One of the few items in the pro column of the list of reasons for or against spending the week being sick is that it gives you time to catch up on your TV watching. My usual go to sick day Entertainment, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, was inexplicably absent from the listings, so I watched a lot of Family Feud (which is hosted by J. Peterman from Seinfeld, much to my surprise), and America Plays Trivial Pursuit (which I still don’t understand, and which was hosted by someone who looked suspiciously like a former Brady kid), and the Cosby Show (which I have a deep and abiding love for that I do not have plans to forsake any time soon). In the evenings, Mike and I also caught up on many of the shows cluttering up our PVR. This included the 100 Mile Challenge, the new Food Network show based on the ideas from this book.
The basic premise of the book is that the greater the distance your food travels to get from where it is grown, milked, juiced, or butchered to your dinner plate or cereal bowl, the worse it is for the environment. The authors of the book spent a year eating only food that came from within 100 miles of where they lived, and have become quasi-celebrities as a result. The basic premise of the show is that the book authors challenged the residents of Mission, BC to live out the 100-mile rule for 100 days. The show follows 6 families as they struggle with the rules of the challenge and learn to live without simple things like sugar, cinnamon, salt, and olive oil (not to mention more obvious long-distance foodstuff like kiwi fruit, avocados, lemons, and beer, along with the prepackaged foods many of them had come to rely on). Each week focuses on a new set of challenges, taking them from carb withdrawal to the discovery of wheat grown 30 miles from their town to the discovery that whole wheat bread is pretty awful when it’s baked without the aid of yeast and/or other leavening agents, and from craving tropical fruit to the discovery that thanks to global warming, it is now possible to grow oranges and lemons out on Vancouver Island.
It’s been a very interesting show to watch; very entertaining and extremely thought-provoking to say the least. But the thing that has had the greatest impact on me in the 4 episodes they’ve aired (aside from the appearance last week of “foraging expert” Fritz Sprietzle, which I think we can all agree is a name that is sufficiently awesome enough for Mike and I to name our first-born if ever we should have one) was a brief exchange between one of the women participating in the challenge and a friend of hers who isn’t. It had nothing to do with the challenge itself and everything to do with how incredibly screwed up our relationship is with the food that we eat.
One couple on the show was celebrating their 10th anniversary, and invited a large group of their friends over for a 100-mile dinner party to celebrate. There were a number of conversations shown (heavily edited, no doubt) where the 100-milers were explaining to their skeptical friends exactly why they were participating in the challenge, what value they had seen in it, and the great lifestyle changes they were experiencing as a result. The woman hosting the party (who I feel in the interest of full disclosure I should mention was fairly slim; although it really shouldn’t matter, I know it does in the context of this story) explained to a friend of hers that she had been experiencing really disruptive digestive problems for a number of years and was happy to report that within a few weeks of starting the challenge, she was feeling better than she had in years. Her friend blinked for a minute, and said, “But have you lost any weight?” When hearing that the response was no, she rolled her eyes and said dismissively that she wasn’t interested. And, you know, it’s not all that surprising. We have developed such an adversarial relationship with food that we’re only interested in the ways in which we can manipulate it, formulate it, engineer it to be far enough away from food that it will help us lose the pounds we gained from eating food that never really resembled food much in the first place.
As women, we really are very stupid, aren’t we? It’s not entirely our fault (I mean, we do what we have to do to survive in the culture in which we live) but when the members of our gender are willing to spend billions of dollars every year en masse on pills, shakes, scales, measuring cups, meetings, cookbooks, how-to books, slimming foundation garments, memberships to special gyms that promise special results, bathing suits with ruching in just the right places to hide the bulges we have in all the wrong places, and little packages of chemicals to add fake flavouring and a single gram of synthetic dietary fibre to our bottled water, it doesn’t make us come off very well, or very well balanced for that matter.
How did we allow ourselves to get pushed so far off course that this special brand of insanity seems at all-too-frequent times like our only option? And at what point did that all start to seem normal? At what point did it become easier to torture ourselves about the size of our jeans and count the calories in an apple and drag ourselves to the gym to work off last night’s indulgences than it is to just eat the freaking apple, and then eat a banana or a sandwich and occasionally eat a plate of nachos or a slice of chocolate cake and then move on with our lives, and take a long walk with the dog just because it’s sunny out and it feels good to sweat?
I’m guilty of all of it too (oh, how guilty I am) but, you know, it’s got to stop somewhere. It just really has to stop.