Six months ago, I wrote what became the final post on my former blog and shared some of my struggles with emotional eating. At some point, I thought it would be interesting to check in again six months later to share how successful my experiment was and so I could boast about how I eat now.
Then I remembered that boasting about my eating habits was why I became uncomfortable blogging about food in the first place.
Inspiration struck this weekend, though, when I listened to a (relatively) recent episode of This American Life, “The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed To Talk About.” I’m sure that at least a few of you have heard it, but if you haven’t, you can stream it here.
In seven acts, producer Sarah Koenig hosts alongside her refined French mother, to discuss the seven topics deemed not appropriate for polite conversation. Some are gauche, some are boring, but mostly, Koenig’s mother insists, no one wants to listen to someone talk about these topics. One of those is diet.
In Act Two, Ira Glass talks with Dr. Steven Bratman, who, before he became an alternative doctor, worked as an organic farmer on a commune where he met no end of people who loved to talk at length about the merits and demerits of certain diets. The people he met there were obsessed with the cleanliness, the purity of their diets, and it dawned on him that maybe there’s such a thing as being too concerned with dieting.
In 1997, Bratman published this essay, using for the first time the word “orthorexia.” The perfect term for the condition, Ira points out, as it combines orthodoxy with anorexia.
Listening to the segment, my heart dropped. Obsessed with food and the latest diet fad and talking about it nearly exclusively … that’s me. Or, that was me. Of course, I didn’t think talking about my dietary restrictions was gauche or boring; my fascination with dieting was in earnest.
Chronic dieters, people who restrict their diets calorically or otherwise, are obsessed with food. It’s been pretty well documented – here’s the Wikipedia entry on the Ancel Keys Starvation Study if you want to refresh your memory. It’s that broken, skipping record thing – you start dieting and restricting your food intake and suddenly you’re going around and around in circles, playing the same three seconds of the song over and over.
Something like that, you know what I mean.
Most interesting about Act Two is that when Ira asks Dr. Bratman his feelings when it comes to talking about diet, Dr. Bratman says “I hate it.” And Sarah Koenig’s mother, so steadfast in her belief that talking about diet is boring, concedes that listening to Dr. Bratman talk about orthorexia is very interesting. But, she says, there’s a caveat – he’s an expert.
In other words, it’s when the rest of us, the laymen, talk about diet that it bores her.
Six months ago, when I wrote that last post, I knew that I was tired of blogging about food and I wanted to write about other things. What I didn’t realize was that blogging about food was keeping me in a pretty negative place. I spent my spare time reading and commenting on other blogs about food/diets, or “doing research” for whatever food restrictions I should next impose on myself, or cooking and taking photos of my latest creations.
Obviously, I still blog about food, but you’ll notice my latest recipes are complicated ones (gluten free caramel eclairs and a minestrone soup three days in the making.) Those are blog worthy because of their complexity – you can argue that I’m still boasting about food, but this was more about cooking success than diet. Which is (I hope) more interesting. Blogging about the broccoli I steamed to eat at dinner .. not interesting.
While I’ve made an effort to stop reading blogs and magazine articles and such about dieting, I was surprised that this topic was discussed on my favorite podcast, on one of the forums I frequent, and on other blogs I read. When I say “this topic,” I don’t mean the episode of This American Life. I mean specifically the diet segment of the episode.
No one seemed to be up in arms about hearing a refined French woman say it’s impolite to talk about your period. But we live in a world obsessed with dieting, and apparently hearing her say she doesn’t want to hear about your diet really pushes people’s buttons.