Let Us Eat!

Hello there. Over the past few days I’ve been thinking that I really ought to write something for our blog. My other half, Dan, has been firing off posts on a regular basis. And now, here I am, struck down with flu and with a little piece of time. And I’m actually typing something. I hope to write about a few ideas, as and when they strike me. We’ll see!

There are lots of things in the media at the moment about food, eating and dieting. There’s the debate over size zero models used for London Fashion Week, the continuous press stream about Britain the ‘fat nation’, and the debate over diet and our carbon footprints (our eating habits are, they say, destroying the planet) the list is endless. Food and dieting are topics I feel strongly about.

When I was a teenager, and perhaps for a little longer, I was so very careful about what I ate. And I was so thin. I was also, it has to be said, fairly sickly. It wasn’t that I consciously chose not to eat. Well, not most of the time. It was a chore to prepare food, it didn’t inspire me. I liked thin. I liked small clothes. But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown to love food. I mean, what isn’t to love? And surprisingly, it’s become something of a passion for me.

It all started when, off sick one day, I was lying around watching TV. Gordon Ramsey’s ‘The F Word’ was on. I hadn’t seen it before and I was struck by his raw enthusiasm for food, the preparation and eating of it. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘I wish he could prepare a meal for me!’ Then there was the influence of one of my close friends, Katie. I met her when I started a Masters course a few years ago. Then I weighed about seven stone, and most days squeezed into the best rain coat I’ve ever owned. It was bright red, with big childish buttons…and sadly in size six. I can’t get even my arms into it now. Anyway, Katie liked to hold dinner parties. She is very sophisticated. Once she cooked me a special Halloween meal. I love Halloween and pumpkin lanterns. She’d made pumpkin pasta – amazing. So I began to take inspiration from her too.

More recently, I was lucky enough to visit Italy. How Italians love their food! It’s everywhere. Markets bulge with multi-coloured fruit and vegetables, the air stinks of fish and raw meat, and at night the streets smell heavenly, as restaurants prepare gorgeous fare. Food is religion in Italy.

So now, I love food too. I love growing it, watching it ripen. I love vegetarian foods: tomatoes, aubergines, loads of olive oil and creamy cheese. I love recipes and cooking, and going out to try new things, and sharing a meal with loved ones. Especially my loved one! This is why I feel so strongly about it. Why should we, most especially women, be forced to starve ourselves to get into a size six, or even worse a size zero? Food binds families, societies and communities together. It always has. Think religious communion, and life-cycle rituals – weddings, baptisms and funerals – we celebrate, love and commiserate with food. Food is associated with nourishment and growth, and with lust, energy and passion. Why can’t we eat, and experience the joy of all foods? Why should we avoid it? What’s the point?

Last year, TV journalist Dawn Porter made a documentary for BBC 3 (later shown on BBC 2) called ‘Super Slim Me’. The documentary was in part aimed at the organisers of London Fashion Week, and really caught my attention. It is widely feared that young girls will become vulnerable to eating disorders and unhealthy lifestyles if they aspire to look like the glamorous, freakishly thin images they see in magazines, as ‘thin’ becomes associated with ‘successful.’ In order to explore the size zero phenomenon Dawn Porter spent two months, some of which in LA, starving herself to be a size zero (in the US it’s zero, in the UK it translates into a size four). An underlying theme of the documentary, a twist of Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Super Size Me’, was that while we focus a lot of attention on the damaging impact of being overweight, very little light is shed on to the opposite end of the spectrum, when people are dangerously underweight. The show saw a bright, bubbly, curvy young woman turn into a teary, ill and significantly less happy person.

I wish people could be more aware of the dangers of extreme dieting. I wish people could be inspired by food! Look at the webpages of BEAT, the main UK charity dedicated to supporting people with eating disorders. Campaign for social networking sites to get rid of pro-ana websites. And eat!

Having had a moan, I’m going off to eat cake.

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