Clean Eating and The Tyranny of Wellness
A few months ago, I wrote a post about my feelings on weight and food blogging called “Let’s Talk About Weight.” I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to say then, as it would have taken far too long, but I knew deep down that I would return to it eventually. After all, it is a bit of a loaded subject, and I like to talk a lot.
But I struggle to put a lot of my feelings around weight into words. I know that things I see on the internet about weight irk me sometimes, but I don’t always know why.
Recently, I had been carrying around a feeling of discontent whenever I read a lot of my favorite food blogs, and I couldn’t figure it out what it was. It just sort of sat in my chest and kept me from looking at their websites for a while. I had once flocked to these blogs for my daily dose of inspirational green smoothie detoxes and low-carb recipes. Now, I didn’t even want to check in on them.
Until I found this article by Ruby Tandoh, which helped put this discontentment of mine into words. After reading her take on the matter, I suddenly realized why I was so bothered by the whole thing, and I suddenly had the language to describe it.
But first, let’s go back to my first dissent from the Church of Wellness.
Late last year, I discovered the cauliflower fad. Now, I love cauliflower, and often do use it as a substitute for rice if I am making a meal at the last minute and don’t have time to wait for rice to cook. However, the vegetable has taken on a life of its own in recent years, and in its trendiest form has even come to replace pizza crust. At the height of my diet obsession, I thought that this was brilliant, and attempted to make my own using a highly-praised, simple recipe.
Simply put, it was disgusting. I was shocked as I read through all of the comments, each one more delusional than the last as they spoke of its scrumptious merits. I had followed the recipe to the letter, and what I was given was a pile of tasteless mush. And it look exactly like the picture.
I chalked it up to my own wrongdoing, as everyone else on a “clean eating” plan had seemed to like it, but I never did try it again. The seeds of doubt had been planted, but it would take another eight months for them into grow into full-blown heathenism. This time, because of a book.
I was interested in “Breaking Vegan” by Jordan Younger after it came recommended by Andie Mitchell, the author of “It Was Me All Along.” In the book, Younger narrates her journey from orthorexia by describing her obsessive vegan diet, one that was harming her more than helping her. I thought that that was a pretty brave thing to do, since veganism has become such a part of diet culture and comes with a lot of moralizing behind it.
I scrolled down to look at the reviews, and was shocked at how low it scored. As I read through each comment, what I found was a horde of vegans and dieters who descended upon this author and tore her to shreds. They claimed that she hadn’t even done veganism correctly, therefore, what did she know?
This is the result of a moralistic diet culture. A young woman has an abusive relationship with a food regime, speaks out about her experience, and is vilified for not having tried hard enough in the first place.
This is what “wellness” looks like.
It’s a hideous beast created by decades of diet culture and insistence on thinness, adding in the (valid) ethics of veganism with the smugness of the typical American. It’s ugly, and none of us want to admit it because all of us are hoping that it will ultimately lead us to the thin body we’ve been hoping for. We’ve been taught to hate ourselves for so long, and if for some reason we forget to hate ourselves, there will be book reviewers willing to do it for us.
It was then that I decided that fatness looked like a pretty good option compared to the wellness that I was looking at. Ironically, it was when I dissented from the wellness and diet culture that I began to eat fresher foods, to learn to cook, and to quit relying on calorie counts. Instead, I listened to my body. In that time, I did lose weight, but it was no longer with that feverish need that I had carried around before. And, at times, the scale went up, and I learned to live with that as well.
So, where do we go from here?
Truthfully, I have no idea. This blog of mine, the one that I adore and work on daily as an act of self-love, does not and cannot compete with big-name bloggers, those blonde, white goddesses who have led their followers to the Promised Land of clean eating for much longer than I have taken up space on the internet.
But I do know that this week, I baked myself a cake. And I ate the cake. And I loved the cake. And my waistline did not explode, and my body did not suddenly fill with toxins, and I didn’t die. So I think, maybe, I will do it again next week.
And maybe that’s all we can do.
Until next time, feel well and love yourself.