I’ve always loved food. I’ve been fortunate enough to have grown up in a culture where food is central to our traditions, customs, and norms. While my family has worked hard to shield me and other relatives from hunger, I was a child in a country where having enough to eat was a daily struggle for many around us.
Even with poverty a real threat, nourishment was a priority. Always.
But despite the scarcity of resources and the influx of cheap, processed foods marketed towards the poor, our people never failed to celebrate with our traditional foods. Holidays, important dates, birthdays, a good work day, high marks in school – all have been reasons to busy the kitchens and fill our tables. In fact, poverty has strengthen our value for food, so much so that leaving even just one grain of rice on your plate is a huge sign of disrespect. Scarcity made us respect anything that is put on the table.
This is what food has always meant to me. Culture. History. Traditions. Celebration. Respect.
I share with you this because as I look around me and the communities I belong in, conversations about food reflect very little of that. Most conversations around food in the mainstream involve diets and health. Worst of all, diet and health have been used as if they are interchangeable things – to which they are not.
But I’m not going to argue about what is healthy and what is not. I trust that we are all capable of making these decisions for ourselves.
Food, a symbol of bounty of nature and richness of the soil, has become a method of control: to police our behaviours, to make ourselves feel bad for a pound gained, to create a moral high ground through the condemnation others who eat differently. With the exception of a very, very small group of people I know, this is the general attitude I have observed around me.
Being a yoga teacher also gives me an access pass to the yoga community. I have seen just as much eating disorders with my fellow yogis as anywhere else. Practicing yoga does not give you a health immunity. In fact, I feel like the world is suffering from a big, giant eating disorder masked as health consciousness! That is quite sad.
So I ask this question: Is this is where we want to be at? My ancestors would shake their head. I think yours would too.
If we continue to base our happiness on the number of calories we failed to eliminate, the minutes we spent exercising, the numbers stitched on the back of our clothing, this will only shape our relationship with food for the worse. And food deserves more than that.
Instead, I ask that you remember what it’s like to love food unconditionally, to remember what foods makes you happy. Strip it down to the basics, keep it simple. Start from there and see where it takes you.
Oh and one last thing: I take a very serious offense to the naming of eating meat murder. This is not only a narrowed view of the world, but has racist, xenophobic, privileged undertones…or overtones. Please stop policing my food and focus on your own plate.