cooking

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Fixing the Relationship With Food

Published August 5, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

If you follow me on Twitter you’re probably already sick of me talking about my latest purchase.  Or should I say “investment”, because I’ve gone into hock to buy it!

I have bought a Thermomix.  If you haven’t seen or heard of Thermomix before, they’re a kind of multi-purpose kitchen device.  They’re so hard to explain without demonstration, because most people are pretty incredulous that they’ll do what they actually do.  Basicallly they do away with  most other kitchen appliances.  They chop, blend, process, mill, pulverise, stir, kneed, beat, whip, blend, crush, juice, mix and any other cutting/mixing method you can think of.  But that’s not all.  They also have a set of built in scales, are connected to an element so they cook through a kind of induction method as well.  But… they also have a steamer attachment that fits on the top, so you can steam food as well!

My friend Kerri bought one back in December and I’ve seen her go from someone who resented the space her kitchen took up in her house to a passionate and experimentally bold cook.  After watching her find a passion for cooking, I decided that it was time I jump in and invest in one of these wonder machines.

But I’m not here to sell you a Thermomix…

You see, I’ve always loved cooking.  I was taught by my Grandma from as soon as I could stand on one of her kitchen chairs.  But between my long history of a troubled relationship with food, thanks to a lifetime of dieting and disordered eating, and the fact that I have an incredibly busy life, with very little time to devote to cooking, I’d practically given up cooking altogether.  Which has always been something of a shame, because Grandma taught me to be a pretty good cook and I do find it enjoyable.

So what I’m hoping, by introducing the Thermomix into my kitchen, it will work with my time constraints (after all, risotto takes about 20 minutes to make in it!) and help me work through my food issues so that I reignite that love of cooking.

Food can be so fraught for we fatties.  Many of us have long histories of dieting and disordered behaviours around food, and even once we work on fixing that, it’s very hard to escape the blame and shame that is put on us.  Firstly general society likes to accuse us of being gluttons who “ate ourselves unhealthy”, and then when we are seen eating, we are shamed for it.  If we’re eating food that is considered “bad” we’re shamed for being junk food junkies and if we’re eating food that is deemed “healthy” or “good” we get told “You’ll need more than salad to fix you, fatty.” or even “Fat people shouldn’t be allowed to eat.”

Is it any wonder so many people have a fucked up relationship with food and eating?

As part of reclaiming my right to eat, and to enjoy eating and cooking, I’m going to start talking more about food, cooking and eating here on Fat Heffalump.  I’m hoping that those of you reading will find hit helpful too.

So to kick us off, tell me about your relationship with food.  What have been some of your experiences and issues with food as a fat person?  Have you been able to heal your relationship with food since finding Fat Acceptance?

*Please remember the comments policy and refrain from applying negative judgments towards food.  Fat Heffalump adheres to a “food has no moral value” policy.

Psst… Wanna Talk about Food?

Published February 10, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So I have this piece up on Adios Barbie today.  A post I was asked to write after commenting on the piece about Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) a couple of months ago.  I would have had it written back then but between major work projects, disaster-zone flooding and various other life events, it took me far longer to write than I normally would.   Every time I picked it up to work on it again, it would bring me back to thinking about food and how we as a culture treat it, perceive it, moralise it and fear it.

Plus I’ve been home on annual leave from work for the past two and a half weeks, so I’ve had a whole lot more time to prepare, cook and eat food than I normally would have.  It gives me a lot of space to think about this stuff.

My eating habits are radically different when I have all this spare time.  I have the time and energy to shop, to prepare and cook food, and to sit down and eat it.  And when I have this time, my relationship with food is far better.  I’m not feeling guilty or shameful about eating at all.  I’m enjoying planning each dish, of writing shopping lists for the things I need to make something, and I’m eating pretty much exactly what I want at any given time, and eating the exact amount I want.

But the reality is, this is a vast luxury for me.  Even with the fact that I have a good wage and can afford pretty much any foodstuffs I want, which is a huge privilege to have, I only have that because I spend huge swathes of my life working.  When I’m working, I just don’t have the time to prepare and cook or even shop for the foods that I’m enjoying just now.

And I’m one of the lucky ones.

