Sunday, December 28, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
USA Today is reporting that obesity is on the rise in China, along with the standard health conditions that come with it, such as Type 2 diabetes. For me, this set off a series of contemplations about Michael Pollan.
For those of you who don't know who Michael Pollan is (and I'm assuming there will be only a few of you since he's quite famous right now), he's the author of The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and his latest, In Defense Of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. In Defense of Food was written as a follow-up to the Omnivore's Dilemma in which Pollan points out the disparities and hypocrisies in our food systems (including the organic industry). Apparently after reading 300-400 pages of expose, people wanted a solution. So Pollan told them as much, in small words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
It's a pretty simple solution. He advocates short ingredient lists (also known as "nothing on the ingredient list that your grandmother wouldn't recognize"), buying local, growing your own, and a few other simple solutions. He talks about the need to get away from the "Western" diet which focuses on processed foods and a lot of synthetic corn. One of the things he points to, which I think is especially relevant given this new report out in China, is that as soon as the Western diet is introduced to a culture, obesity and the typical round of Western health problems follow (heart disease, diabetes, etc). It doesn't seem to really matter WHAT diet people are on, as long as it isn't ours.
SO, knowing what we know, why is it still so hard to follow? I think one reason might be that his directives run the nebulous knife's edge of both easy and particularly difficult at the same time. The solution is TOO simple. For people who are accustomed to the exhaustively minute details of the ordinary diet book, six words of advice can seem- well, it can seem a little baffling. There aren't concrete steps and there aren't levels of measurement to make sure that you're progressing the way you "need" to. It's also difficult because to live those six little words means you put a lot more time and effort into your eating habits (more time cooking, more time shopping, more time in a garden, more time planning). Doing that can be a huge lifestyle change and everyone (especially at Christmas) knows how hard major lifestyle overhauls can be.
This year, I tried to follow those six words. I planted a garden (and herbs), I cooked twice as much as I usually do, I went the the Farmer's market and shopped as locally as I could, and I planned out my meals better. I think the hard part for me is the letting go- the feeling that there's something more concrete that I should be gaining other than a feeling of generalized wellness. This upcoming year, I'll try even harder to stick with this- to believe that it IS what works- to stop believing that all the marketed "low fat" "low carb" "diet" "sugar-free" chemical stuff is better for my body than the stuff that grows in the ground. Viva la FOOD revolucion! Spread the word!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
1) Anyone who ever tries to tell you that the answer to poverty is a one-hit solution is either a) ignorant, or b) trying to hit you up for money
2) The concept behind microcredit that I have always had a problem with is that it presumes that old American/capitalism concept that if you just work hard enough (i.e., take out a loan), you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and be successful. It doesn't take into account the fact that poverty is geopolitically, globally, socially, and demographically influenced. In a lot of ways, micro loans are just a smaller way of throwing money at a problem that demands a much more complex solution.
Anyway, check it out if you have a second.
Monday, December 15, 2008
So lately I've been thinking a lot about radical self-acceptance. I got out of a relationship a couple months ago and the heaviness of the sorrow had taken about fifteen pounds off me because I was simply too sad to eat. Regular exercise and a better diet have given me back some of my energy and weight and, while I've been grateful for it, the old eating disordered thinking raises its head whenever I have to watch that scale rise. It's always hard, even when it's for the best.
In the upcoming edition of "O" magazine, Oprah talks about her guilt and shame for once again allowing her weight to spiral up to 200 lbs. All my favorite feminists are talking about it- about how such an amazingly talented, gifted, smart, successful, beautiful woman is so beholden to her weight that it actually drives her to public confessional. We all know that body snarking is one of the foundations of our modern society, but I think Oprah is just a very extreme example of how a woman can be one of the most influential and powerful people in the entire world and STILL, STILL be beholden to constructs about how she's "supposed" to look. It's tragic. It's tragic to me that Oprah and I spend SO much time and energy on this stupid subject. Kate Harding writes:
"Some days, you feel like it would be so much easier to take on that old part-time job again — especially when you’ve done it so many times, for so many years, you could do it in your sleep. All you have to do is carve out three or four hours a day to exercise more vigorously, obsess about what you’re going to eat next, and prepare it; stop listening to your body and only pay attention to your food plan and workout schedule; cut out some hobbies and social time to make room for the job; recall all the tips and tricks for not eating at holiday gatherings, at restaurants, at your dear friends’ houses, at your own birthday party; retrain yourself to believe that salad dressing — let alone artisanal bacon, creme brulee, whatever — doesn’t taste good enough to warrant its negative effects on your job performance; talk constantly about what you’re not eating and how great it makes you feel, in hopes that some of your friends will join you at this lonely little workplace; and — most importantly — continue to believe with a religious fervor that your body is an ugly, hateful thing that must be punished and diminished. As long as you really believe that, the rest isn’t so hard to keep up, once you get used to it (again).
