I’m Rethinking My Relationship With Food, Both Personally and Politically
Content warning: mentions of disordered eating, body dysmorphia.
The other day, my boyfriend and I were snuggling up on the couch, watching some cooking show. I don’t remember exactly what show it was, but nonetheless I sat there engrossed: a chef was walking through how to prepare an artichoke. He gingerly cut and trimmed the spiky outer leaves and removed the heart, or what he called the choke (never mind how silly it is to say “artichoke choke” out loud).
I immediately recalled how intimidated I was in high school when I bought one from Walmart after my best friend’s parents introduced me to artichoke dip. It sat there lonely in my fridge for a few weeks, simply because I was too scared to find out how to cook it. The artichoke was foreign to me, with its complex layers and flavors. By the time I gathered the courage to tackle the artichoke, it had gone bad. I haven’t bought an artichoke since.
It’s a miracle how much I’ve grown food-wise in the past year. I now eat and cook rainbow chard, squash, leeks, arugula, grapefruit, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. I never would have gone near any of these before leaving home—they were either too expensive or they weren’t perceived as vital parts of Puerto Rican or Mexican cuisine by my parents. For years, I assumed most vegetables and fruits were not meant for me. At the same time, though, I was restricting my diet in the deluded hopes of shrinking myself away.
“Healthy” food meant bland, pricey vegetables that I had no connection with and skinniness equated to cultural disintegration and depravation. I forced myself to try new vegetables, like artichokes, without considering how to prepare them in ways that felt true to me. But most of the time, I just skipped lunch or over-exercised because that was cheaper than buying veggies I hated. To no one’s surprise, I was absolutely miserable.
Thankfully, I no longer felt pressured to make myself skinnier when I moved away from Texas. Realizing that the fatphobia I witnessed and experienced was tied to racism changed how I viewed my body. In a similar vein, learning about food justice and food…