There’s also a vast kind of snobbery to being able to buy, cook and prepare foods.    Where once the work of feeding people was passed off to servants as “housework” by the privileged few, now it’s seen as incredibly chic to source your food locally from organic growers, choose it yourself, and take it home and prepare it in your expensive kitchen.  Time has more value than it has ever had, simply because it is becoming a more rare commodity.  And of course, that means those who have it, look down on those who don’t.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way food is demonised.  No matter what the food, at some point, somewhere, there’s someone talking about it as if it’s the stuff of evil.  Carbs are bad for you.  Sugar is poison.  Fat is going to kill you.  Fruit and vegetables are covered in pesticides.  Meat is clogging your arteries.  Milk and it’s derivatives aren’t supposed to be eaten after we are weaned.  Processed food is all chemicals.  Fast food has “zero nutrition”.  X food is “not what it used to be”.  Blah blah blah blah blah.

But what it usually boils down to, is the belief that “food makes you fat”.

I had a bit of a rail on Facebook the other week at a cultural phenomenon of young women who moralise food as something that they have to earn, something that they’ve been “good” for avoiding, but will brag about how much alcohol they have consumed.  It seems to me to be a mighty double standard.  Is alcohol not a foodstuff of kind?  Does it not get consumed and digested like any other foodstuff?  How is consuming alcohol different to consuming any other beverage, particularly one equally loaded with sugar?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with adults drinking alcohol (note: I currently don’t drink alcohol, but that may or may not change in the future), just that there is something wrong with a culture that allows women to “drink like a man” but not eat like one.

That was certainly my attitude for a lot of years in my youth.  I used to be a BIG drinker.  Not only did I drink a lot, but I seemed to be able to do so without most of the effects it had on my friends, both male and female.  Oh yeah, I’d be drunk, I’d slur and stagger, but I was still standing after a bottle and a half of Jim Beam or Absolut, when my friends had passed out long ago.  I would party because it would be an amazing escape from the real world.  And it was the one thing I could do well.  My friends and people around me celebrated the amount I could drink, cheered me on and were impressed.

But at the time, I was also starving myself of all other food.  Or purging what I did have.  It’s strange, but during one of my lowest weight periods, I was drinking far more than any other point in my life.  Nowdays with hindsight I know that I was really ill at the time and the weight loss was a symptom of this illness, not my “virtuousness” in dieting and purging.  Adding alcohol to restricting/purging made me sicker, and the sickness made me thinner.  When I got well again, and stopped drinking so much, my body put back on the weight it had lost, despite me still restricting and purging.  Friends, family and people around me celebrated my starvation and purging kicks as much as they celebrated my drinking.  “Aren’t you amazing for having the willpower to diet?  Well done you!”

Remember breatharians?  I remember seeing them on TV and just admiring them so much for not needing to eat.  I’d think “If only I had MORE willpower, and could be like them.  Then I’d REALLY lose the weight.”  What the??

Why did I have it in my head that it was ok to consume alcohol at huge quantities, but loathed myself every time I consumed anything else, even tiny amounts?  Where?  From the very culture around me.  From the people who congratulated me on losing weight (whether they knew of my disordered behaviours or not) to those who cheered me on as I drank.  From the magazines I read, the television shows I watched, the movies I saw.  Even in something like Sex and The City, which was supposed to be empowering to young women, had the characters getting stuck into cocktails but demonising food.

The reality is, every single human being requires food.  All food has nutritional value.  And as Michelle the Fat Nutritionist says in her paper on How to Eat (In Front of People)*:

“People have as much right to judge what you eat as they do to judge how much you pee, how much water you drink, or how often you breathe.”

So how is your relationship with food? What bothers you about our cultural attitude to food?  What are your challenges to eating in a way that you would like to?

Let’s talk about food folks!  Radical huh?  After all, it’s more socially acceptable to talk about sex these days than it is to talk about food and eating.

*which you can obtain by signing up to her mailing list.

Food Judgement or The Post in Which I Make too Many Bad Food Puns

Published December 20, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Ahh food, we fatties just can’t get enough of it, can we?

I have always had a love/hate relationship with food.  Being someone who is highly sensory (particularly tactile, taste and smell) means that food can give me a whole lot of pleasure.  But being a fat woman, in a body that she has fought against for most of her life, food has also been fraught with peril for me in my past.  Food was the enemy for most of my life until recently.  I still have some serious issues with it, but I’m working through those.  It’s no secret that I have a lifetime of eating disorders behind me, with yo-yo dieting, starvation periods and a lot of food demonisation.  Food for me was the bad guy.  Either food in general or specific foods, for the bulk of my life, I’ve had some beef with food (see what I did there?)

While I still struggle with the food demons, they don’t win any more.  They pop up, give me some curry (oh lawdy I did it again!) and I chase them away with a whole bunch of strategies I have built up over time.  I might even blog about those later.

