Sunday, February 26, 2012

Food and Capitalism - First Thoughts

I've been thinking about food and capitalism a lot lately. To be fair, I've thought a lot about them both in the past three years or so, but as of late my mind has been bursting. I've been hesitant to blog about this subject, however, knowing full well I'd never be able to get my thoughts out in a coherent and concise post. It was suggested I could write multiple posts on the subject, and so here I am, writing a rather meandering prelude to my thoughts on food and capitalism.

I hate labels like 'communist', 'socialist' and 'capitalist'. They serve only to associate us with limited, human-created systems and then, depending on one's opinion of such systems, to make conclusions about that person that are equally limited in scope and depth. I've had several people tell me I am a 'socialist'. Some have said it with a slight tinge of condensation, others in a matter-of-fact way, as if this was fact, rather than perception. I can understand how they'd come to such a conclusion, given my rather vocal distaste for capitalism, but the truth is, in a Venn diagram of 'isms' by which we might structure human activities - political and economic - I don't subscribe to any of the ones that most societies recognize.

If pressed to self-label, I suppose I'd call myself a 'Mother Naturist'. In my opinion, the most well-designed, generous, self-sustaining system for maintaining life on this planet is the one we call the ecosystem. Throughout much of human history, however, we have tried with impressive force to improve upon it, to subvert it, to exploit it for our own short-term benefits. Despite our great efforts we have been entirely unsuccessful in our attempts to improve up nature's systems. I'm sure there are plenty that will argue with me and point to particular instances where human ingenuity has triumphed over nature, such as eliminating the threat of certain diseases or increasing the output of food from an acreage of land. I am not going to argue that in some respects these could be called triumphs unto themselves, but they are hardly indicative of our capacity as a species to establish a way of living beyond the constraints of nature in a sustainable and healthy way. Some would argue that since humans are a part of the ecosystem, everything we choose to do is 'natural', but come on, that's a bit of a stretch isn't it? And yet we refuse to give up, we refuse to yield to the brilliant design of nature, we refuse to recognize our own inadequacies and limitations as a species. We must prevail. Is it our ego that insists on persevering even in the face of so many signs that we are failing miserably? Is it because that we fear relinquishing whatever facade of control we are clinging to so much that we are willing to go on believing we can control nature and the future?

While I believe all of the 'isms' created by humans have and/or are destined to implode on themselves, it is Capitalism which I am most familiar with and it is Capitalism which I believe holds the greatest threat to the current and future inhabitants of this planet. And when I speak of Capitalism, I am referring to the current incarnations of Capitalism. As I have already noted, I do not believe any human-created system can trump Mother Nature, but I do believe that if we embrace nature's self-sustaining systems, we can find ways to not only live in harmony but to also enhance these systems.

The flaws of capitalism are evident in various facets of life, but I think that it is the inter-relationship between capitalism and food that best illustrates the limitations of this human-created system and the unsustainable practices that capitalism encourages in its thirst for the almighty and immediate dollar.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kitchen Makeover - Part 2 of 2

My kitchen has been transformed! It took a little longer than I had hoped it would, but apparently I prioritize work, sleep, studying, and trips to Moncton over cleaning out my fridge and freezer. This past week, however, under pressure to clean apartment before arrival of Mr. Wonderful for more than a couple of days, I finally tackled my fridge and freezer. I had anticipated that this wouldn't take nearly as long as cleaning my pantry out had taken, and I was correct!

The goal of my Kitchen Makeover is, ultimately, to remove most of the 'bad' foods from my kitchen, so as to have minimal temptations on my journey towards better eating and living. Unsurprisingly, most of the 'bad' foods in my kitchen were baking supplies and random chocolate treats. My distaste for processed and prepackaged foods meant that neither my fridge or freezer had many culprits that needed confiscation. There were, nevertheless, some items that ended up in the bin, including long past due jars and cartons of food in my fridge, freezer-burned fish, and random cookies and squares that I'd tossed in the freezer in an attempt to avoid immediate consumption, but clearly was not ready or willing to part with forever. In addition to cleaning out my fridge and freezer, I also attempted to clean my countertops and find homes for all my kitchen appliances, including my new blender, spice rack and smoothie mixer.

