As we enter the period before Passover, I’m thinking about how eat, what we what, with whom we eat and why. I am meditating on freedom and gratitude.
No, actually, I am not.
I’m thinking about the store-bought chocolate chip cookie I just ate.
For breakfast. (Actually, I had a vegetable wrap first. The cookie was for dessert. Breakfast dessert.)
As I ate the cookie with deep pleasure, I thought to myself.
This is happiness.
Of course, there are chemical reasons why the cookie made me so happy; the main one being white sugar in abundance.
This I know.
And this I shrugged off.
Instead of acknowledging the sugar and the wheat and the likelihood that both would incite the candida surely camping out in my gut or inflame the inner lining of my intestines, I ate another cookie.
I think it was even better than the first.
I’m thinking about eating another one.
But first I’m blogging: To clear my proverbial throat because what I want to say is unclear right now.
What I want to say is that I spent the last two decades a bit too food-focused.
Not without good reason.
I believe, firmly, that food can be harmful. I believe that food is a direct or indirect cause of chronic illness. I believe food is addictive. Food is a commodity that corporations use to control people. Food has been made an idol that we in the #firstworld worship.
I believe food may be used to heal if used properly, but has become deified also by wellness professionals (especially those with books or vitamins to sell) in the guise of healthy living. So many of us are self medicating with chia and gobi and wheatgrass in the same way people are self medicating with xanax and marijuana and vodka on frozen lemon juice ice cubes with mitz petel (I call it “the Hannaton.” It’s amazing and totally gets me through the homework to bedtime madness.)
I consider myself a food activist, and yet I question my focused attention on food.
I question my focus.
I question it.
It’s important to question our obsessions.
For even those of us with good intentions, food has become an obsession.
And I question that.
This is what I want to say.
It’s important to have passion.
It’s important to be mindful about our behavior and
conscious about the consequences.
It’s important to support causes.
And it’s important to share ideas — loudly and powerfully.
But it’s equally important to question our motives.
And the returns on our investment.
I spent three years dairy free. I didn’t eat a drop of cow product. I read labels religiously. My motive, at first, was to nurse my son so he wouldn’t have bloody poop. After I weaned him, I kept it up because I noticed I didn’t have as much mucus in my life. And as anyone who has a lot of mucus in their life knows, mucus-free lives are happier lives. And probably less-likely-to-have-stomach-cancer lives.
Since moving to Israel three years ago, however, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to not eat dairy. Let’s put it this way. Dairy has re-entered my life with a passion. And the passion is called “bulgarit.”
We had to make an adjustment to our lifestyle. No longer was there a Whole Foods nearby to offer us 15 different varieties of gluten free bread. No longer did we have the budget to spend on those items even if there was one nearby. No longer could I find grass-fed beef. No longer could I feed myself and my kids turkey bacon for breakfast anymore. (Ironically, there is pork bacon in Israel but no turkey bacon.) Nut and seed butters are not an option for us. Therefore, the dairy. Oh, the dairy.
My point is: As my life changed, so did my diet. And so did my relationship to food. At first, this created enormous upset in me. For a good year living here, I lived with anger, resentment, and disappointment — all related to food.
I still carry some of that. I carry it on Shabbat when I go to kiddush at our community synagogue and my nut allergic son always ALWAYS hides on the playground because kiddush is not safe for him. I carry it with me in restaurants, on the rare occasion we go out, and realize there is nothing on the menu for my kids because everything comes with sesame or nuts. I carry it with me when I see the planes flying overhead spraying the beautiful vegetable fields with pesticide. I carry it with me when I hear about childhood cancer and in the back of my mind I know it’s because of the water pollution and the air pollution and the planes that fly by.
The activist in me is not dead.
She lives … but a little more quietly.
A little less all-consuming.
She allows chocolate chip cookies…for breakfast.
* * *
When I started to give up my commitment to food a little, I started to notice some things.
There is something inside activism that is closely connected to anger.
There is something inside healthy that is closely connected to unhealthy.
And there is something inside not eating that is closely connected to desperately needing to be full.
For a big part of food activism — if we look deeply and honestly — is about controlling a life that is terrifying. It’s about trying to be certain in a world that is only certain in its uncertainty.
I still believe in activism. And I believe in sharing information.
But sometimes all we have is what makes us happy in this very moment.
And that is enough.
5 thoughts on “Cookie cutter approach to food activism”
Totally get this, Jen. Kind of like the real as well as symbolic for life scale I use during mindful eating workshops…. 0-10 with 5 in the middle being “satisfied”. And sometimes, just learning how to be satisfied in the moment, is what can actually bring us happiness.
I’m in the mood for a xanax marijuana vodka cocktail. The Hannaton you say? Yes please.
I typically wait til after 4 pm. Typically.
I’m always up for a shift in routine.
This week more than ever I understand what you’re saying here. And I would understand it every week because I have so many things I can’t eat. It’s a bit all-consuming. But travelling for 3 days through 4 airports and 3 continents with so many food restrictions was an interesting and difficult experience. I knew that if I just gave up and ate whatever I’d be really ill but not being able to eat made me an unhappy, hungry person. Ill at ease and in spirit. My husband commented at one point that I was happier when I was sick all the time. I’m not sure that’s true…I’ve always been obsessed with food, though, and my restrictions fuel that. Maybe what I need is a cookie and a Hannaton – at least it’s afternoon (just)!
I will be happy to oblige any day.