[syndicated profile] thefatnutritionist_feed

Posted by Michelle

Here’s another question from readers of Mealtime Hostage.

break50

My significant other is a foodie, and I’m a picky eater. I’m tired of hearing how terrible my diet is and being asked to try new foods. We just had a big fight about my eating, and I feel so disconnected and hurt.

Listen up, foodies.

I know you want to share your love of food with your loved ones — hell, with the whole world. That is a nice impulse, truly. But this is not an issue of food so much as it is one of relationships.

This is about bodily agency and consent.

In many relationships, one partner sees themselves as the Great Offerer of Experiences, Ideas, and Tastes, and sees the other as an empty vessel into which they pour their Experiences, Ideas, and Tastes. It can happen with music, film, travel, sex, and of course, food. This is a teacher-student dynamic, or a parent-child dynamic, or a mentor-mentee dynamic.

This dynamic has its place, but it is not a shared-love-between-equals dynamic.

So, what kind of relationship are you in, and what kind do you want to be in? Do you want your partner to be your student or your equal?

Have you received informed consent from your partner to assess their diet? Doesn’t sound like it. They’re doing their best to fulfill a bodily function that is physiologically controlled. Judging their eating is tantamount to following them into the toilet and holding up a scorecard. It’s creepy and gross.

People have to come around to food in their own time. If they aren’t allowed to, if they are pressured or forced or coerced into trying something that they find intimidating, there is a very good chance they will not suddenly love that food, will not have the Foodie Switch in their brain flipped to the On position.

More likely, they will associate more anxiety with that food, not less, and it will probably taint the memory of the delicious thing you were hoping they’d enjoy.

So what do you do instead? I’m going to sound like a broken record, but: follow a Division of Responsibility.

Not the one for parents and children. The one that exists between adults.

As an adult, you are responsible for your own eating. The other adult is responsible for what, when, where, how much, and whether they eat. You can negotiate certain things — where and when are sometimes necessary to coordinate, and if you’re deciding on a restaurant or a recipe, some negotiation around what will also be useful. But you need to remember that any negotiations around what end at offering. Not ingestion.

What this means is, you can both decide on a place to eat, or a recipe to try, and you can put the food on the table and both sit down.

After that? You must chill.

No one has to put anything in their mouth or their stomach that they don’t want. To insist that they do is a serious boundary violation, and a breach of their bodily agency. There is a spectrum of not-okayness that starts with coaxing, wheedling, and pressuring someone to try something they don’t want, and ends with force-feeding. Don’t be that guy.

People are funny about putting things in their bodies, because it’s inherently risky. It’s moving an outside object across the boundary between not-me and me, and there is a certain vulnerability attached to that. People are afraid of contamination, of squicky textures, of unknown ingredients, of possible downstream side-effects, and for good reason: we evolved to have this hesitancy around food because certain things are not good for us to eat. This is an inborn trait attached to survival, and you’re not going to get around it with pressure and prodding. If anything, you’re going to make it worse.

So shut up. Put the food on the table, throw on some bread and butter or rice as a back-up dish, sit down and eat. Talk with your partner about your day, about that funny movie you want to watch, about dogs you saw on the way home, and leave food entirely out of it. In fact, let’s set a rule right now: don’t talk about food at all unless your partner brings it up. Enjoy yourself and keep your eyes on your own plate.

If you make eating with you a pleasant experience, your partner will want to continue to do it. Over time, with lots of experience sitting at the table with intimidating foods, those foods will become less intimidating — as long as you don’t say anything — and your partner may actually branch out to try some on their own. They might not like it, which is okay, because it can take several exposures or tries before something is liked enough to be incorporated into the eating repertoire.

Just…shut up. Eat your food. Count your lucky stars that you enjoy it, and lay off everyone else.

