by Gemma Lake
Falling in Love All Over Again: Relearning Our Relationship with Food
Our relationship with food has changed drastically over the last 100 years. Centuries upon centuries of careful cultivation, innovative problem-solving and social organization have established steady sources of food for the majority of the world’s population until colonialism and industrialization – along with mass consumerism – have completely altered the way we produce and consume food.[i] Now we are facing the consequences of this change, from widespread starvation in the developing world to the unhealthy consumption of processed foods and eating disorders in the developed world. As individuals who operate within our own personal sphere and as part of a wider society, we need to seriously re-evaluate our relationship with food and how we eat and take steps towards sustainable, self-reliant measures which are ethically practiced to redefine our communities. We owe it to ourselves and our children.
Step One: Getting Over Our Addiction to Processed Food and Body Image
America currently operates in a dichotomy – a society in which increasing pressure is placed on men and women to aspire to a certain body type, yet our television time is bombarded virtually every few seconds with a mouth-watering advertisement of cheap and “delicious” fast food. Cheap, fast, easy, and filling, fast food is the perfect answer to what the busy student and worker needs; taking the time to purchase healthy food and prepare healthy meals takes up time, effort, and money. As a result of this dichotomy, we see several unhealthy types of eating emerge, with many of them falling under eating disorders. There are many ways to combat this. Firstly, we must change the way our society projects a fixed idea of body image, and recognize that several body types can be considered healthy provided they are fit. As well as changing this cultural dialogue, we must also keep attuned on the personal level to those who may be suffering from an eating disorder, and be able to support them as well as enable them to access the right resources for effective help and care.
Just as importantly, we must acknowledge the growing issue of obesity. Fast foods are not only dangerous because of their convenient lifestyle attributes and tasty flavors, but because many of them contain addictive chemicals as well as harmful preservatives. Not only does this negatively impact the body over time, but the industry itself has taken a detrimental toll on the environment. Massive factory farms and out of control GMOs have destroyed land, ruined small farming legacies, and implemented a completely unsustainable, resource-draining infrastructure.[ii] Before these resources completely fail and our national health collapses, it’s time to look at and invest in alternative choices.
Off-the-Grid and In the Community
Like many solutions, the answer is right in our backyards. Even in climates where the soil is difficult to manage and seem inhospitable, it is possible to cultivate our own gardens and even develop them with the use of grey-water systems for recycling and conserving water.[iii] Here is where we relearn our love affair with food. Not only is our produce more delicious, healthy, and affordable, but the act of working with the land itself redefines our appreciation for food. While it can be difficult at first, while we gain experience (as well as the added benefits of vitamin D and physical exercise), we also learn how to be resourceful with the food we acquire, from discovering new culinary techniques as well as making it last longer.
We also rediscover our intimacy with food by its ability to create community. When we visit local farmers’ markets – an increasing phenomenon in the food industry[iv] – not only are we helping to subsidize an ethical, sustainable economy which produces good food, but we meet others, network, and celebrate social events such as crafts, art, and music. This does not only occur in rural areas, but in urban places – particularly pedestrian cities – which have adopted markets as well as a new trend in restaurants which invest in fair trade and local goods. When we are in an environment which is pleasant and social, whether it is at a jazz bar, a market, or at the home with family, we associate positive thoughts and feeling with our food. In addition, the nutrients which we consume begin to have a healthy effect on our bodies, lifting our moods, energizing us, and making us stronger – not to mention being more delicious and “educating” us to explore our palate and pick up on the healthy flavor subtleties of a dish rather than overloading with flavor.
Our relationship with food is complex and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. While several components can contribute to our eating habits from various different contexts – whether it is social, mental, emotional, circumstantial etc., we can at least work on one part of our lives which is extremely important and which we often take for granted by being more mindful about what we eat and where we get our food from.[v] It’s time to take things back into our hands, and do what our ancestors did so well – and return to our roots.
[i] TheGuardian.com. “Fat profits: how the food industry cashed in on obesity”. Accessed February 14, 2015.
[ii] NPR.org. “A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up”. Accessed February 14, 2015.
[iii] OfftheGridNews.com. “Survival Gardening”. Accessed February 14, 2015.
[iv] Ams.usda.gov. “Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing”. Accessed February 14, 2015.
[v] MindBodyGreen.com. “11 Steps To Rebuild Your Relationship With Food”. Accessed February 14, 2015.