June 23, 2009

Chickened Out

Dinner tonight was nothing to write home about, but it makes me happy that I am one chicken boobie closer to clearing my kitchen of hormonal foods.

I cooked a chicken breast on the stove top and ate it as a sandwich with a little hummus. My bread is so itty bitty though - I had to cut the chicken in half to make it fit! The rest got cut up kiddie style on the side. I also roasted a bunch of brussels sprouts and the last few bits of kabocha that I couldn't finish last night. Note to self: kabocha is infinity-times better roasted than steamed!

You know, even if you're perfectly content with the contents of your kitchen, I highly recommend this exercise of eating down what you already have. By shopping only for perishables/produce, I've both saved money and challenged myself to get creative with what I eat, using what's already there. I'm also preventing various non-perishables from sitting on the cupboard shelves for years before their presence is acknowledged. I can actually see everything in there at once, as opposed to shelves being so full that items are hidden behind each other (very forgetfulness-inducing!). Whereas my freezer is usually full to overflowing, I'm now starting to see the bottom of it once again! I think it's exciting, this win-win situation, but then again, I'm easily amused. And at the end of it all, I will have restocked the kitchen with supplies that make me feel like I'm treating my body in the best possible way.

On that note, allow me to wax Jack Handey on you for a few wee moments.

The idea of positive body image has become very important to me in the past year or so (yeah Operation Beautiful!), especially as regards future generations of women. Natalia Rose has also become more or less "important" to me in the past week or so. Earlier today, I was reading Sarah's Monday post over at LovIN My Tummy, and she revealed that she has also embraced Ms. Rose's idealogy lately, having purchased the very book that arrived at my doorstep yesterday (The Raw Food Detox Diet). Sarah mentioned a blog post of Natalia's on Eating Disorders, saying it made a big impact on her, so I followed the link and read it for myself. It's a lengthy article, but my take is that it concerns how young women in our country are more or less socialized to be disordered eaters from birth if her parents follow the Standard American Diet (aka SAD) and conform to what makes up our North American culture. Here's just a brief snippet, to give you an idea:

"Parents, you cannot adhere to the social norms around food and then expect your girls to enjoy a naturally healthy, lean body! This is cruel because your girls don’t understand why they are plagued with their physical imbalances. They feel limited to two decisions: either enter a diet-prison or just be heavy and uncomfortable. Either way is torture!"

To be fair, this excerpt I've pulled is by far the most soap-box-y, but on the whole, I felt like the post left me with more questions than answers. On one hand, I can understand the idea of girls developing "textbook" eating disorders as a means of controlling their body in the face of life's uncontrollable factors and social norms imposed upon us before we have a chance to ask why. On the other hand, is it not harder on a small child to be the "different" one at the lunch table, whatever that difference might be? It's hard to imagine many 7-year-olds with enough integrity and sense of self-worth to defend their own choices--if what they're wearing or what they're eating is in fact their own choice in the first place! How many of her peers would be able to recognize and respect the fact that she is "different" now so that she'll be healthy and well-adjusted later?

Like I said, I don't have answers to these questions, though I'm willing to bet Natalia Rose would be able to point out what I missed. Nonetheless, pondering this subject makes me feel as though I'm trying to understand the concept of infinity. It's not possible for the human mind to understand. Or in this case, it's not possible for an American woman to understand (or remember, as the case may be) life before she developed some concept of the feminine ideal. This realization led me to the most disturbing thought of all: I don't know what the true feminine ideal is. I don't know what she looks like, sounds like, acts like, thinks like. And if she exists, I can't think of a single woman, living or dead, family or friend, famous or not, that embodies that ideal.

Have I just made Natalia's point for her? Perhaps. But my point is that even when I try really hard to conjure up the healthiest people I know or just know of, I can't come up with one woman who hasn't revealed an insecurity of some sort, past or present. It might be a blogger who photographs a piece of cake she ate, saying she doesn't feel guilty about it, but that she'd better get to the gym in the morning! Or it might even be Jillian Michaels, who I daresay is practically my guru--in one podcast she'll extol the virtues of not comparing ourselves to anyone else because that mindset is doomed to fail...and then she complains about her own cellulite.

In no way do I mean to criticize anyone by writing out my thoughts here. I am certainly not an exception to this "situation"! I guess I'm left with a chicken-egg feeling, though. It's no mystery that there are abundant influences in our families, friends and the media as regards self-image. No one can be immune to that. But is it possible to co-exist with the society we're born into without perpetuating those very influences that may have affected us negatively in the first place?

(Did I mention I majored in Sociology in college?)