Since you’ve already managed to hurt your partner, I’m going to tell you the formula for when you mess up: first apologize sincerely, and then do something to make amends. Go say you’re sorry, and bring home a nice little notebook or a plant or a favourite chocolate bar for them, or cook them a meal they really enjoy (and shut up.)

Here’s where I will address the picky eater: you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want. All you need to do is show up at the agreed-upon time and place, and don’t make faces or say anything about how gross the food looks or smells. That’s it. Sit at the table, pick at the bread and butter if you want, and if you don’t end up eating anything during the meal, go get yourself a bowl of cereal afterward and eat it in blessed peace.

P.S. There is nothing wrong with you.

break50

All of the bodily agency in comments.

We deserve to look like ourselves.

Aug. 26th, 2015 04:24 pm
[syndicated profile] thefatnutritionist_feed

Posted by Michelle

One day a while ago, my husband asked me, “Why do you have three-thousand pictures of yourself on your hard drive?”

This was not an easy question to answer. A little background:

From the time I was about nine, I was told almost daily by my peers that I was unforgivably ugly.

During childhood, for a long time, I appreciated the way I looked. I liked my face, my shoulders, even my wispy baby-hair. I knew that no one else could see what I saw, I knew that I was not “pretty” in the tightly-defined way girls are supposed to be, but I liked myself. I looked in the mirror with some amount of pleasure, a recognition that what I saw there was human, that it was me, and that I liked being me.

This liking was slowly eroded by two things: 1) being told, over and over again, that I was ugly, would always be ugly, and 2) being told that if I betrayed any sign of liking myself, I was vain.

I wanted to be pretty, and I was supposed to be pretty, and if I wasn’t naturally pretty I was supposed to work at it, but I wasn’t supposed to let anyone know I was working at it. It was a confusing way to grow up.

By the time I was 12, I started to suspect that the whole idea of “pretty” was bullshit — that year, I kicked a dentist who yanked my tooth without any warning/consent/anaesthesia, and who then tried to sell me braces with, “Don’t you want to be pretty?” I ran out of the room with crooked teeth and blood on my chin.

There were several confusing years after that, culminating in a moment, at 16, when people suddenly decided to find me pretty, and to loudly and aggressively tell me to my face that I was pretty, and to treat me as though I were now a more valuable and sought-after person because of it. I messed around with people’s perceptions whenever I could, dressing down at first, then suddenly showing up in my Pretty Lady Costume, and watching the same people who’d ignored me the day before become deferential.

I decided the entire thing, top to bottom, front to back, was a steaming pyramid of bullshit. My value as a human being could not possibly fluctuate as readily as people wanted me to believe, based on whether or not I wore certain clothes or put on makeup or didn’t bother with my hair that day or gained or lost weight. I was a person, not a fucking junk bond.

A few years later, I got fat, which meant that I was persona non grata again.

Bullshit: confirmed.

I didn’t look in the mirror for a long time, still believing in the misogynist fever-dream of “vanity.” For a long time, after I gained weight, I felt I didn’t have the right to leave the house or exist in public, that maybe I was too ugly to even deserve to live — even though I knew that, intellectually, to be bullshit. I took steps to fight against it, but it was a long, slow battle.

I started to come out of it around age 27, and took the first photos of myself in a long time. A couple years later, I got my first webcam and began taking more self portraits. When I was surprised by the way I looked in the pictures, I realized that I wasn’t actually familiar with how I looked, because I avoided looking at myself so much. This disturbed me; I deserved to carry a self-image in my head instead of a vague, dread-inducing void.

Later, as I took more pictures, this thought changed slightly: I also deserved to show other people what my image of myself looked like, how I saw myself. Whether or not this matched up with how they saw me was almost irrelevant — their image of me was no more objective or true than my image of myself. I deserved to be able to say, with my photos, to other people, “Hey, I know you see a crude barometer of my social status when you look at me, but this is what I, a human, actually look like.”

I took a lot of pictures.

