Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A few thoughts on health and judgement. With some other things thrown in for good measure.

This post is mostly inspired by Sofie's blog the other day about the emergence of the Real Woman culture and alientating body types. It received some pretty heated comments on Facebook, I personally thought it was a good piece but everyone has differing ideas. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so, differing ideas and ideals is pretty much what I'm writing about right now.

I was having lunch in the library cafe last week, as per. I was having a terrible day, so I decided that food would help. Instead of eating the lunch that I'd brought with me, I bought a tuna mayo baguette, a slice of coffee cake, and a large hot chocolate. Plus a Coke and a packet of crisps to take away with me. Hannah (here is her wonderful blog) came and sat down and said, "That's unlike you!", clearly referring to my food. Now, before I go on, I'd like to point out that I have absolutely no problem with Hannah saying this. That's not what this post is about. She was right; as Sofie said the other day, "It's always a grain with you, Serena." My lunch generally consists of wholegrain salad, a homemade granola bar, and a bucketload of fruit. You can see the difference, right? But my point is, why should eating sandwiches and junk food be "unlike" me? Why should anyone need to conform to a set 'thing'?

Why, for example, should anyone be judged for not doing exercise? For eating carbs, or chocolate, or 'fatty' foods? Of course, it's impossible not to judge people who don't do what you (usually) do. A couple of weeks ago I watched a guy sitting opposite me in the library practically inhale four muffins, and my first thought was, Really? Muffins? They're not going to help your brain... And then I reminded myself that I didn't know what he was going through, when his deadline was, in fact I knew nothing about him. So I stopped thinking about him at all, went back on with my work, and only remembered him two weeks later when I pulled an all-nighter fuelled by a large Domino's, all of the chocolate, and a litre of Boost energy drink. It made me smile.

I'm not trying to set myself up as some perfectly zen person, accepting of everyone and everything. I'm really not. Nor am I suggesting that all judgement should be reserved in every situation. I just mean that in terms of eating, and exercise, and general healthiness, maybe we should all do what we want and leave others be. Instead of bragging about how healthily you live, keep silent. People will stop hating you, and instead you might silently encourage someone else to be more healthy too.

A new saying seems to be emerging from the Health corner: eat what you want, when you want. It's great, it goes some way to promote a balanced and non-restrictive attitude towards food. Some criticise it, saying that it can be taken too literally, people will just eat whatever they want, act on every whim for a McDonald's or packet of biscuits (not, I'd like to emphasise, a single biscuit. A single biscuit never did anyone any harm). But when the 'healthy' alternative is to deprive ourselves of everything that we love, why would you not have an extra biscuit if that's what you needed to do for yourself?

I read an interesting post on Thursday, which of course I cannot find anywhere, about emotional eating. Emotional eating is dressed up and put in the stocks for us to throw metaphorical rotten tomatoes at: it's 'bad' and should be trained out of us. Clearly if you're triggered by emotions to eat in a way that identifies with the criteria for binge eating then help should be sought, but if you eat a big slab of chocolate once in a while because you've had a really rubbish day, you've simply listened to what your body and brain want and have given it that. And when was listening to and understanding ourselves a bad thing? As this article said, surely all eating is emotional. The taste or smell or particular type of food might invoke good memories, or perhaps eating something delicious simply makes you happy. In the same way, eating a really healthy meal might make you feel good, dare I say smug, about yourself. Humans are emotional beings by default, and regardless of whether it's healthy or unhealthy, most food experiences create an emotional response.

So instead of judging people for not eating 'healthily', instead of bombarding the whole world with images of glowing, bubbling, self-satisfied (no no, not all paragons of health are self-satisfied), possibly photoshopped men and women who are oh-so-much-better-than-the-rabble, why don't the People In Charge just encourage healthy eating? Don't link it to happiness, don't link it to weight loss, link it to what it should be linked to: health. And make it optional. If it isn't right for you, if your circumstances just don't allow seven family meals a week of organic ingredients bought from the local farmer's market, you shouldn't feel in the wrong.

I apologise for going all over the place with this post. I seem to have a whole load of thoughts that are on the same sort of topic but don't really flow into each other, but then again, this is my blog and I can do what I want. You can't judge.