If you're still reading, thanks. There's more. Just a little.

This month's SELF Magazine (with Jillian Michaels on the cover, no less) features an article that both invoked my sympathy and offended me on behalf of people who choose not to follow a SAD. It's called "The Scary New Skinny." I've already rambled enough for today, but if you can get your hands on a copy of the July issue, be sure to read this article. It concerns dieting through cleansing/fasting and targets liquid detoxes in particular. SELF has also made this out to be a Los Angeles trend, and it may very well be, but as a resident of the other center of the universe, I know the East Coast has heard of such weight loss methods as well.

I'm actually not going to address the subject of liquid cleansing and fasting--the SELF article lumps together both the safe and unsafe methods of doing so and brands all as dangerous. As someone who is at least minimally educated (at the armchair level) on the subject, I find the article misleading on some points.

Instead, I want to highlight what struck me as totally true, something I've observed in real life more times than I care to mention. Something I myself have been guilty of:

"Safe or not, the healthy-skinny movement is fueled by women no longer feeling they have to tell their friends they're on a diet; instead, they're simply following a 'health plan.' This idea goes down particularly well in Hollywood, a town where celebrities profess their love for french fries while secretly purging to stay wafer-thin, where everyone pretends to be inherently slim--and where half the women interviewed for this article begged to remain anonymous because they didn't want anyone to think they had weight issues. Admitting you're on a diet these days somehow means you're weak."

So that's where we're at? Damned if you do, damned if you don't? Is it really more likely that the women I look to for having the healthiest attitudes are just putting up a front?

I'm forcing myself to "put my pencil down" now. I'm turning it over to you.

Who, if anyone, represents to you the feminine ideal in mind, body and spirit? Does she exist?

I'm not challenging you--I'm asking, because I just don't know.

12 comments:

Elina said...

Great post! I have to say, I can't think of anyone "perfect" either. That's quite an interesting observation actually. I guess I should stop trying to be perfect after all... :)
Great job on your cleaning out operation. I'm going to see Food Inc. this weekend and I'm afraid I'll be "forced" to become vegetarian. In the meantime, I'm also going through the mass farmed chicken we have in the freezer and other non-organic produce/food. The good news is that my husband will see it with me, so I'm hoping he will be on the same page as me regarding all of this. We'll see :)

Annabel said...

Diana, thank you for this post. There is nothing I relish more than a person who reflects and questions. Not sure I have much insight to offer, unfortunately. I feel the "feminine ideal" is a fluctuating ideal dependent on geographic region, culture, time period and a gamut of variables. But the real kicker is that the feminine ideal as an actual person is a phantom. She has never existed and never will. I don't want to delve into identity politics, but the whole association of "feminine" with "female" is intrinsically flawed. Like you've so keenly pointed out -- we, in Western society at least, seem to - in one breath - promote health for women at whatever size "healthy" is for the individual - and then, in another breath, promote in every other headline on a woman's magazine how to lose a dress size in a week or how to flatten one's stomach. This double talk and the conflation of "healthy" with "skinny" is particularly hazardous to young girls who are yet to be skeptical of any portrayal of any sort of "ideal." In terms of the raw diet excerpt you provided -- I admit I found it rather disturbing. Life is not about these binary distinctions of eat this way OR be unhappy. I think we may all agree that we may raise our daughters eating a balanced, not necessarily raw, diet and raise them to love themselves, love their body and respect their MINDS as well.
Putting all emphasis on what goes into our daughters' bodies makes me a little antsy. I feel like true health comes from so much more than being lean. I hope you agree. I feel we fail our nation in raising daughters who are lean, mean, raw food-eating machines without the compassion, intellect, self-reflection, determination, etc., etc., that truly comprise those who will propel the world forward in positive ways. I am in *no* way trivializing the potential value of a raw diet. I just think that raising a child on a stringent diet might have the exact adverse effects we are trying to mitigate. Super restrictive eating may lead to food obsession or body obsession. I guess there are just so many factors to consider in raising our daughters to love themselves - and *phew* so glad I am not yet faced with motherhood as I am getting overwhelmed just thinking about how much responsibility it entails! So while the feminine ideal is indeed a phantom, a strong, intelligent, holistically balanced person, is the ideal mother.
Sorry for the novel! Just thinking aloud in blog comment form!
<3 your blog,

Annabel

curlytop said...

Diana,

I don't think there is such a thing as the perfect body. Everyone will always have a different perception of perfection. But I will say that i wouldn't mind having abs like Alison Felix!

