Sunday, April 4, 2010
"Over the years I have been exposed to women with extraordinary bodies, some of whom are naturally blessed with them, and others who have to fight for every inch. Some are reed-thin and others creamily voluptuous. The happiest are the ones for whom eating is a pleasure, rather than something to be held hostage by. These women are sexy. They share a total ease around food and the understanding that whatever their shape or size, they steer the ship in which they sail. Women have historically given much power to food, yet food is inanimate. There is nothing sensual about militant restriction. It is infertility, osteoporosis, and bleeding gums. It saps and withers."
Wise words indeed by Sophie Dahl in the March edition of Vogue US.
The topic of weight is a long-running one, the world over. Growing up in Kenya and having limited exposure to the West, anorexia was a distant thing and something I can honestly say I didn't have to consider the implications of. I cannot speak on behalf of all the young girls (or guys) growing up alongside me in Kenya but its fair to say that when a vast majority of the country is worrying about sourcing the next meal, the impact of magazines/models/designers/media/the resultant feeding loop of mothers and daughters and the knowledge passed on regarding food is not in the foreground.
I am now well aware of the extreme dangers associated with starvation and the fact that food obsession caters to being in control, and is addictive and soul-destroying.
So do we tackle the problem the right way? Dahl's article iterates the importance of placing value on taking pleasure in food. Natural ingredients, traditions. The French, the Italians, the Africans (to name a few examples).....they have it right. They are not the same stick thin build but then why is that attractive again? They have it right, they embrace food and conversation, cooking together, espousing delicious flavours and aromas and tastes. Food is life. Food is culture. Food is family. And food is meant to be nurtured, celebrated and to satiate.
I have to be honest here. I've stumbled across a few blogs where pictures of the authors do nothing more than nauseate me. Where do we draw the line? Dry skin, brittle hair, bones protruding where they shouldn't be? There is no excuse. Models too, in my opinion, are meant to look vibrant and gorgeous and full of life. And a gorgeous item of clothing on a beautiful girl will spark my desire, not a sack of bones with a hessian sack (because everything starts to look like that) draping over it coming down the runway.
Is food a friend or an enemy?
And is it a pleasure, or a guilty pleasure?
I am a woman for whom eating is a pleasure. I embrace culinary experimentation, natural ingredients, and the mouth-watering results. I thank my parents for encouraging me to learn how to cook and to enjoy it, and for never passing on that negative food association that so many mothers unfortunately inadvertently pass on to their daughters. I am not a saint, I eat things on the 'no go' list. And between the ages of 17 and 22, I sometimes experimented with the whole "could stand to lose a few kilos" stance. When food was a guilty pleasure or when I thought I could stand to lose a few kilos and attempted to diet somewhat, I was the biggest I've ever been. And as soon as I stopped worrying about the few kilograms and just focused on enjoying food, I lost those "trouble" kilos without even thinking about it.
In truth, uncompromised control is timpossible to maintain. I quickly realised that its all about moderation. My timely realisation that uncompromising control over what I eat will lead to a breakdown of sorts when something doesn't go according to plan allows me to enjoy food and to treat it as just that. You may think you are in control when you monitor everything that goes into your mouth, but you don't realise that you're the one being held hostage.
So love food, embrace it, enjoy it. Because embracing our size and shape and embracing food, in the truest sense, is the perfect way to be. Ne'er has a truer statement been made. The happiest women are truly the ones for whom eating is a pleasure.