Some days, all that sounds a hell of a lot easier than resisting the messages — especially when you think of all the praise you’ll get once you’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight, or how good it will feel when you get to put on a smaller dress (though that feeling goes away quickly, as it must, or else you might lose your motivation to keep going). How proud and in control you’ll feel — again, for a few minutes at a time, for as long as it’s working. How much better people will treat you, as long as there’s less and less of you. I totally get that.
But I stopped giving in to it. And boy, I wish you would, too — because you’re way too smart to take that sucker bet yet again. "
Some of you know about my deep, long-standing girlcrush on Ani DiFranco. If you don't know her, if you haven't listened to her, I'm embedding a small reason to start. Because this is a woman who GETS this concept:
Love is all over the place. There's nothing wrong with your face.
PS- Sorry about the commercial up front. Damn WSJ and their moneymaking ploys! :)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
For this reason, it's always hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of losing friends. I'm not talking about the typical, "She moved 3000 miles away and we gradually lost touch but if we ran into one another there would be hugs and laughter"- I'm talking about the conscious decision to terminate a relationship with someone you love. If you've had friends that have been around for a few years, the likelihood is that sooner or later stuff is going to come up and the decision will have to be made whether to try to stick it through, work it out, or leave.
So when do you leave someone? And, if you leave, is there ever a time when it's okay to come back again? Does leaving someone mean that you didn't love them enough? Does returning to someone whom you've left indicate that time heals all wounds, or does it establish a return to old habits, addictions, cycles that will cause history to repeat itself?
Obviously, these questions are a case-by-case sort of thing, as is any personal relationship. There is no diagnostic book that can tell you the signs and symptoms of emotional regression within a particular relationship. However, I guess the reason I post this post is this: sometimes we have to leave. Leaving is not the worst thing. It is just one of a few uncomfortable options when problems arise. It can be the wrong choice, and it can be the right choice. And, just because it's the right choice now, doesn't necessarily mean that returning is the wrong choice later. Unlike chemical elements, people change and relationship compositions change.
(end streamofconsciousness word vomit) :)
Monday, December 1, 2008
So there's this great quote on Shakesville (which is quickly becoming one of my top favorite blogs EVAH) and I wanted to post it here but it seemed like posting it, without context of WHY I think it's such a great quote, would somehow lessen it.
Doing the Monday morning read-through of the newspapers and the blogs, I found the following:
1) Salon has a front page spread about Charles Graner, one of the guards convicted in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Roommate L and I were talking about the article and whether or not the sentence he is serving is a just one:
me: Did you read that article in Salon today/yesterday about the Abu Ghraib guard?
2) There's a post over at Racialicious (probably one of the healthiest blogs for me or anyone to read) about Native American stereotyping and how common and harmful it is. I recommend reading it, as well as visiting all the links provided, as well as reading the lengthy and heated commentary that follows the posting. One of the posters seemed SO hostile to me in her challenges to other commentators, but Latoya (owner of Racialicious) had a different take on it:
Kathy-Oneida Nation is quite correct. It does get tricky when someone purports to comment on the nature of a community that is not their own. Now, I can only speak to Rob - not as familiar with Jess, but I’ve been working with you, Rob, since I’ve been on this blog - and I understand where you are coming from. We’ve checked Newspaper Rock for a while, and Rob actually does do good work with reference to bringing awareness to issues within the Native Community, particularly in reference to stereotypes.
However, Rob, this is part of the process. I know that you and Jessica have knocked heads before about this. And to be honest, that is going to happen. Tim Wise often writes about how he doesn’t expect anything from the communities he discusses in his anti racism work - he is often met with mistrust, but he acknowledges it is with good reason.
Carmen and I run a multiracial blog - we get hit all the time with questions about why we cover the things we do, and who we allow to cover certain issues. Often, if we are called by the media, we are asked to refer them to someone that is a part of a certain group - a transracial adoptee, or maybe a Muslim woman who is also African-American. Could Carmen and I talk about some of these issues? Sure we’ve posted on it enough, done our own research.
But most of the time, producers want someone who speaks from that experience. It isn’t just for the authenticity factor - it’s also because a lived experience can provide insights that you just cannot duplicate with research and observation.
And this is why we - and I would caution everyone on this blog to do the same - tread lightly when we cover issues outside of our own experiences. We all internalize stereotypes, and we can all make mistakes. And it is only by listening and learning that we move forward.
Here's the quote:
"This is why we've all got to be consciously, deliberately, vigilantly all in. We each make a difference in this world, for good or ill. There is no neutral. There is no Switzerland. There is only saying no to the indignities one human visits upon another—prejudice, hatred, humiliation and pain—or saying yes. And sometimes there is only stopping and kneeling and laying your hands on a stranger and putting your own body in between theirs and a herd of the unconcerned.
Always, every moment of every day, we must remember that kindness really can be a matter of life and death."