I want to post this sort of rough draft of a post I want to post over at the official Lagusta’s Luscious blog here.
So many people ask me the damn skinny question that I HAVE to discuss it, lest I explode (every time I get it I almost start frothing at the mouth, to the honest. I think I downplayed that in the post below), but I don’t want to alienate my customers or anything. And I think we can have a more productive discussion about this irksome thing over here, then I can take the insights I’ve learned to tighten up the post over there. Sound good?
Herewith, the ramble:
I have endless energy, almost no muscles, flabbiness galore, long limbs, wrists and hands that are so weird a friend calls them “elegant claws,” bad circulation that means I’m always cold, knobby knees, and, in general, 5 feet 8 inches and 106-110 lbs of fried-food-lovin’, protein-hatin’, salad-obsessed 18-years-vegan fierceness. Why do I have the body I have, this bundle of contradictions that carries me through my life? Who knows. My mom is skinny/I energetically move around for 8-15 hours a day/I’m vegan—pick one, or none. I suspect genetics most of all, and an absurdly high metabolism probably pays a part, too.
I’d like a firmer butt, plumper lips, and knees that aren’t weirdly sharp. I’d like muscles. I’d really, really like muscles.
But, for the most part, we get what we get.
And what I’ve got is people saying things like “how can you be a chocolatier and be so skinny?” at least once a week.
I really struggle with how to answer this seemingly cute question in a way that encapsulates my both feminist politics and business owner’s need to keep the conversation light. Let me ramble about it here and see if I can come up with anything.
I’m not especially healthy.
I mean, I am healthy, but it’s sort of a coincidence: as much as I love caramel, I love salad much more. I really am that vegan who just wants to eat salad all day long. On the other hand, I probably put twice as much dressing on my salad as the average salad-eater. I love greens, and I love oil. In cooking school I learned a bit about the Indian theory of Ayurveda, which divides people into types, called doshas. My dosha (vata pitta) specified that lots of healthy fats and oils are best to keep me running at top speed. I’d always felt guilty about my love of fat, but after Ayurveda class I made my salad dressings with a classically French 6:1 ratio of oil to vinegar, ate as many avocados as my food budget would allow, and generally just let go of the idea that fat is bad. I began to feel better and better. I had more energy, my skin looked better—I’d begun to learn how to eat.
I’m healthy because, after many years of trial-and-error eating, I’ve figured out what makes me feel good, and feeling good feels so good that I don’t want to eat crap that will make me feel like crap. You know? It’s the secret of everyone who’s stopped struggling with food: eating good feels good. It sometimes takes years of stripping away cultural biases against lettuce and beets and brussels sprouts to realize that chips and dip aren’t actually as tasty as, well, lettuce and beets and brussels sprouts.
I think I’m getting off track here.
I think, actually, I’m wandering into territory I don’t mean to cover at all, stuff that should maybe go into a different blog post.
First of all, I’m trying to say something so obvious: skinny does not equal healthy. I’ve always been skinny, but until I started training at a health-supportive cooking school I wasn’t really healthy—I didn’t know how to feed myself. And even today I would love to be stronger, to feel a power in my body that I suspect friends of mine who work out feel. But I’m doing OK. A few years ago, on a lark during a routine physical I decided to get everything checked out: protein, B12, iron, the whole thing. All my numbers were great–even the B12, even though I never take any supplements (don’t follow my example–take your flax seed oil and your B12, vegans!). (I suspect the B12 was because I eat so many fermented foods.)
I guess here’s what I’m trying to say: there have been times when I’ve been healthy, and times when I haven’t been—and my body has always looked the same. It seems like such an obvious point, but: someone’s weight is not a reliable indicator of their overall health.
But health is not what someone is talking about when they offhandedly say, “How can you be surrounded by chocolate all day, and be so skinny?”
They are saying a lot of things, and one of them is that old saying about never trusting a skinny chef. How can someone angular and vaguely sour (I’m afraid I’m a bit of both) create true indulgences? Being skinny is all about self-deprivation, right? And good food is all about indulgence?
I’d say no to both—good food is about nourishment, on shallow levels (it’s needed to stay alive) and deep levels (good food feeds the soul). A square of dark chocolate to round out a farm-fresh home-cooked meal, a caramel or two or fifteen after a stressful day—these are everyday treats that make life wonderful, not secret indulgences that we have to keep in check and make ourselves feel guilty about, lest we become gluttons.
But back to trust. There’s something about trust in the question, isn’t there?
I trust food.
We’ve gotten to such a sad place in our society that so many women, women chronically on diets, assume that to be around food means wanting to eat food. I don’t want to eat when I’m not hungry. In fact, it’s my least favorite activity. I love eating so much that eating when not hungry seems somehow treasonous, like getting a love letter and not even reading it.
But I understand the temptation to eat when food is there (an inclination I suspect may dieters have) because it’s an inclination I had for many years for the opposite reason: as a kid I really didn’t eat very much at all, because sometimes there just wasn’t that much to eat. We ate a lot when we had food, because we didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. It took me years and years to realize that food insecurity is, hopefully, not coming back into my life any time soon. I don’t need to hoard food or eat like there’s no tomorrow. Food is safely here, and the food is a world of warm, sheltering arms holding me. Food has always been my friend.
Getting back to the question. I feel like I’m subtly trying to answer the question (I only eat when I’m hungry!) when the answer isn’t what matters (and that answer would be wrong anyway, since I suspect I’m just one of those people for whom what I eat and how I look are not too connected).
The question, and where the question comes from, is what I’m ramblingly trying to get to here.
It’s a cute, light-hearted question, but it always brings me down, as you can see.
And not just because I have a degree in Women’s Studies.
OK…maybe that’s partially why.
Maybe I’m rambling so much because I’m not really sure how to talk about this subject. I come to it with a lot of weird privilege. I’ve never known what it felt like to hate my body (though I certainly had my awkward years, like everyone else), and I know that for many, many people, that feeling is an everyday companion, and it saddens me so much I almost can’t stand it.
I don’t want my joyful little chocolates to make anyone feel bad about themselves, or guilty, or naughty (except in a kinky way.). I want my chocolates to be a celebration of life, of diversity, of happiness and wonder at what the earth can produce.
I don’t want my chocolates to have anything to do with patriarchy. The “why are you so skinny” thing is, at its root, about the commandment we all have in our society, women more than men, but men too, to be skinny at all costs. That old chestnut.
What I want to say is: hey, your question implies that skinny bodies are a superior standard, and I reject that assumption! Hooray for size diversity, for health and happiness in all forms! It’s a coincidence that I’m skinny, just as it’s a coincidence that other women aren’t, and we all deserve chocolate! Your question implies, also, that chocolate is a forbidden treat to be rationed out, and my dark chocolate, with its savory edges, with its stone-ground goodnesses and nibs and chilies and gingery bits and corn-on-the-cob-bar-nesses and all the rest, is more akin to ancient Aztec chocolates that were a savory part of a meal, rather than the gross sugar bombs that are mainstream contemporary American chocolate! Chocolate for all! Here’s to health and diversity and loving who we are! Here’s to self-love! Here’s to DESSERT!
So….how can I compress that into one sentence?