I was talking with a friend about vegetables, specifically that in looking at the research eating vegetables is consistently shown to support health but she was struggling with eating them. The usual disclaimer applies – health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed no matter what we do. We each get to prioritize our health and choose the path we want to get there and those choices can be limited by things like socioeconomics, access etc.
So she asked me how I get vegetables and I said that one way was salads because I like them and they are fast and easy to prepare. She said that she likes salads but there’s no point in eating them because she only likes them with dressing.
And that, y’all, is how the diet culture messes us up. In talking with other people who’ve recovered from diet culture, this kind of mentality was a big obstacle to overcome. The diet world tells us that nothing is ever enough unless it’s the “absolute healthiest” and that we should sacrifice anything and everything without complain, for the chance of becoming thin.
It is in this way that a meal with chicken, roasted root vegetables, salad, and a brownie becomes a minefield. Is that white meat? Was that chicken cooked with the skin on? It wasn’t cooked with added fat was it? Were the vegetables roasted in olive oil? Is it possible to just get them steamed. with no salt? Is that cheese on that salad? Oh god is that ranch dressing?! Do you have some red wine vinegar and Mrs. Dash? And do you have some fruit instead of the brownie, actually the fruit probably has too much sugar. Screw it, I’m going to try to survive on the energy of the universe and the dew from a single leaf. (And a reader has now earned a million points by correctly identifying the source of that quote!)
I’m not interested in telling anybody else what to eat, ever. I am interested in examining the messages that we get around food from diet culture and the way that those messages affect us. Going back to my original conversation with my friend, she had bought into the idea that you “ruin a salad” with dressing. In truth, vegetables have a nutritive value that is not “ruined” or reduced by adding dressing to them.
I think we would all be in a much better place around food if we weren’t told that health is “all or nothing” and always about “the absolute healthiest” thing. I think that we would be in a better place if we focused on making supporting our health an additive process rather than a restrictive one. I think we’d be better off if we looked at supporting our health as a series of choices made for various reasons that are personal and nobody’s business but our own (and those we choose to include.) I think we’d be better off if we stopped confusing the concepts of health/healthy with weight/weightloss. It’s not the dressing that’s ruining our salads, it’s the messed up diet industry messages around food.
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