I believe in cake.
I believe in burgers.
I believe in real butter, and in clotted cream.
I believe in bacon, in pancakes and waffles, and in custard and ice cream.
The other day I read this brave and excellent post on The Vagenda about anorexia. I’ve never suffered from the disease and my understanding of it is probably limited to the Carpenter’s movie, but I know what it’s like to feel guilty for eating a brownie and worse, to feel like it’s appropriate for me to feel guilty.
This is what the media is doing to us at the moment. And I mean all of us; no age or race or gender is excepted. We are, all of us, all the time, bombarded with advertising to make us, not just want food, but crave it. At the same time, we are shown endless pictures of what we are supposed to look like and articles on the crazy diets we can follow to achieve that end.
It’s fucking absurd.
In The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, there’s a section which describes the gluttony of a little old woman, who only wants a cup of tea and toast, but just wants it exactly how she wants it, as being as insidious, if not more so, than the gluttony of the obese man who cannot say no to a thirteenth donut. To wildly paraphrase. What is behind it, really, is an obsession with food and the need to control it.
We are a society of gluttons. Not because we all overeat, but because we just think too much about food, and without taking any real joy in it. We say things like, “I can’t have an ice-cream today because I had half a piece of cake yesterday,” and “I’m not sure about that sandwich; let me just check how many calories it has.” We pour into our bodies foodstuffs (because, come on, they’re not actual food) that have had all substance removed and replaced with chemicals, just so the manufacturer can stamp “lighter than light” on the packaging. What the hell is lighter than light? Nothing I want to ingest, thanks all the same. We sap all pleasure out of eating because we’re either forcing ourselves to eat not enough of food that’s just not nice enough anyway, or we’re cramming processed sugary piles of cream into our faces in a speedy orgy of guilt. Whichever we’re doing, it’s over quickly and leaves us unsatisfied, like an ill-advised bathroom tryst with the person who’s not the one we really want.
We rabbit on and on about how much sexier Marilyn Monroe was than whoever’s on the cover of whatever magazine this week, and we’re right, but how do we make that realisation actually change the horrific situation we have?
The media is creating these expectations, absolutely, but the media only exists to sell itself and it does that, it sells itself to us, over and over again. It’s supply and fucking demand and we are being supplied what we demand.
We need to keep talking about it and we need to be bloody loud. We need to hear more stories like Emma Thompson threatening to walk from Brideshead Revisted because Hayley Atwell was asked to diet, and we need to have her back. That story may not actually be true, for all I know, but if it’s not, it’s an excellent rumour.
And we need to practice what we preach. This is how I’m trying to do that:
Anything I eat, I’m going to really eat. I’m going to go slow, letting myself revel in the pleasure of eating. I’m going to savour every bite. Whether it’s a lavish cake with thick yoghurt and a hot chocolate, or whether it’s a bowl of cereal with a banana sliced on top – I won’t be eating, I’ll be dining. And when I’m finished my meal, I’ll get the fuck on with my life.
Janina is 5’3” and weighs 128lbs. She runs 6kms or so three to five times a week and does occasional pilates in her living room. She has a pouchy belly and good legs. She eats eggs on toast with spinach and mayonnaise (full fat) every day for breakfast and still gets excited about how delicious it is. She is addicted to dark chocolate and peppermint tea. She once made a burger so good she has a picture of the occasion on her bedroom wall.