Today though, I want to talk about a few particular issues I have with the way a whole lot of people, including myself in the past, think about food.  So let’s get into it huh?

This *insert food* is so sinful.

Oh that old chestnut (somebody stop me!)  Here’s the thing.  Food has no moral value.  It doesn’t think, it doesn’t do or behave or respond.  It’s just food.  You actually aren’t going to go to hell if you eat it.  Or if you don’t eat it for that matter.  Nor is the world going to stop spinning, the oceans boil over or a lightning bolt hit you from the sky.  Food is either of use to you (because it fills your belly, or tastes good, or gives you nutrients, or makes you feel good, or whatever other use it may carry out) or it isn’t.  Either eat it, or don’t.  But don’t moralise or demonise it because all that does is cast judgement on those who do eat it.

Oh *insert food* can barely be called food.

Really?  Is it edible?  Then it’s food.  You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.  But you don’t need to judge other people for eating it.

Cooking for yourself and your family is showing them love.

This one really gets to me too.  Yes, cooking for people, including yourself, can be showing them love and affection.  But if someone doesn’t cook, for whatever reasons, perhaps they don’t know how or don’t have time, or just hate it, doesn’t mean they don’t love their family or themselves.

Do you really need that *insert food*?

No, I don’t.  I just want it.  Or maybe I do need it.  Either way, it’s none of your damn business.

Tsk!  Can you believe people still eat/feed their kids McDonalds/KFC/*insert fast food brand*?

Yes I can.  It’s cheap.  It fills you up.  It tastes good.  It’s easy to obtain with no preparation needed.  IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Everybody knows that raw/whole foods are so much more nutritionally valuable/taste better.

No they don’t.  Just because you’ve read that, doesn’t mean everyone else has.  Maybe they don’t have access to the internet or fancy cable TV programmes.  Maybe they don’t have time to watch Jamie Oliver or Michael Pollan or any other food “educator”.  Perhaps they do know, but they don’t have raw/whole available to them.  Perhaps they don’t like the taste.  Perhaps all of their friends and family eat processed food, and they’ve never tasted anything else.  Perhaps they just prefer the damn box of Mac ‘n Cheese to the organically and locally grown beets, hormone-free chicken and raw milk.  Wait for it… wait for it… IT’S NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS!

Sugar/High Fructose Corn Syrup/any other food for that matter is poison.

Maybe.  But so is parsley.  Just ask a chicken.  Or onions.  Ask a dog.  Or lettuce.  Ask me.  If it makes you sick, don’t eat it.  But don’t judge other people for choosing to eat it.

I’ve been good all week, so I can have that piece of *insert food here*.

So are you saying those people who haven’t done as much exercise or avoided eating certain foods can’t have a piece?  Remember, your measurement of “deserving” isn’t the same as other peoples.  Just have the food or don’t, there’s no need to put moral value on it.

Oh no thanks, I’ll just watch you eat it.

This one really, really burns my bread (stop it Kath, just stop it).  Not only is it rude, it’s really insensitive.  Having people watch me eat is really triggering and puts me off my food in a matter of moments.  Even when they’re not intentionally doing it.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Many people, especially those with eating disorders in their past, have had their eating scrutinised to the nth degree and don’t need someone sitting there ogling them while they eat.  Leave them alone and let them eat in peace.  Either you enjoy their company and be damned what they eat, or leave them alone.

I ate SOOOOO much!  I’m such a pig!

Way to cast indirect judgement on what others eat as well.  Ok so you ate too much, it happens, maybe now you feel sick/bloaty/uncomfortable.  But keep the judgement out of it.  You’re not a pig, nor is anyone else who eats too much.

Locally grown food is so much cheaper than anything else, you just have to make effort to get it.  Don’t be lazy.

