good” for you was a Snackwells brownie which is literally just a piece of shit in packaging. (This episode of Maintenance Phase about the rise of low-fat everything is MONEY, listen to it now)
All of which boils down to: I’m still a mess about food and if I think too much about being a mess I’m more of a mess. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any really destructive habits, and it’s a MIRACLE I don’t have an eating disorder (how I have a basically sturdy little brain pan given my family’s genetics is astounding and something I’m grateful for everyday). I just can’t think about food without having ALL the thoughts about food (every snack is like a Hegelian dialectic) and that’s something I’d like to stop doing. I just don’t know how. And things can really trigger me, like having to fast for a recent medical thing (okay, fine, I had a tooter rooter because I’m 45 and that’s when you get your tooter rooted nowadays, and not in the fun way). For two days afterward fasting I had to sort of let myself eat weird shit to convince myself I wasn’t dieting (“yes, you can have 3 swedish fish, a marshmallow and that leftover slice of ham, you’re not on a diet!”).
So that’s something I’m still working on and if someone has a great therapist or therapy or something, related to food, I’d love to hear it (keeping in mind I have read all the books, like Intuitive Eating, so I think I need a person to yell at me or flash lights in my eyes or whatever the kids are doing these days).
But despite all of this I enjoyed the stuff about food in the book, and especially appreciated the breakdowns of how metabolism works, and NEAT and EAT and all of that sciencey stuff. I also felt better about feeling like a mess, because I guess we were all made to be messes?
Finally, I love this book because it tells us to stop wasting all our fucking money on these people who STILL make livings off schilling snake oil. We don’t need the supplements or packaged shakes or cleanses or diets or all the other things we’ve been sold, all these years.
And finally, finally, this book reminds us of the most important thing which is really appreciating what we DO have. The real kicker, to me, about all of the bullshit I was fed about my body is that… I’m basically healthy. At this moment in time, as a 45-year-old, my numbers are great. I take a birth control pill because I don’t want no babies and it’s giving me a nice little estrogen bump as I head into perimenopause, but that’s it. No other medications. I can touch my toes and I can do squats and I can walk for ages. And I was even healthier when I was younger! I used to run and play and jump and dance (I still do some of those now, it’s just SO much slower). I have never had a single real thing wrong with me (except my murderous fucking gall bladder) and yet I was never taught to appreciate health or mobility. In a world where many people struggle every day with illness and pain, I was taught to hate this solidly made little meat sack that I was given to wander about in, even though it’s actually a mint little meat sack.
So fuck all those people who told us our meat sacks weren’t good enough. And fuck all those people who are STILL telling young women, especially, their meat sack isn’t good enough. As a society we need to change sooo many of our narratives and this one just seems like a no-brainer to me.
Think about how much better off we’d be, if we just took good, gentle care of our soft little animal selves, and appreciated what we’ve been given?
To close, a little Mary Oliver, who can alway say it better than me:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
And lemme tell you, your soft little animal wants a lil exercise, a lil walkie here and there in the natures, some fiber, some cuddles, and some sleep. The rest, my friends, is just expensive noise. xoxo