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Soul Food: Nourishing the Inner You

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When it comes to feeling happy, the most important organ in our bodies is the brain, which means that in order to be joyful we have to think happy thoughts. Whether you think that sounds cheesy or brilliant, this blog will teach you how to get in touch with yourself and how to love the wonderful body that you’ve been given. Let’s nourish the inner you.

In November of 1998, during my senior year in college, I embarked on a new diet. I called it “low carb with fruit.” I cut out a lot of foods, and like most diets, it started working in the beginning. Because I was losing weight, I stuck with the diet very carefully.

In early January 1999, I went on a trip to Prague with my scholarship group from school. It was extremely cold in Prague, and I didn’t have much money. There was hardly any fruit or vegetables to be had anywhere, so for about a week I subsisted on about 2 sausages that you buy on the street per day, carefully throwing out the hearty roll it was wrapped in. I was also walking for miles each day, exploring the city.

As you might imagine, I was hungry for most of the day, and I ignored that hunger for both convenience sake and because I wanted to stick to this diet. Only someone on a diet or a severe wheat allergy would have thrown those rolls away. And maybe there were some other foods I could have found on the cheap, but I was so single-minded about sticking to my diet that I probably didn’t consider them.

When I got back to New York, I had lost more weight, and everyone was excited for me. My hair was also thinner, and I’m not sure it ever really recovered.

I remember, at the time, feeling happy to have lost more weight, but sad that no one seemed to mind that I did it in a really unhealthy way. I thought, if I had gone to Prague a size 2 and come back a size 0, they might have considered getting me some help for an eating disorder, but leaving a size 14/16 and coming back a 12/14 was considered a great accomplishment.

A lot of my clients come to me with self-diagnosed restrictive eating disorders. And they come to me that way because when you’re fat or plus-sized or even toward the larger end of the “normal size” scale, weight loss is considered a healthy, important goal, and almost any way that you arrive at or strive for that goal is approved of. Many of the symptoms of dieting (obsession with weight, obsession with food, body dysmorphia) are akin to eating disorder symptoms, but they’re overlooked if you’re engaging in them while existing in a fatter body. They still have deleterious mental, emotional, and physical effects, whether you’re fat, thin, or in between.  I think it’s time that the health and wellness community and the world at large recognized this reality.

This lack of recognition for eating disorders in fatter people is something I think about quite a lot, but it was brought to the fore by the fact that the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has decided to partner with Strategies To Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance, a group who’s funded by pharmaceutical companies that produce dangerous and questionable things like diet pills and lap bands. (To read more about it, read Ragen Chastain’s excellent open letter to NEDA and sign the petition to stop this alliance.)

Is engaging in restricting and obsessive behaviors perfectly great if you’re fatter and yet something worthy of treatment when you’re thinner? Or are our societal norms and unfounded beliefs about health and beauty clouding the fact that it’s pretty much the same thing?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness. She counsels women and men throughout the country on how to get off the dieting roller coaster, give their bodies what they really crave, and love their bodies and themselves. Golda's counseling and activism work have been featured on CBS's The Early Show, ABC's Nightline and Time Out New York. For more support with healing your relationship with food and your body, get your free copy of Golda's Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining by clicking here.

To learn more about Golda, click here.

Comments

Previous Comments

  • Paula Londe's avatar

    What a powerful, and empowering thought. I’ve never considered it this way and find it so meaningful. Maybe the next movement could be about educating people of the signs of eating disorders and how many people really have them - of all sizes. The frightening pictures of an 80 pound woman aren’t all that effective because they’re so extreme. Let’s ask questions about what do you think of first: food or xx? How many of your conversations are about food? Do you evaluate people based on size - empirically and in comparison to you? Then YOU may have an eating disorder. Wouldn’t THAT be a great Cosmo quiz?

  • KD1111's avatar

    THANK YOU for voicing these ideas!  I’ve been thinking this way for quite some time, but because I’m fat (even though I eat more healthily than my peers and exercise much more regularly), it’s seen as sour grapes instead of intelligent observation and food for thought. 

    I think it applies to people of normal size as well; in fact it applies to anyone who is not frighteningly thin. It seems to me that at least 60% of the people in the group I hang out with, both male and female, could be diagnosed with some kind of eating and/or body image disorder.  Some are fat, some average, some slender, but all of them think it’s perfectly acceptable, even admirable, to engage in restricted eating behaviors and to be dissatisfied with one’s size. 

    Part of this is because we have been so heavily programmed with the cultural myth that obesity is unhealthy, and that the fat itself makes people sick.  Until people can learn to see it the other way around, that it is health issues that are making people fat, we’re not going to see much change.  And because these ideas have taken on a moral tone (ie, thinness and self-denial are equated with virtue), it is that much harder to shift the thinking.

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