Not everyone is able to spare the time, energy and effort to source locally grown food.  Perhaps they work long hours.  Maybe they don’t have transport.  Perhaps parking is expensive.  Maybe they can’t stand crowded places.  Or perhaps they just prefer the stuff they can get at their local major supermarket.  That doesn’t mean they’re lazy or deserve judgement for choosing to do so.

~~~@@~~~

These are just a few of the food judgements that really drive me nuts.  And yet I used to indulge in them myself.  Some of them still sneak up on me occasionally, when I’m tired or upset or stressed or my self esteem is wavering.  But doing them to oneself is one thing.  Casting these judgements on others is a whole different kettle of fish (oh look, it happened again) and people who do this just have to butt the hell out of other people’s lives.  As I’ve said several times above, what other people eat or don’t eat is not any of your damn business.  If you want to restrict, eliminate, diet, whatever, go for it.  It’s your body and you get to choose how you feed it.  I believe strongly in body autonomy and don’t believe I have any right to tell people how to eat (or not eat).

It’s when those choices are touted as the “right” way to eat that gets my hackles up.  There is no right or wrong way.  There is your way, sometimes it matches others’ way, sometimes it doesn’t.  Keep your judgement and moralising out of other people’s lives and bodies.

What are your pet peeves with the food police and privileged “foodies”?  Do you have any strategies for responding to them or cutting out the judgement that is placed on food?  Share in the comments below.

Eating Normally

Published March 18, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Continuing on from the topic of Fat Folk and Food, I’d like to talk some more about the whole minefield of eating when you’re a fat person.  We’ve talked about how other people perceive and treat fat folk around the subject of food, but how about how we treat ourselves?

Just as a bit of a background, I’ve been on every diet you can pretty much think of, including some I’ve made up myself at the time, thinking it made sense to me.  I also now identify as in recovery from an eating disorder, as the more I learn, the more I realise that the behaviour I exhibited over about 20 years of my life was definitely disordered eating.  I was a starvation fan, followed by bouts of purging.  Between that and eating weird shit (or weird combinations), food was always a fucked up thing for me.

About four years ago, I somehow stumbled across www.normaleating.com and a light went on in my head when I read about the principals of removing the emotion from food and eating, and learning to just eat because as a living creature, I require food.

Over the past few years, I’ve done a lot more reading about the subject, on to intuitive eating and of course health at any size.  I have been working to train myself that I don’t have to have a terrible guilt/hate relationship with food, and that if I just stop and listen to my body, it tells me what I need.

When it needs red meat, it tells me so (I suffer anaemia).  When it needs leafy green vegetables or lots of potassium or magnesium for example, it tells me.  When I need some chocolate it tells me too.  I am learning that if I give it some of what it asks for without agonising over it, or punishing myself, then it only asks for as much as it needs, until it realises it needs something else.

That’s not to say that I totally get it right, that I’m “cured” of all the disordered eating.  I still have times when I feel guilty just for eating anything, when I get self conscious about what other people think about me when I am in public and am eating, times when I wake in the night thinking “Oh God, if I just give up *insert food here* maybe it will make a difference.”  I still find myself denying myself food when I feel bad about myself.

But I think now I’ve learnt to recognise it for what it is.  It’s shitty self esteem, depression and self consciousness that makes me think like this, not the food.  Food is not good or bad, it’s just food.  It has no moral value.  Food is what fuels our body and we must eat.

Since I have been learning to eat normally, I’m noticing a few things.  I’ve become a major food snob!  I am very lucky in that I have a good income and good quality food available to me.  I realise a lot of people don’t have that, in fact there were times in my life where I didn’t have that.  But now that I do, and I’ve been learning to eat in a normal, sensible way, I have discovered that the thought of eating a lot of the cheap, quick fix things that I used to crave so desperately when I was eating disorderly really grosses me out.

A prime example is chocolate.  Oh in my starvation years, I would dream of chocolate.  I would think about it all the time while I was on an exercise binge, I would torture myself with visions of chocolate in my head.  I would cut pictures of chocolate out of magazines, I would buy things shaped like chocolate and that smell like chocolate.  I was such a bitch to myself with denying myself chocolate, but torturing myself with thoughts and images of it all the time.

Consequently, when I DID allow myself to have chocolate, I would eat ANY old chocolate.  I tended to buy really cheap chocolate, generic brands and mass produced stuff.

I have noticed that now I have told myself I can have chocolate any time I want it, I rarely think about it.  From time to time I think “Damn I’d like some chocolate.” so I go and get some.  And I have noticed that I have become a massive snob about it.  I turn my nose up at the cheap stuff.  I won’t even touch Cadbury any more, it’s horrible.  Lindt is the only chocolate I will buy from the supermarket, but I far prefer the hand made stuff from the markets or one of the boutique stores.  It just tastes so much better, and consequently you get twice the chocolate  happy buzz from the same amount, because it’s not full of vegetable filler and cheap ingredients.

