On fat.

Slow reading instead of blogging...

But I have finished these books: Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth; Fran McCullough, Good Fat with 100 Recipes and Malcolm Kendrick, The Great Cholesterol Con.

I recommend them all. I read Good Fat first and got some more information to support my current leanings towards traditional fats which are solid at room temperature. This was interesting, but an elaboration of what I already knew.

The Obesity Myth is, in my opinion, an important book. You should read all of it. Two key points in it concern firstly the fake allegations that weight and health are linked (except in quite extreme cases) and secondly, the role of fat in the social hierarchy of American life. I had not heard of 'anorexic ideation' before, but I see clearly how it works in terms of the norming of very skinny persons as the only people who are not 'fat'.

Page 225:In America today, bodies have replaced clothes as the most visible
markers of social class. In a culture that combines a high degree of
fashion informality with relatively cheap, high-quality clothing, clothes will
non longer function as reliable indicators of relative status. On the
other hand, a "fit" (misleadingly defined as a slim, and youthful, or at least
youthful-appearing) body is much more difficult for the average person to
achieve. Acquiring a body which matches this definition of fitness is, for
most people, in large part a function of having access to things - health club
memberships, personal trainers, plastic surgery, and, most of all, enough energy
and leisure time to devote to the pursuit of it - that are far more readily
available to professional and upper-class people than they are to the average
member of the lower-middle or working classes (let alone to a poor person).

So fat is something evil to be controlled, with a gridlock of narratives of evil surrounding it, lest anyone say out loud that body shape is not logically linked to laziness, slovenliness, increased mortality or intelligence.

p.126:Except at the statistical extremes, weight has little or nothing to do
with basic health and fitness; on average, fat active people will be as healthy
as thin active ones, and much healthier than thin sedentary ones.
Oh ya-de-ya. Still got to be active. Not let off the hook there. But even there, I note that the basic necessity for metabolic fitness is actually pretty easily acquired:

p.37:...to move into the category that offers most of the benefits associated
with metabolic fitness, people need to engage in some moderately strenuous
combinationof daily physical activities equivalent to going for a brisk half
hour walk.

When I added up the activities in my day, I'm either there or not far off it just by doing my ordinary jobs.

The Great Cholesterol Con also looked at a campaign of misinformation on a massive scale, this time benefiting pharmaceutical companies who are keen to get the entire world taking their very profitable statins. I was wary of media reports of medical papers before, but after reading this book, I will be even more so. The extent to which an industry which is pretty much entirely funded by big pharma will interpret data in contrary ways (like duplicitous ways) is awful.

There is a chapter in The Obesity Myth which is called 'Anorexia Nervosa and the Spirit of Capitalism'. Which is a wonderful title and apt to boot. Within it, Campos looks at the legacy of Puritanism and how this has re-manifested itself in contemporary America as the control of the flesh rather than of pleasure or riches.

Which brings me to Sally Fallon and Nourishing Traditions, also an American book, and a text to which I am both drawn to and repulsed by.. I want to suggest that in a culture where control and judgement are tightly intertwined with eating, Falloon's book offers us a new version of food laws but one which still offers that sense of having to work in order to be worthy.

Fallon's encouragement to us to open the cream and buy up large at the butcher's are tempting indeed, especially for parents who learn rather fast that low fat excuses for food will not satisfy our children sufficiently for them to run around or even sleep for a decent length of time, and thus look around for something more convincing. But consider instead, the exhortations about the endless evils in our supermarkets, at the apparent need to sprout wheat, then grind it ourselves, then soak it, then make our own bread and cakes. Could anything else be a stronger incentive to go gluten free? But wait it gets more exciting. Not just grains needs soaking sprouting, praying upon, turning three times and mixing only in lime green bowls just like the ancient tribes of Mesopomania, but we should also be soaking and then baking nuts before using them.

Nourishing Traditions in its most committed form (and for evidence of commitment, a tiki tour round blogville should convince; there is currently a jump off point on my sidebar if you fancy) offers a lifestyle of endless food preparation for those who fancy it. For those who thought, most lazily it seems, that snacking on a raw carrot is a good kind of thing to do, then please note that Ms Fallon prefers you saute your carrots (peeled no matter if organic or commonly sprayed) in about $3 worth of butter for 40 minutes. As a lifestyle, I think Nourishing Traditions offers its own elitism in that just like getting the perfect body at the gym, the luxury of a great deal of time is necessary.

I'm still bouncing off Isa Ritchie's conference abstract and thinking next of where neo-liberalism fits in. I don't think there is a simple answer on that one at all. The dichotomy between state support and individual responsibility which is so often posited in discussions of neo-liberalism is, in my opinion, completely undermined by the powerful sway pharmaceutical companies have over goverment policy which has lead to governments encouraging us, exhorting us even, to partake in their state funded projects to down loads of pills and absorb lots of jabs.


Johanna said…
Sort of on a tangent ... but on fat, have you watched Hairspray lately??? My daughter and I got it out and watched it several times the other week - and I do believe that Tracy Turnblad is one of the most inspiring characters of all time.

