Assumptions and definitions

I have two very lovely green bell peppers in my possession, and I was poking around the internet, trying to find a good recipe for stuffed peppers.

On one of the sites, I noticed a section called "Light and Healthy," which made me stop.

How did low fat get defined as healthy?

I mean, yes, it's somewhat obvious, if you read a newspaper these days: we're all freaking the hell out over obesity. And the underlying assumption there is that fat=unhealthy. Then, we take the assumption one step further and equate foods with fat with fat people. Ergo, low fat is healthy.

Right?

The obvious corollary is that everything else is unhealthy. I mean, if it's not in the section labelled "healthy," what what in the hell else are you going to define it as? When you're looking at a site with thousands upon thousands of recipes, and one small section labelled "Light and Healthy," then surely we're all doomed.

Not so much. Your health is very personal- when I had to gain weight, low fat wasn't healthy for me. Even now, the number of fat grams in a recipe doesn't say anything about how nutritious it might be. Or if it's what my body needs.

It's a pernicious little assumption, and on every cooking site, the low fat/low cal/low carb recipes are all in the "healthy" section. Other sites will "healthify" a recipe for you, by taking out as many "extra" or "unnecessary" calories and fat as they can and still leave you with a product that vaguely resembles the original. I don't care if there are sections labeled "low fat," because that's a description, not an assumption.

We need to stop assuming that low fat or diet food means healthy, and start defining food and health in different ways.

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9 comments:

A said...

Also, for a normal person, fat is supposed to be a part of dietary intake. My dietican (who worked with medical illnesses before EDs) told me she would only recommend skim milk to someone with heart disease, etc.

You are correct. Health is personal. It suits the individual. And for the average population, moderation as opposed to "low or high" is healthy. Low fat really only applies to someone with a special medical condition, as does high fat (CF, cancer, AN, etc.)

Funny how we consume and internalize these little assumptions.

Don't let "healthy" stop you from making something tasty with the bell pepper!

A:)

Kim said...

Well said, as always. It annoys the crap out of me when the media tries to corral us all like cattle into these simple idea systems: "Fat is bad" or "Carbs are bad" (it always changes, so that some new diet guru has his time in the spotlight and the economy flourishes with all sorts of book sales). It's really hard for me to ignore the messages given out by society. My radar is very sensitive. But, it's also nicely rebellious to think, "Screw this!" We're all individuals. For me, the "dietary recommendations" on food labels are completely irrelevant. I have to eat a lot more than that. When I first saw my nutritionist, she told me I was eating like someone with heart disease. It's true! I had picked up on all these messages about what's bad and become the "perfect" eater. But, like you said, "healthy" by social standards is anorexic for me. It just is. I'm still trying to figure out my needs, but it's nice to know that others are out there trying to speak up a bit about individuality. Thank you.
By the way, my most recent blog entry relates to this topic (and I give a little shout out to you): http://backfromanorexia.blogspot.com

Thanks, Carrie!

Lauren said...

Another observation: Most of those "healthy" recipes taste AWFUL. The substituted low-fat, low-calorie ingredients strip out all the flavor and texture, leaving an unappealing, unappetizing stand-in for the real thing.
I just fell in love with a cookbook and have to share: Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life." {Krieger also has a show on the Food Network, "Healthy Appetite."} Don't be turned off by the word "healthy" in the title -- she's a dietitian, and she GETS it, never sacrificing taste and satisfaction for unnatural "healthy" ingredients.
And her intro to the cookbook, which she says is not only a collection of recipes but also "a new way of looking at food" and "a fresh approach to eating," is absolutely inspiring. She says, "This is your tool kit for a relationship with food that is pleasurable and fortifying, physically and emotionally."
The best part: There's a dessert chapter. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting- you are a great writer and I learn so much from you. Its very inspiring!!!

Here is a suggestion on what to make with that Bell Pepper.

1. Chop the top of the Bell Pepper off and remove the insides (seeds etc) Preheat your oven 350 degrees.

2. In a saute pan add - chopped half onion, half a red or yellow pepper into some warm olive oil.

3. When the onion and peppers of your choice are getting glassy or transparent add some fun spices.

YOU CHOOSE Spices =) ( I would add garlic powder or fresh basil, cumin, all spice, even a chicken bouyon cube ) Stir ( have fun smile while you do this )

4 Add 1 lb. of lean ground beef or ground turkey

5. Once your beef/turkey has cooked in the sauce made add 1/2 cup of white cooking wine 1/2 cup of tomatoe paste. (make sure you don't use sweet wine it has to be dry)

Watch it cook for about 10-15 minutes medium heat. Then drain.

Taste it and make sure you like the taste. Then stuff the pepper!!!!

Put the Stuffed Pepper in the preheated oven and sit back with a cup of white wine.

Bon Appetite!!

Kyla said...

agreed! all the health myths out there annoy the heck out of me. The body NEEDS fat. In fact, fat helps with satiety. We need to eat fat, and we need to have fat on our bodies.

Carrie Arnold said...

Anon,

Thanks for the rockin' recipe! I'll definitely try it. My mom is hunting down her Greek-style one for me.

Although an added step for me is "keep kitty off the counters."

Lauren,

I've seen her stuff advertised on the food network site- I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

MelissaS said...

i'm with you wholeheartedly on these last two posts. the whole thing sucks. i'm a recovering everything. i sit with my non-disordered sister who naturally beats small amounts of anything she wants -- some days a salad, some days a pork chop, and i almost can't bear my envy. almost can't bear it. i read your accomplished profile and think of all i've accomplished and yet i'm usually held hostage by a desire to be thin. on paper, it seems impossible, doesn't it?

Carrie Arnold said...

Melissa,

No, you're being held hostage by an illness you didn't choose. Big difference. An ED isn't about "wanting to be thin," it's a biologically based mental illness.

Don't beat yourself up over this (though I probably shouldn't talk).

Laura Collins said...

One of the (very few) good things about my daughter's illness is the re-welcoming of real food into our lives. We no longer accept the pressure to eat unsatisfying substitutes for what we really want. We eat, and taste, pleasant foods!

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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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