Here are some pictures of my kitchen post-makeover!

Now. my freezer is filled with packages of meat (mostly lamb from the market), salmon, frozen berries, bacon, and single-servings of breakfast casserole and salmon loaf, which I made in advance for lunches. What isn't in my freezer is more telling though - there are no microwave meals or frozen pizzas (there never have been), no tubs of ice cream, no breaded fish pieces or french fries (ew), and none of those cookies or squares that I had squirreled away. My fridge has fresh food, mostly of the vegetable variety, along with eggs, condiments, and cartons of milk and almond milk. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the contents of my fridge and freezer. I also love that I finally have a spice rack and am back in the business of blending!!

Now that my kitchen is devoid of 'bad' foods, my challenge is going to be to keep it that way and to make sure I minimize my out-of-home consumption of 'bad' foods that can be found at work, at the grocery store and at restaurants. The more I delve into my nutrition book, the more I become aware of the many, many ways in which foods can be detrimental to our health OR the best preventive medicine we could ever take. I shall endeavour to make my kitchen serve as my medicine cabinet, and what tasty medicines it shall be stocked with!!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Body Image, Compassoin and Self-Love

Apparently this is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I don't have enough knowledge of specific eating disorders to write a post of any depth or insight on the subject, but this seems a fitting time to serve up some of thoughts on body image, compassion, and self-love.

Body Image

I think it's safe to say that most of us have, at one time or another, suffered from some insecurities about our body, whether it be shape, size, lack of muscle, excess of fat, etc. It's nearly impossible in this day and age to avoid feeling 'skinny', 'fat', 'flabby', 'out of shape', or some other such descriptor that we choose to label ourselves with.

Society seems to have taught us that it is, in fact, what's on the outside, that matters most. By and large (no pun intended), we've bought into the idea that we 'should' look a certain way, have a certain sized waist, weigh a certain amount, have a certain amount of body fat and be muscular (or not 'too' muscular if you're a woman).

I've been my own worst enemy with regards to criticizing my own body in the past. Interestingly, these critiques didn't start until I was in university and more routinely surrounded by girls talking about (complaining about) their weight. Growing up I never had any insecurities about my body (save for my bust size, which my sister liked to make fun of on occasion), but by the time I was about 22 I'd amassed quite a list of things that were 'wrong' with my body.

As I write this, I still find myself tethered to some insecurities about my body, but that little voice that shouts them out at me is getting fainter and fainter. This is not so much because my body shape has changed dramatically, but rather because I've come to the learn the very hard way, that self-criticism is destructive on so many levels it's right up there with sugar and smoking in terms of its hazards to your health, both physical and mental.

Now I try to stand in front of the mirror naked and admire the things about my body that I love, or at least like. I try to thank my body after it gets me through a long day of work and play. I try to focus on the things about myself that are awesome (and there are a lot of them).

It's not an easy process to move from a poor body image to a good one, but it does seem to be getting easier with every year that passes. The less I care about what other people think of me, the more I find myself liking who I am in this very moment.


There is not enough compassion in the world. There is too much fear and insecurity within most of us and when we unleash that unto the world, it simply perpetuates other people's fears and insecurities.We judge ourselves silently and try to put on a confident face to the world. At the same time we let ourselves make judgements about those around us - whether they be strangers, friends or family. Often these judgements remain contained within our thoughts, but certainly there are many times where we use words, laughter, or rejection in an effort to build up our own fragile ego by tearing someone else's down. It's as if we're trying to rid ourselves of all the negative and dislike we have for ourselves by placing it on others.

I am tired of seeing people labeled and judged simply for the shape of their body - from 'fat and lazy' to 'crazy, skinny chick'. It seems that unless you are of an 'average' size, it's open season for others to make judgements about who you are based on your size. Yes, maybe some people who are fat are, indeed, lazy, but there are plenty of lazy, average-sized and skinny people too. These divisions based on size serve no purpose. I read this blog post entitled 'Fat Phobia, Thin Privilege and Eat a Sandwich. and while I can appreciate some of the points made by the author, I'm mostly disappointed that there are now labels to highlight the perceived or real differences in the way people are treated based on their size.