I hear what you're saying about Nourishing Traditions and the time required ... I reckon if you lived in a community or extended family where you could share food prep, do it more communally, and do it in greater bulk, it would become maybe more manageable. Not sure ...
nova_j said…
ohhh... *breathes* totally disagree with the bit on pg225 about gyms etc - we have those facilities more available than ever before, and at cheaper rates, and yet more people than ever are 'over'weight!!? poor people have never had access to gyms & plastic surgery, and yet have never been historically fat. not necessarily healthy either (as i do agree that a fit fat person can be healthier than a skinny sedentary one), but certainly not obese.

i'll admit that i haven't read any of them, incl. NT, as our diet rather precludes high sat-fat intake, but quite honestly i have a hard time swallowing the principles since i have never been healthier or had more energy than after i drastically cut the sat fat levels in my diet! only when pregnant do i get more than a sniffle over winter, whereas prior i would get everything going.. our kids don't get sick anywhere near as often or as severely as many omni kids - they've NEVER had a gastro bug or ear infection (despite glue ear) to date! and the only real difference is NO meat, and very little egg. we still eat plenty of fat, but it's from nuts, seeds, avocado, & olive/rice bran/flaxseed oil. perhaps the low fat meat diet is a myth, but no-one is likely to convince me that a high sat fat diet is healthier than my current one, cos my experience to the contrary has been so marked ;)
Isa Ritchie said…
Hello again!
I have just been reading a Masters thesis about FAT (it's written in capital letters all the way through), by Natalie Cowley from my department at Waikato uni. It's along similar lines to this post, quite interesting.

I do agree that Nourishing Traditions can be very... time consuming. I wonder if someone will write a quick version: 10 minute nourishing recipes for people on the go. I'm comparing food-in-a-minute recipes to recipes from 'Nourishing' food blogs as part of my thesis. The former always have corporate sponsored processed foods, the latter have everything from scratch. Sometimes it's just exhausting when I think about all the crappy food I eat because I'm too busy with my thesis and tutoring and my 2 year old and everything else, and can't justify the cost of buying everything organic... etc. *sigh*
Johanna said…
Hi Nova and all ... (by the way, I adore your name, Nova; it's my daughter's name too!)

I've had a discussion with someone else about Sally Fallon's seeming assertion that there is one basic right diet for the human race.

I won't go into the details, but the discussion was more around her ideas to do with dairy and wheat, rather than fats ... But my feeling is that as humans with widely varying ancestry, we must surely by now have some important genetic differences from each other as far as what foods we're best adapted to eat.

Over time humans in different regions of the world adapted to different local diets ... but now we're all such a hotch potch of ancestry in the western world, that I reckon it's pretty hard to figure out what diets we as individuals are best adapted to genetically and environmentally.

Raw, cooked, sat fats, mono-unsaturated fats, minimal fats, high carb, high protein ... I feel that the best we can probably do is what Nova has done - try different diets, and listen to our bodies' responses ...

I reckon I'm healthiest and have most energy when I eat something resembling a paleo diet with loads of greens amongst the veg, not many nuts and a reasonable amount of sat fat. I don't know what such a diet does to the inside of my body, but I 'feel' like it does me good ...!

Sadly for me I don't think paleolithic people had coffee.
Must get Hairspray out, thanks Johanna.

Hello Nova & thanks for your comment. Re:access to the gym and weight as a class issue, one significant aspect to the 'obesity crisis' is that people who were once seen as within the healthy spectrum of weight have been recategorised as overweight and the battle for media-acceptable thinness is mostly fought by people who were a perfectly healthy weight in the first place. Although yo yo dieting does bad things to a person's metabolism and the Obesity Myth book contends that that is a key cause of expanding waistlines. At some point soon I wasnt to write a post looking at the way in which Campos (Obesity Myth author) fails to look at the role of nutrition in this so-called war on fat. I think it is a significant omission.

McCullough (Good Fat author) likes avocado, olive oil and nut oils. I've been thinking similarly to Johanna (thanks Johanna for posting the things I was thinking this morning while getting ready for work!) about the importance of understanding that no one set of food choices will work for everyone. But we (governments? society?) always seem to want universality at some level. The endless expensive arguments about how children best learn to read illustrate this most powerfully to me.

I have been cheese/milk/yoghurt free for five weeks now and I feel fantastic. I've avoided doing this before as I love cheese so, but I am seeing now that I should probably keep dairy (bar butter) free forever as the benefits are huge. There is no point wondering if I would be fine with raw dairy products as I can't source them in Wetville and there is so much other nice food to eat instead.

Hi Isa! Thanks for your comment. I googled Natalie Cowley and found a NZ Herald article and so many things about their construction of her annoyed me. We could start with the deliberate picture of her entire body (to prove that she might be legitimate because after all she isn't FAT?) and the construction of her identity as a mother when she has just made the news for her RESEARCH!!! I guess it is a capital letters kind of topic...

Ten minute nourishing? I don't think we will get that and I need to post separately (yes I do seem to hava backlog between my head and my blog) to talk about what I think is the central role of time in all this nourishingness and it's appeal. The balance thing on a tight time and money budget IS exhausting (I wish I could emphasise this more, I really do empathise) and I think that is both the frustration and the appeal of the beautiful world nourishing blogs and books seem to offer.

Off to find your other comment again as I loved Paulo Frieire when I was at teachers college and look forward to thinking about how his work and food action & writing intersect.
Gillybean said…
Falloon's book was inspiring but I agree, so much more work than I could commit to. These American books make me look around at what we have here and I think, why on Earth would we want to corrupt our food chain the way thay have. I love Kay Baxters "Change of Heart" A little more relaxed and recipies with a Kiwi flavour.

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