It’s hard to fight ‘a culture of normalized gluttony’

Yeah, so I’ve written about how I was going to take better care of myself. I was going to eat better and change my relationship with food. Yep. That was a few months ago. I did great for about a month. And then the holidays hit, and it wasn’t the holidays per se that got me — all the usual kinds of articles you read about all the treats constantly available and parties being thrown, etc. — it was simply the stress and lack of time.

I got my shopping done relatively soon and was pretty organized this year, compared to the past few, and I didn’t feel really crazy in the week before Christmas, which was really wonderful. I was able to relax and enjoy the Christmas spirit. But I was busy beforehand getting things bought and made and shipped and so on, and I was busy doing other stuff for my kids, and I was busy with all my other commitments and responsibilities that essentially for about the two months before Christmas and New Year’s I had very little downtime. I had very little time to myself, to just relax, to be with myself, to be myself, to be alone, to have my head to myself, you know? My life and my mind were taken over by everyone else’s needs.

So back to food and “dieting” — this is the bottom line: it takes real focus and energy to change habits, to essentially break an addiction. And I had no focus or energy left for myself and this very important goal after everything else in my life drained those things from me.

Now it’s January, and several of my big projects are either done or done for a while, and my kids are FINALLY back in school. I finally have some time to think about myself and my needs again. So, back to food. Back to my relationship with my body, with my self-image, the food that’s in my house, the food I put in my mouth.

I am reading this interesting book I downloaded on my Kindle, called Weight Loss Apocalypse. It’s about our relationship with food, but it ties it all in to the hCG weight-loss “protocol.” Just putting aside the whole idea of the hCG thing, there are some fine ideas in the book. The author, Robin Phipps Woodall, talks about how our entire culture (let’s confine this to the U.S. for the moment, but it certainly is a First World or Western phenomenon at the very least) essentially has an eating disorder: she says as a culture “we need to blame (the obesity epidemic on) our rationale for unlimited eating.”

Everywhere we go in the U.S., we're faced with food, especially junk and food in outlandish portion sizes.
Everywhere we go in the U.S., we’re faced with food, especially junk and food in outlandish portion sizes.

Our culture pushes food everywhere. Not just food, but unlimited quantities of food, food in abundance. We feel entitled to be able to eat everything we want, as much as we want. Then, as Woodall says, when the scales tip just enough that we’ve become obese, we’re judged by the very same culture that forces food on us in the first place.

As she says, “Our culture justifies emotional eating, but then discriminates against obesity.” Yeah, that’s fair.

If we want to fix our obesity epidemic, our culture needs a huge shift in how we use food in so many contexts. But when it comes to us as individuals, we have to find it within ourselves to stick out, basically. Woodall asks, “Can you live in our culture of normalized gluttony, and know that almost everyone eats too much, and by eating less, you appear abnormal?”

Yep. There it is. Changing our relationship to food is hard work, and it takes focus and energy. It takes a sea change in our emotional lives. And society is not going to have our backs. Sure, they’ll reward us if our weight changes for the better and we become thin as a result of changing our food habits, but in the meantime, society’s going to block us at every turn.

These are just a few of my thoughts. I’ll revisit again soon. This whole addiction thing and idea of personal and national eating disorders are just a few of the ideas that are running through my head. But those will wait for another set of posts. In the meantime, how do we support each other in beating this? Any thoughts?

Light life

Cathy Carmode Lim View All →

I’m a copy editor, writer, and book reviewer with three decades of experience. My book review website is I’m a mom of four and grandma of three.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Reminds me of something I said to my co-worker the other day, for *both* of our benefits: if you sit around on your butt waiting for the world to make you healthy, you’ll die. Making yourself healthy is hard work!

    I agree, it’s not just work, it’s HARD, when everywhere you look and go you’re literally battling against everything that is trying to sabotage your efforts, especially other people who keep trying to make you “just try it, just have this, come on, the donuts are for everyone!”

    I have a very rare and precious skill that is, I can *generally* avoid the temptations in the grocery store, it’s home that kills me. Which is really a good skill to have, because it means I generally don’t come home with the things that will kill me once I get there.

    Restaurants are still hard for me to face sometimes, but I’ve grown stubborn enough to resist people trying to push food on me, no matter what they think of me for it.

    It’s annoying that the minute you admit that you’re trying to eat better, people seem to automatically try to derail you. I’ve found it’s better not to tell anyone, honestly, unless you know for a fact they’ll support you in it.

    I’m lucky I have someone at work who we support one another both in our food choices and in our daily walks during work breaks.

    The best defense is usually just good meal planning and hopefully some sort of cooking skills. Bring lunch to work, if there are snacks say you aren’t hungry rather than saying you’re trying to cut back (seems people will accept the former much more than the latter) and in general keeping the goal in mind: *I* want to be healthier for *me*. I’m not doing this for them, so their opinion of it is entirely irrelevant.

    It takes time to form new habits and break old addictions and eating patterns, but if you just keep trying even after a fall, then eventually it will get easier. But as you say, until the culture of pushing food, too much and too often and too bad for you, changes, then it will continue to be an uphill battle every time.

    • Yep, I am mostly with you on all of that. I buy healthy food, I cook all our meals, I do everything from scratch. But I also like to bake! Cookies, cake… aiieee. So for me it’s mostly about breaking a chocolate and sugar habit. I get stressed, I turn to the old habit: chocolate, sugar, delicious homemade baked goods that make my kitchen smell delightful. Long-term breaking that habit/addiction is really really hard.

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