… A New Year
In the quiet space of the burgeoning new year my social media feed has been assaulted with sponsored posts from global diet/wellness companies extoling their solutions to my “problems”. Many other companies/individuals/franchises have joined this tsunami of “new year, new me” bollocks. To be fair, there have been a lot of responses pushing back against these messages and (as expected, this is social media!) a few completely off the wall comments. My head space was ambushed by sometimes very clever negativity disguised as positivity, that is not how I need to start a new year!. When I thought about this, I realized the content for this post has been quietly incubating in my head for months….I have started, rethought it, re-written it, allowed it to cogitate.
As a woman in a Western 1st world country I have been surrounded by the miasma of messaging around weight (too much or not enough) all my life. I know first hand the destructive power of companies encouraging a hatred and loathing of ourselves for profit or the equally damaging power of the “wellness” industry. Either end of the spectrum, someone is making a lot of money from creating dis-ease. These businesses use the biological fact that our brains are hard wired to want connection to a group, whether this is cultural, familial or social groups, we all want to “fit in” somewhere.
I am a Food Designer, I think about food for a job, I think about food for my personal enjoyment, I think about food in an abstract creative way, I think about food for sustenance, I think about food for the enjoyment of others. I think about the history and culture of food, I love to talk about food. I may possibly/probably think about food, taste food, make food more than others….. but at its most basic, we all have the same physical need to sustain our bodies with fuel.
Our humanness is encoded with the need to connect to our group/tribe, our bodies hard wired to need sustenance plus we evolved a reward system in our brains…. eek we are pretty much screwed!! .
So as I try to find within myself, a quiet, positive direction to start my year, I have gone back to food’s role in society. Its place in cultural and familial rituals to cement our social and personal connections. I am beginning to verbalize my thoughts (not groundbreaking or particularly original) that as food has become industrialized, easy, plentiful and cheap we have lost the connection of special food for meaningful occasions which has lead to a disconnect between consumption and what our bodies need. As a society, feasts are no longer a marker of the seasons or cultural occasions to be shared with our cultural/social group as a way of strengthening bonds and connections, a sharing of bounteous foods with your tribe, no longer an event where you eat food items that are not your everyday sustenance foods. Over time these foods have become something that can be had at anytime, in any quantities, to anyone with the money to purchase or make it, and sadly you can consume this food in a solitary way with only the ghostliest whisper of connection or occasion. I think as a nation we have lost the idea of occasion. Births, death and life marking events at one time all had food associations within Western society. Fabulous writers like Sarah Chavez from https://nourishingdeath.wordpress.com/ post articles about food and death ( image below is Swedish Death Candies from Sarah’s blog). Pregnancy and birth had narratives surrounding the food to be avoided at this time, like this gem ” No eating fish, rabbit, sheep’s trotter or heads, and definitely no chewing gum” . I cannot think of any event now that has its own unique food that is only consumed for that occasion?.
So as I find thoughts I can move into the new year with, I am encouraging myself and others to ignore the self harming “weight war”, but also ignore the notion of ” you deserve treat food everyday” and direct thinking toward food in a positive, connecting way. Let’s celebrate the simplicity of seasonal everyday food and the joyful food rituals which connect us to our family and culture at memorable events.