Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Et Tu, Bon Appetit?

It used to be that gourmet food magazines were a great way to escape the stresses of everyday life. With a few flips of the pages, you could vicariously travel to Paris, Rome, Kyoto, New Orleans, or Copenhagen and learn about the food, the history, and the culture of these great cities. Talk of calories was avoided, and the true passion around food and cooking shone.

And then, without warning, bread became taboo, a "cheat" food, and food magazines started buying into the myths embedded in diet culture. These once interesting publications started interviewing people in the fashion and entertainment industry so everyone could see how and what they eat in a day: plain vegetables and protein with a rare splurge of a few potato chips if they earned it. And the stomachs of readers everywhere who used to enjoy beautiful presentations, elegant recipes, and fine dining in general turned.

It's bad enough that cooking magazines now promote warped ideas around health and diet, the kind of junk one finds in fashion magazines designed to take advantage of people's insecurities around beauty, but it's particularly appalling when coaches, nutritionists, or anyone acting as such does. For example, a nutritionist who uses social media to post links to "articles" on how to have thinner thighs and lose belly fat is probably more concerned with getting attention than doing what's right. It's clear that there are many people who are struggling or have unhealthy beliefs around diet that still insist on dictating what others should do. They don't care that joking or silly comments about diet and body can be harmful as long as they get a few extra likes or reposts.

I understand that many people want to lose weight, but our society's constant obsession with weight loss and the perfect body is unhealthy. It's tiresome to see just how many people buy into and then promote this idea that losing weight is the answer to all your problems. It's so ingrained in our culture that many people don't even realize just how harmful what they promote can be, but anyone in a position of calling him or herself any kind of coach, mentor, or provider should be more aware.

I always come back to how deadly eating disorders are, so if you are actively encouraging individuals who are already at a healthy weight to lose, lose, lose! you are a big part of the problem. Consider your audience and ask yourself if what you're suggesting could be potentially triggering. It takes so little effort to reword a comment or avoid posting a link in order to do right by those who are more vulnerable. I'm not saying you have to completely censor yourself; I'm just saying think about the messages you're putting out there.