But it’s the same with everything.  I’ve stopped shopping in supermarkets for most of my food.  I now shop at my local farmers markets (it’s cheaper anyway) and have farmers co-op fruit and veges delivered to my house (also WAY cheaper than the supermarkets).  I buy meat that has a name, because it comes from a local farm, cheese from a cheesemaker, eggs from an egg farmer.

Do you know what?  It tastes a million times better than the supermarket stuff and you feel so much more satisfied and nourished after eating something made from decent produce.  Not to mention that eating food without pesticides, colouring, additives and without being gassed or irradiated to make it ripen quickly is far better for me than all the crap you get from the supermarket.

Did I mention the taste?  Seriously, go buy a banana from your local supermarket, then one from a farmers market, and eat the farmers market one first, and taste the supermarket one.  I bet you will throw the latter in the bin.  If you don’t like bananas, try it with anything else.  I hated apples until I tried one from a farmers markets.  HOLY CRAP!  It tastes like happiness!

I really think I have had to re-train myself to actually taste again.

I’ve gone from someone who lived on Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine “meals” (or should I say reconstituted slop)  to someone who buys bucketloads of fresh fruit and vegetables, high quality meat, cheese and eggs, and prefers to dine out at places that use these ingredients.

That’s not to say I don’t love Maccas chips (McDonald’s fries for those of you outside of Australia) or pizza from time to time, but for every day eating, I much prefer produce that is local, fresh and free of all the chemical junk.  It doesn’t have to be wholly organic, just direct from a farm is far less polluted than the supermarket stuff, believe me.

The funny thing is, the minute I slip into the guilt and denial mode again, what do I dream about?  Cheap chocolate and junk food!  So it’s quite a simple equation for me to remember:

Don’t eat properly = crave rubbishy food.  Either starvation or shit food makes me feel shit.

Eat good quality food when I’m hungry = happy tastebuds, sated appetite, healthy body, clear skin and eyes, and yes, even a happier wallet.

Fat Folk and Food

Published March 13, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

The lovely Twistie dropped by my post asking for what you would like me to talk about, and suggested that perhaps talking more about food and cooking is something that I could do.  I think that’s a fantastic idea!  So I’m going to start thinking about topics around food and cooking and fat acceptance that I can blog about.  If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best.

To start with, I think I would like to talk about the false perceptions that many people have about fat people and food.  Mostly that we’re all gluttonous pigs that can’t control ourselves.

One thing I know most fat women deal with is the double standard of judgement.  If you’re out in public, and you’re either eating or shopping for food, you’re being judged.  If you buy high calorie foods like sweets, chips, ice-cream etc, well you’re just proving what a disgusting pig you are right?  But if you are buying a salad, then you’re kidding yourself fatty.  That shit isn’t going to help you.  So  you’re damned whichever way you go.

A couple of years ago I was out for dinner with a guy I was seeing at the time.  Most of you know, I’m a mega fatty, up in the morbidly obese range.  My date was a tall, lean man, with nary an ounce of fat on him.  Picture us sitting for dinner in a cafe.  I had a fairly simple meal, a chicken filo parcel with a garden salad on the side, and a coffee.  He had a steak burger, a full serve of chips, potato salad and coleslaw, and a large milkshake.  He was just asking me if I was going to finish my salad so he could eat the rest of my meal, when a couple walked past and I heard the woman say to the man “She clearly likes her tucker.”

Excuse me?  I’m sitting here with a normal meal, but because I’m a fatty I must be a glutton.  Yet my date is lean, but has a metric shitload of food… but I’m still the glutton.  Nobody was judging him because of the food in front of him, but I was being judged because of the size of my body.

Even through the years that I was starving myself and purging, but still fat, I was being judged.  I would hide that I wasn’t eating from everyone in my life, yet on the rare occasions when I did have food anywhere near me, someone would almost always comment on my eating.  Is it any wonder I had a fucked up relationship with food?

As Twistie mentioned in her comment, it has got so that eating or shopping for food in public as a fat person has become a political statement.

I used to hate grocery shopping.  In fact I did most of it online many years ago, back when online grocery shopping was pretty new.  Because I got sick of the comments in supermarkets, no matter what I put in my trolley.  Because I didn’t have the confidence to hold my head up and look the bitchy people in the eye and say “Mind your own bloody business.”

That’s what it really all boils down to.  It’s nobody’s business but YOURS what you eat, buy/put in your shopping trolley.  If anyone makes a comment, hold your head up and tell them to mind their own business.  Or a new one I’ve been trying is to ask them “What does it matter to you what I have in my shopping trolley?”  It’s amazing how many turn beet red and scurry away.

I’ll be posting some more on the subject of food and cooking in the not too distant future.  I’m in the process of trying lots of organic and direct from the farm produce lately (it tastes WAY better!) so I’m sure I’ll have plenty to talk about.

What are your experiences with food?  Do you think that the stigma around fat people eating anything at all has contributed to unhealthy eating habits for you?