the moral sanctity of the healthy eater

The Seventh Seal’s flagellators
People who ate pastries.

Brush off your haloes, folks, because we are entering the realm of the divine.

If you think food is for fuel and nutrients and pleasure and happiness, you are wrong. Dead wrong, and soon to be simply dead. Food is solely a vehicle for displaying one’s moral superiority.

This nugget of toxic, smug health advice comes from a perfectly nice hippie and former co-resident of mine, through a group email list. Residents were discussing a BBC article about the health merits of tea, and he responded, in part:

Also, I recommend that you minimize or eliminate sugar with tea, or high fructose corn syrup (as in Snapple), to help avoid other health effects such as obesity, diabetes, etc. Fructose (half of sucrose, cane sugar) is toxic to the liver, unless you earn the right to consume a small amount of it through vigorous exercise.

Emphasis mine.

Thing One: Weight itself is not a “health effect” or whatever euphemism you want to use because fat is so scary you daren’t discuss it by name. A lot of people make a lot of money saying it is, but that doesn’t make it so.

Thing Two: “Earn the right.” “to consume a small amount of it.” “through vigorous exercise.” Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.

I’m sorry I can’t discuss that last one intelligently, but bundled up inside it are so many disordered ideas about eating and food I don’t even know where to begin. For my mental health and yours, it might be better to leave it unpacked. Good lord.

public enemy no. 1

I helped make this cake last week, and then I helped eat it.

First, however, I walked through the streets naked but for a loincloth, flagellating myself. I had to earn it.

16 Responses to “the moral sanctity of the healthy eater”

  1. 1 cggirl

    OMG soooooo true. Don’t you know? Food is the new sex and “health” is the new morality.

  2. Indeed. It’s odd to feel that happiness is such an act of rebellion.

  3. 3 Christel

    zomg! Yeah, because a 16 calorie teaspoon of sugar is going to make you so faaaaat.

  4. Yeah, and that threat only carries weight (ha) because being fat isn’t a mere physical characteristic, like having blue eyes or being left-handed. Except IT IS.

  5. 5 jaed

    The best part is that he says fructose is cytotoxic unless you earn the right to etc. Exercise magically removes [purported] liver toxicity!

    Excuse me. Vigorous exercise. (giggle)

  6. Because your body can just sense your virtue, and it magically reverses all bad effects. Because you deserve it. …Yes.

  7. I look the picture of the cake. I hope it tasted as good as it looks.

    HFCS is not a natural food and it’s toxic to our liver. It also causes craving at least for me and my honey. He was craving veggie burgers from BK and their buns have HFCS. I ate a whole box of lousy cereal that contained HFCS in a sitting. I’ve been avoiding HFCS which is difficult since it’s in most food at the grocery. No weird craving.

  8. Fructose is toxic to the liver? So, like, don’t eat fruit and vegetables? WTF?

    I can’t find any actual evidence for this in normal healthy people. There are some people with fructose intolerance for whom fructose can cause kidney and liver damamge. This is a pretty rare condition. There’s a couple of cases where someone with anorexia nervosa was being fed via hyperalimentation and received too much carbohydrate for their malnourished body to cope with and they developed toxic liver lesions – which went away when the carbs were reduced. I suppose if someone ate a massive amount of fructose they’d feel pretty ill for a while, but barring some pre-existing liver condition, it’s not going to damage it. And eating a fairly normal amount of fructose or other sugars isn’t going to hurt you unless you’ve actually got diabetes or some other glucose-related problem. Your liver is pretty tough.

  9. Hey Lillian! Yeah, I’m no fan of HFCS — I do prefer “morally wrong” food that kinda-sorta exists in nature, because what’s better than butter and sugar and white flour anyway? — but oy the guilt. The guilt! I scrutinized my eating for way too long to to do it ever again, and the hawklike attention he recommends smacks of religious fervor.

    I have no quarrel with your “this stuff is gross” approach to a food that, frankly, is kind of gross. There’s a difference between sacrificing your happiness and ease of living to the God of Liberal Prejudices and just deciding that eating ____ makes your body unhappy. Also, he was even just talking about plain ol’ sugar, and in a part I didn’t quote, recommended Splenda. As if to say that if you’re still weak enough to want the sweet stuff, you can at least buy a hippie-cred substitute at Whole Foods. He sounded like Paul praising celibacy, but saying marriage is okay for those who aren’t real Men of God.

    Oh La di Da, of course some of these people are college students, meaning a good number of them binge-drink on the weekends and then, Monday morning, lecture their peers about how many times their teaspoons dip into the sugar bowl. Hilarious.

  10. 10 Bear Trap

    Sugar is bad for your liver! But not LSD. Or marijuana. Or the Grateful Dead.

  11. On the contrary, the Grateful Dead are the great(ful)est threat to our nation’s health. Haven’t you ever heard of the Spectre of Childhood Boxes of Rain?

  12. 13 Spencer

    Exactly. What grounds for argument, of course, do fat people have when told they’re unhealthy by thin people? Thin white people? I’m reminded of the conversations you and I had about April Winchell. She acted as moderator for a call-in radio show discussion about Jordin Sparks, I think partly to reconcile her own beliefs with what kinds of bodies ought to be allowed on television and her newfound thinness from years of exercise and dieting.

  13. That kind of thing is harmful, but I can’t be angry at her specifically. When you’ve devoted years and years of your life to painful, miserable behaviors, considering the suggestion that all that hard work wasn’t worthwhile can be almost impossible. (Ask me how I know.)

  14. 15 Spencer

    Of course. I brought that up with the intent to tie it in to the media backlash against Sparks and her weight, but I couldn’t remember or find the specifics. It seems to be rather buried in the past, especially now that she won the contest.

  1. 1 when is cultural commentary not cultural commentary? « vorare

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