Here’s the thing about pictures: they help to determine what image of yourself, and of human beings in general, you carry in your head. In a way, they help you to define what “human” is, and, if you are represented in the images, to include yourself in that definition.

I have weighed a lot of weights in my life, and looked a lot of different ways, and I have been human the whole time.

For reasons I shouldn’t have to spell out, this is really, really important for people’s health and well-being. We need to be allowed to see ourselves as human, at any size, and to see ourselves represented alongside other humans. We need to be able to share our images in public, if we want, and push the recognition of our humanity. Mostly, we need to be allowed to have images of ourselves imbedded in our brains, alongside everyone else. When we see nothing but images of people who don’t look like us celebrated and represented by our own culture, little by little, it degrades our sense of being human. It is a form of systemic emotional abuse.

When someone takes the images of stigmatized people and digitally alters them to fit the mainstream ideal of beauty, they have effectively turned those people’s images against them, and further degraded those people’s sense of their own humanity.

In places where fat people post their selfies, trolls needle them for posting “deceptive angles” that make them appear thinner, or “hiding their bodies” with headshots, or “using filters” (that is, the wide-angle lens standard on most smartphones) to elongate themselves, but — somehow without imploding from cognitive dissonance — consider themselves to be performing charity by poorly and aggressively Photoshopping fat people’s photos to make them look thin.

It’s just a joke, okay. It’s just trolling, okay. Trolling is subversive comedy, you know, okay. Man the harpoons, okay. It’s “promoting health,” okay. If I react with outrage, lel. Okay.

It’s just funny how it aligns with the status quo.
It’s just funny how it perpetuates health disparities.
It’s just funny how it always upholds the existing hierarchy.
It’s just funny how it’s never actually subversive.

They do it because they enjoy pushing people’s faces in the dirt. That’s all. They’re not rebels; they’re lackeys in service of the most pedestrian cultural norms, and boring enough that those norms are indistinguishable from their personalities.

I feel for them. Let’s hope they make a full recovery. Until then.

Stop watching paint dry.

Aug. 25th, 2015 12:49 pm
[syndicated profile] thefatnutritionist_feed

Posted by Michelle

When you make toast, you can put bread in the toaster and push the lever down. What you can’t do is turn bread into toast through the powers of your mind. And if you stand around watching the toaster, you’re wasting your time.

Drying paint is the same way. What you can do: paint the wall, open a window, leave the room. What you can’t do: force the paint to dry through sheer force of will. If you stand there watching the wall, you will experience the most excruciating passage of time known to man. When the paint does eventually dry, it won’t be because you stood there.

The same goes for boiling water, rocks turning to sand, and weighing yourself.

My work with clients does not focus on weight, but a lot of them hope that they will lose weight if they sort out their eating and their relationship to exercise. Since we live in a world where we are all told, all the time, that losing weight makes us healthier, more attractive, more successful, more sympathetic characters in our own story, this hope is understandable.

Sometimes, it even happens — but not because they stand over the scale, waiting for the needle to move. And definitely not because they pour all of their available resources into going hungry and tracking every single bite or step.

I have lived that life. Your weight goes down, the rest of you goes up in smoke.

What makes weights change, more permanently and with less soul-killing, is what I think of as Actual Lifestyle Change, which is to say, your entire life changes — not just your conscious choices around eating and moving. Sometimes you get a new job that has you up on your feet more, eating at very structured times, and doing work absorbing enough to upstage food preoccupation. Sometimes you move to a new neighbourhood / city / country, and every tiny routine of your daily life is shaped differently. Sometimes your weight responds.

Health at Every Size is a weight-neutral philosophy. The idea is that weight can change, but it’s best if that change is not the focus of your actions. Rather, it is best to set up the circumstances of a healthy, fulfilling life, and then see what your weight does as a result.

What makes these changes work, when, so often, conscious decisions to do these same exact things don’t, is the nature of the change: you make one big decision and a thousand other things change along with it, not necessarily by choice. You set the big rock rolling, and it goes down the hill without any further input from you. You set up the conditions, then you live inside of them.