I saw your comment in HEAB's comment section and I just have to say , “Oh do Do DO try Pbu!” It's so delish I couldn't keep it to myself... although I did very briefly consider patenting the stuff and selling off jars on Ebay. But then I got stuck trying to figure out how I would keep it cool if it had to shipped anywhere farther than an hour away from my little dwelling and decided to post the recipe instead. ;P

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

With Love,

Emily

Dori said...

Fantastic post. I get Self, I have to check out that article. I'm sure you know I disagree with their warnings about juice fasts since you're getting nothing but nutrients all day long and you are so full. Plus, any weight you lose will be gained back as soon as you eat a solid food, so I can't really claim it is a "diet" anyway.

That said, the person who represents th health ideal in mind, body, spirit is my best friend Emily. She went to LaGuardia HS for dance, Juilliard School for dance, worked as a dancer at Cirque du Soleil (Beatles - LOVE) for two years and is now dancing with different companies. Her body is STRONG, her muscles are amazing, she eats what she wants when she wants without a second thought. My mouth practically gaped when we went to breakfast and she ordered a chocolate chip pancake alongside her omelette. She has such a healthy attitude about food despite being in this world where she could have been pushed the other way. She cooks healthful meals and when she wants something like candy, she has it. And her body continues to look strong and gorgeous.

Brandi said...

1. I need to get some kaboacha.

b. THank you for this post. I just got my SELF magazine and read that article, too.

Someone who is pure woman, body mind and soul? It's so hard to say anyone who is famous since we have no clue what happens behind closed doors.

Gena (Choosing Raw) said...

I think that Natalia's main point is that if, in a perfect world, we all ate only whole, unprocessed, plant based foods from childhood, we'd avoid some of the dips and rises in weight that precede so many adolescent struggles with body image and weight. I agree with her completely about this, but the simple fact is that we DON'T live in a perfect world, and none of us had those childhoods (may our children have better). And most of us DO have some insecurity or issue in our past.

I don't know many women who have and always have had perfect, uncomplicated visions of their own body. Most women I know have struggled in some way at some point with some issue: insecurity, eating too much, not eating enough, whatever. So the best we can do is to do what makes us most vibrant at happy at THIS stage of our lives, and take joy in maturity and having found our way towards balance. We can't take back demons in our past, but we can all certainly work towards finding the best outlook on health and food for us -- armed with information and experience.

Sarah said...

I really appreciate this post! So thought provoking on many levels. First, I love the idea of only buying produce/perishable items at the store and cleaning out what I already have! So true that some things get buried in the pantry & freezer to the point of not being usable anymore.

I appreciated the rest of your post as well... I think that as much as I don't want to be influenced by the "American female ideal", I am and I too wonder what a real female ideal looks like. Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts and share them with us!

K from ksgoodeats said...

1. I've been trying to eat down my kitchen stash and only buying perishables. With the intense heat, all I've been craving is perishables so I'm in a catch-22! Hah!

2. I read the Self article a few days ago and Natalia's post yesterday. To be honest - I have NO IDEA where I stand in all of this. I have to think about it more before I develop my own perspective but I really enjoyed hearing yours.

lifesdelights said...

Great post! I really enjoy reading your blog. I got Natalia's book from the library in February and really enjoyed it. It got me thinking about food in a fresh way, and your blog is doing that for me again.

Metta

Lele said...

What a great post!

For me, the most upsetting/fascinating thing about the whole "feminine ideal" is that it seems that the more women accomplish- look at our advances in the past century: gaining suffrage in the US, elected leaders of several countries, entering previously unimagined professions- the more ludicrous and unrealistic the standard of perfection becomes.
It's like the industries driving America- Big Beautician and the like- are terrified that women who are united and not distracted by the triviality of their own appearance will cause the world to flip upside down.
In terms of the ideal, I'm currently sort of obsessed with Greece because I just spent ten days there, and I have to say, their attitude about moderation is pretty great. They apply it to all areas of their life- it's important to have a good work ethic, but don't foresake family, friends, and hospitality just for the sake of getting ahead. It's good to eat healthfully and be active, but if you're eating beautiful produce most of the time, by all means have some pastry with your coffee.

RunToFinish said...

hmm so i'm not sure what I want to say on the fem ideal, but on the kitchen thing I made a committment two months ago to eat down what I have...holy cow I started to realize how much I have! it also helped me focus on eating more veggies and fruits.

i thought the raw detox was interesting, but the whole food combining is still blowing my mind

Miz said...

amazing and amazingly well crafted post.

I could yammer forever about this but the short version is I TRIED to fit myself in that feminine ideal box. realized I never would.
hit the iron hard and found I loved my newFEMININE idea.