"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es."
Which means "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are." This saying has morphed into the ever popular "You are what you eat." This slogan has been used to reinforce "better" eating habits.
Some images of this would include:
Just looking at these three pictures we could get into quite a few social issues that have to do with food but I think the part that bothers me the most are the expectations associated with gender. Notice that both vegetable man and woman are posing in a "sexy" way. Whenever we talk about eating healthy-which is very important don't get me wrong- I find myself and others forgetting what HEALTHY looks like because our definition of healthy tends to be gendered. Women are expected to eat salads and be light whereas men are expected to eat meat and bulk up. Jean Kilbourne, author, speaker, and filmmaker, has been talking about issues such as this especially for women since the 1960's. Her latest video Killing Us Softly 4 Kilbourne states, "on the deepest level, the obsession with thinness is about cutting girls down to size, and what could say this more vividly than this relatively new size in women's clothing, size 0 and size 00. imagine a man going into a clothing store and asking for anything in a size zero, but our girls are taught to aspire to become nothing." She goes on to talk about eating disorders and how the media plays into them but I want to spin off in a different direction.
My question is:
If you are what you eat? Then what are you when you cannot physically eat?
I once asked this question and someone in my class said "Ha! You'd be dead." Slightly offended, I explained why this question ponders me.
My “little” in my sorority, Sarah, was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease (a disease that can affect any part of the GI tract) when she was in middle school, and even though I didn’t know her when she was first diagnosed, I have watched her struggle with the after-effects of four surgeries, an ostomy, and her newest addition a port (which is a small medical appliance that is installed beneath the skin. The catheter connects the port to a vein. And through this vein drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn many times, usually with less discomfort for the patient than a more typical needle.) She currently cannot eat orally so she receives IV nutrition and TPN (in a less technical explanation -weird white vitamin goop) through her port. As you might imagine, it is difficult when the topic of food comes up.
As you might gather--especially if you read her blog-- is that when you do not have the ability to eat you become more aware of how much our lives center around food. Not being able to eat can cause someone to miss out on crucial social interactions at every age. Let us travel back to pre-school for a second and think about a crucial part of your lunch box- in order to fit in your mom better have packed a fruit roll up or some Gushers or you were not a part of the “cool kids.” In middle school, lunch time replaced recess as a place for socializing. Where do you go before prom in high school? – Dinner. What is college without pizza? Have you ever heard of buisness lunches? The list goes on and on.
So, what exactly are you when you cannot eat? or when you do not eat? Mind you Crohns and eating disorders are completely different...but...do our lives center around the dining table so much so that you are nothing if you eat nothing?