The times my weight has changed significantly, but unintentionally, have always been attached to a major life event: I got married, immigrated to a new country with a different climate and became a housewife (weight went up.) I moved to the city and lived within walking distance of my workplace (weight went down.) I started working from home, eating with clients many times a week (weight went up.) I did a full-time internship where I was on my feet a lot and went back to eating only when I wanted to (weight went down.)

Despite all this, my weight is still within a few pounds of where it was ten years ago.

Your weight is the product of a dynamic equilibrium. Picture a bucket of water. The bucket has a hole in the bottom where water leaks out, but it sits under a faucet with water constantly running in, sometimes at a trickle, sometimes a gush. The level to which the water in the bucket rises depends on the rate of both of these things. Neither one stops, ever — there is a constant inflow and outflow, that’s the dynamic part. Once the inflow and outflow are both fairly constant, or when they are tied together in a feedback loop that allows them to compensate for what the other is doing, the level remains about the same. That’s the equilibrium.

In order to have a body at all, for a time, the water running into the bucket has to exceed the water running out. This is normal, necessary. Different buckets will fill up to a different point before they level off, and they will maintain different rates of inflow and outflow. This is also normal and necessary. Each bucket will have its own preferred range of fullness. Sometimes the water will rest at the top of that range, and sometimes at the bottom. Where it rests at any given time is a product of a whole bunch of things the bucket may have no control over: the weather (it might be raining, adding more water to the bucket, or it might be arid, evaporating water from the bucket more quickly), whether the faucet is working properly, whether the hole in the bottom of the bucket is obstructed with lime scale, or eaten away by rust.

Let’s say the bucket has some input into one thing: where it sits. Where it sits will determine which faucet it sits beneath, and which surface it rests upon. But it takes a major effort for the bucket to move itself, an upheaval of its entire bucket existence. Depending where it ends up, the level of water inside may change, though it will probably still be within a certain range.

I think I’ve tortured this analogy long enough. Our culture, food environment, built environment, work environment, living space, etc. are the structures that systematically determine our daily life routines and our moment-to-moment decisions. No single momentary choice you make about eating this food vs. this other food is going to have the broad-reaching effects of picking up and moving to a place where all the food is different, for example. No decision to exercise tomorrow vs. today is going to have the long-term impact of living in a place where your daily commute requires walking or biking.

In fact, I think you’re likely to experience decision-fatigue if you have to consciously choose to do something that is at odds with your environment dozens of times a day.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to change your habits through choice and repetition, but the environment must be at least minimally supportive of those choices. If it is, you can change your habits one day and one step at a time, not by watching paint dry, but by focusing on the immediate rewards those habits provide. If they are rewarding, ultimately it won’t matter so much whether your weight changes, and random scale fluctuations won’t destroy your momentum.

And if the environment is not compatible with such choices, you can make one, big decision — to change your environment, your job, your whole life — and let time do the rest.

Paint the wall, open a window, and leave the room. Stop watching paint dry.

break50

Don’t throw paint in comments.

Chrenedict's Corporeal Covering

Aug. 23rd, 2015 06:28 pm
[syndicated profile] discworldmud_devblog_feed
A recent discovery of the original research notes of the renowned wizard Chrenedict has unearthed evidence that his famous Calcareous Covering spell was in fact merely a first attempt at a more sophisticated spell.
The Librarian of Unseen University has already replaced the spell by its finalised version, Chrenedict's Corporeal Covering.
Wizards and those who cast from scrolls should be warned that the older CCC spell will continue to work only for a short period. It is advised to replace any lingering troll skin by the new spell's protective covering.
Note: the details of the spell can be found in "help Chrenedict's Corporeal Covering". It is possible that older chalk powder might not be recognised as skin-modifying agent; however, new white mineral powder should be fine.

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