Fighting Back Against the Food Police

In treatment, we not only referred to the eating disorder voice as "Ed," we also named the enforcers of his laws. They were the "food police," the "diet cops," and any number of other incarnations. That police are sometimes referred to as "pigs" didn't escape my notice, either.

So here we are, describing all of the laws that the food police tell us we must follow or all manner of mayhem will ensue. Measuring your food. Counting calories/carbs/fat grams. No liquids with calories. No desserts. Only veggies.

These were rules that did not lead to a whole lot of fun around mealtime.

Breaking these rules wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs, either. You see, after so many years of living with Ed and his food cops, I began to agree with the rules. See the need for them. Feel somehow superior because I could follow them at every meal, no exceptions. That I would always eat and exercise perfectly. And that these rules protected me from bad things happening.

No rules = very bad shit.

But I managed to break many of the rules, and even bend most of the other ones. I locked the cops up in Alcatraz and threw the key in San Francisco Bay.

Apparently, Ed broke out the food police. And they've come to my area.

Here was the Op-Ed headline in the Baltimore Examiner:

Food police coming to a restaurant near you


They didn't.
They did.

Indeed they did.

The Montgomery County Council has a bill up for vote that proposes all menus have nutrition information printed on them. This was already declared illegal in New York City, though on a technicality, so I suppose that these county officials either a) don't read the New York Times or b) didn't care.

See, here's the thing that gets me. The assumption is that if you eat fried chicken, you are doing something naughty. And that, unless you know exactly what is in your food, you are going to make the wrong decision.

Anorexia is thought of as control because the sufferer things that s/he is controlling their food intake. I get that comment a lot: But I don't want to give up control. My dietitian had the best comment. "You're not giving up control, Carrie. You're just handing it back to where it belongs- your body."

Holy leaping lizards! did that make sense.

The Op-Ed author Richard Berman had this to say in his article:

Nutrition activists have already tried and failed at the knowledge-equals-behavior approach. In the early 1990s, they pushed the government to mandate nutrition information on grocery items, but healthier eating habits didn’t follow. Most people who reported using “Nutrition Facts” to fill their shopping carts were the people who already considered themselves health conscious.

Proponents often cite studies based on focus groups or questionnaires. These data come from asking individuals — in front of several other people — what items they would likely order from labeled and unlabeled menus. Not surprisingly, most publicly boast that they would certainly select the lowest-calorie food.

While people talk a big game in phone surveys and focus groups, few Americans change their eating behavior when faced with a nutritional profile of their food. In the real world, studies show that meal selection is primarily influenced by factors like smell, taste, texture, hunger, cravings, time and convenience — not diet facts.

Later on, he says

Love handles don’t distinguish between the calories from a butter-drenched lobster tail and those from fast-food fruit parfait. So if the intent of the legislation is truly to focus on people’s weight, it shouldn’t make a distinction either.

While anyone with an IQ above room temperature knows the difference between a bucket of fried chicken and a mixed green salad, most restaurants provide nutrition information anyway. Dieters and picky eaters can already find nutrition facts on posters, brochures, Web sites and 1-800 numbers.

I actually do agree that calorie and nutrition information should be readily available. Upon request. I know plenty of people with food allergies and medical conditions that require them to closely monitor food intake.

But if food knowledge were going to help "fight obesity," I think it would have done so by now. Why? Our bodies didn't evolve like that.

So please, Montgomery Council, respect our bodies' natural wisdom.


Jeanne said...

Awesome post, carrie.

I agree with you - the nutritional information should be available upon request.

I think ingredient lists (meaning a list of the main ingredients, particularly known allergens) may be more useful. (Especially with the accompanying veggies and condiments for the variety of burgers at various restaurants. But that's a particular pet peeve of mine.)

Thank you, carrie!

Kirsten said...

My hunch is, the more authorities lecture, the more people rebel. Instead of this mandated anorexia, I wish instead we could implement programs or workshops in intutive eating and body acceptance, encourage the idea that physical movement is fun instead of punishing. (Then again, I'm a dreamer who would love to see pigs fly.)

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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