Wellness is a loaded term for those of us navigating the complex worlds of intersecting illness and fatness. There’s something almost defensive about our right to just exist without a whole lot of interventions being suggested – usually without actually asking anyone for an opinion.
At work I’m surrounded by people in various stages of “self improvement” whether they’re the slim-shakers, the life-coachers or the tinned tuna eaters. What they have in common is a total immersive commitment to the langauge of whatever fad they have pledged allegiance to this time around in their “change journey”.
Enter the Green Smoothie Brigade.
You know them, wandering about with cartoonishly large bottles full of gritty kale concoctions. So wholesome, so self-congratulatory that they have transcended mere eating to become greener within and without.
I too have swallowed the kale mush flavoured kool-aid in the hopes that it would be the answer to all of my internalized self-hatred/ woes/ existential crises.
Spoiler – it doesn’t help.
I jest, but I also think it reveals something deeply disturbing about how twisted our ideals of what health is have become. I see the green smoothie as a symbol of everything that is wrong with “wellness” positioned as a product extension of the highly capitalistic weight loss industry.
It is some seriously toxic thinking to believe that the pathway to good health (or even enlightenment) is to shove as much “nutrition” down your face in the shortest time possible. It’s also completely bogus to think that pulverizing your food somehow makes it more “bio-available”. If anything drinking your food makes it more likely you’ll grow to see it as something joyless and utilitarian and not an opportunity to experience the physical and psychological benefits of nourishing yourself fully.
Food has an emotional and cultural resonance. It is a way to express care for others and for yourself. There is a reason it is a focus of our social rituals and why it is the great leveler between cultures.
Yes food can cause addictive and destructive behaviours – like anything that brings pleasure there is a potential for mis-use and abuse. Trust me; I am no stranger to bad habits when it comes to eating, and it is made much worse by the bullying and judgement that comes with eating while fat. Vicious cycle.
But, when eaten mindfully, food is a meditation on the cycles of the body and nature. It is our connection to the earth and its ability to sustain us. It requires deep listening and acceptance of what our bodies need and what we need from our bodies.
This might sound esoteric and perhaps it is, but this intention in how we eat also sets an intention for the rest of how we live. Are we treating ourselves like products in the race for expediency in our “health” – something that is just scheduled amongst the extreme business of our lives? Or, do we slow down and connect with our food, feeling its sustenance supporting us to live well.
You are what you eat – but on a deeper level you are how you eat also.
When I cook or prepare my lunch, or shop for fresh fruit and vegetables I am thinking about the moment between hunger and satiety. That moment where I allow some time and space to set an intention for how I want to take care for myself and the ones I love. It is an act of radical self-love to eat with intention and without judgement.
I look at the Green Smoothie Brigade and I wonder about their intentions and whether they might need my care. As a fat person I’m often the one who people will confess their guilty food secrets too, as if my fatness gives them absolution, and maybe it does.
Or maybe green smoothies work for them – it’s not for me to judge. But I was glad to see the back of the Ninja and everything it represents even if it does also make margaritas (so I’m told).
Note: This post was written in the outpatients at Footscray Hospital. Forgive the hints of sarcasm – it had been a long wait.