John H, Your Email Isn’t Working! But Here’s What I Have to Say

Such is my esteem for you that I’m sitting here debating whether I should delay my departure for my parents’ just to have lunch with you, but… I don’t think I can.  My dad has already called twice to tell me about the tacos he’s making, which means I have to be there by dinner time.
But any other time?
You name it.
Also, if you’re ever in a gang fight, I’ve got your back.
Aunt B.

Food Insecure

On Tuesday night, I was at a meeting for this group of crazed hippies who have this insane notion that you can change the fortune of whole communities, not by coming in and deciding from on-high what those communities need and imposing it, but by listening to the problems the people in the community describe having and providing them with the training and resources to solve their own problems.

I don’t feel like I do much more than sit quietly and listen, since it all focuses a lot on community health, which means it’s mostly medical students, doctors, and nurses* talking about these projects.  But I feel honored to be there.

One project they’ve been working on are setting up fresh produce markets in parts of Nashville that don’t have grocery stores.  They call them “food deserts” these areas that are highly populated by folks who don’t have regular access to transportation and don’t have grocery stores within easy walking distance or on convenient bus routes**.

What’s funny is that when I met Mack and the group that was sitting around taking about Claudia Nunez, when another woman finally showed up, she had been working on this very project, and now, I’ve gone and forgotten her name, but anyway, she wasn’t the woman who presented on the program on Tuesday, but I mention this just to point out how, in many ways, Nashville is a very big small town.

Anyway, when the woman who was presenting about the fresh markets was talking, she mentioned a lot of interesting things.  One is that they had to do a lot of educating about “organic” produce, because they’d gone to great lengths to secure mostly organic produce for the stands and the consumers were all basically, “Fuck no, we don’t want that organic produce.  We want the stuff that’s full of the chemicals we need.”  Another was that a lot of folks assumed that the produce, especially the tomatoes, was dirty because it wasn’t wrapped in cellophane.

I bring this up just to point out that, however misguided those beliefs, people were attempting to make good food choices for their families.  Also, though I’m well aware that racism doesn’t exist any more, how sad is it that folks just assumed these white folks had shown up to set up a stand and sell them crappy, dirty produce?  (Though, I reiterate, that I’m sure such suspicion was based solely on the lies of “Civil Rights” leaders stirring up trouble where it no longer exists, and not on personal experience or knowledge.)

But, to get back to our “Carnival of Feminists” worthy discussion on weight, the woman giving the presentation said some very interesting stuff which may pertain.  Tennessee has a shit-ton of poor people, many of whom are ‘food insecure,’ which is dirty hippy talk for “Many of them often don’t have access to food when they want it, and so are not able to eat meals.”  I should have written this down, but I think she said that one in four Tennesseans has missed at least one meal in the past year because they had no food.  And yet, we rank extra high on the amount of obese people we have, too.

And she said that, though it seems on the surface, impossible, research bears it out that, in America, the hungrier the population, the fatter.  She said that she thinks it’s that, when you are very hungry, the quickest, cheapest food is exactly the food that’s the worst for you–like fast foods or, if you don’t have a grocery store in your neighborhood, chips and candy bars and shit you can get for cheap at the local gas station.

And so, she thinks, people get into this cycle of not having enough money to eat or to eat well and they get money, they rush out and buy junk food, load up on it, and then have a period of not eating or not eating well again.

I really wanted to corner her after the meeting, because I think there are two crucial things she’s missing out on–one is that junk food gives you a little sugar rush and a good fat high.  You eat a meal at McDonalds and you feel good (well, until the gastrointestinal distress kicks in) almost immediately.  When you aren’t eating well, you feel like shit.  But, when you eat well, you don’t feel better immediately.  You have an apple, you don’t feel that rush of good feeling kick in immediately.  Well-balanced eating makes you feel consistently better over much larger stretches of your day, but it doesn’t have that immediate pay off junk food has.

So, what if you’re used to feeling like shit?  You feel like shit because you can’t afford to eat.  You finally get some money.  Isn’t it just human nature to spend it on the food that makes you feel good right away? I think so.  And yes, you crash and feel like shit later, because it’s not full of the nutrients you need, but you expected to feel like shit anyway, because you always feel like shit.  So what’s new?

(Come on.  You must have suspected I was going to bring this around to pleasure, eventually.)

And if people are not eating well and then binging on fatty foods in order to feel good, it makes sense that you would get in a cycle physically where you were eating, but that your body packs on weight like there’s a famine coming, because, in some sense, there always is.  But it also makes sense psychologically–that if you aren’t able to eat healthily enough to give yourself a baseline of “I feel fine and good” but instead you feel like shit, you are, when you’re able to eat more than is normally available to you, going to eat foods that give you immediate pleasure.

I think people come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  I think people should be healthy–they should eat well and move around and make choices that allow them to enjoy life.  And I don’t think you have to be a size four or even a size ten to do that.

But I also think that there are a lot of us who are unhealthy and that often, the most visible symptom of that is that we’re fat.

But, if part of what’s making us fat is that we feel like shit and make poor food choices based on what’s going to make us feel immediately better, then doesn’t this show you just how fucked-up and mean-spirited the anti-fat brigade is?

We see continued evidence that people who feel like shit make bad food choices in order to have their feelings of shittiness alleviated, at least for a little bit.  And yet, how many of the anti-fat folks are on some crusade to make sure that fat people know that everyone thinks they suck?

If getting people to eat right seems to, in part, require moving the baseline of how folks feel from “shitty” to “okay, thanks” why are all these anti-fat advocates running around trying to make fat people feel like shit?

Whew, this has really gone off on a tangent, but there you go.  I assume the answer to the question is that some folks are just, by nature, sanctimonious jackasses and, if they feel justified in that sanctimony, they are like some kind of unstoppable force, regardless of what kind of damage it does.

I remain, as always, amazed at how we can sit here in one of the most disgustingly rich countries in the world… okay the most disgustingly rich country in the world… and so thoroughly embrace the notion that we all ought to suffer some and that folks who should be suffering and are not must be made to pay.

Isn’t that weird?

We have everything or access to it.  Why do we organize our lives around suffering and unhappiness instead of decadent pleasure?



*Aside from librarians, is there another profession so full of kick-ass radical people as nursing?

** It comes as no surprise, I’m sure, to learn that Nashville doesn’t have convenient bus routes.