Confessions of a Conscious Eater

How did putting down slim women become acceptable? When I heard a television reporter say that the actress was “sinewy” I wanted to ask him to use a dictionary. When a friend said “you must weight 92 pounds,” I wanted to say something hurtful in reply. I squelched my defensive reaction, and tried to reflect on what that remark was telling me about her, and possibly our relationship. “Skinny” or “thin” is not the same as slim, slender or svelte. Do you hear the distinction? I sense a disquieting and growing insensitivity to mark slim women as negative.

Wake up people everyone that is slim, is not, “skinny”, “anorexic”, a size “zero”, nor have misguided obsessive psychological problems about their childhood, their looks, or about fat. Wake up to a new awareness. Many healthy and slim people have actually chosen to be conscious, and humane eaters. We strongly believe that what we eat determines our health, our physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing, and thus the quality of our lives. We take responsibility, daily, for what goes into our mouths.

Perhaps some of what I processed as a kid, in the homeland of my parents, had a powerful impact on my ideas about food. I remember the panicked nausea I felt the day my sister and I came upon my grandparents ripping the skin off a rabbit, pulling from both ends. Gone was the rabbit’s magnificence, his untainted beauty, and his dignity, replaced, in my mind, by a profoundly disturbing act. Killing is exploitive. It says I am worthy of life and you are not. This does not resonate well for me.

Each morning my grandfather braced himself from the chilly dawn with a shot of cognac, after which he would tend to his pigs, chickens, pigeons, and his hunting dogs, much as he tended to his family, in a gruff seemingly insensitive manner. In the afternoon I might see pigeons hanging by their necks, until their struggles ended, in the door frame of the café, or pig parts drying inside. Dic, the hunting dog was cloistered, alone, in the wine cellar, released into the light of day only during hunting season.

While this seemingly detached behavior was no doubt common in the country, and, I suppose, a necessity for sustainability, I was a California girl of 12, unexposed to the reality of slaughter, and the revulsion it inducted in me. This awareness, in part, formed my values around what was spiritually appropriate food for me, and what was unconscious behavior.

Seemly to me, most people are careful not to offend the overweight but are blind and deaf to the insults made upon the slim. In school, I was often teased about being skinny and naturally it hurt. Eventually my lithe bikinied body drew male attention, and I became more accepted. This shift from being ridiculed and labeled “bones”, to being referred to as “foxy” is an impression that left its cast.

Summers spent hiking in France, and volleyball days in Redondo, taught me to value all healthy heavenly bodies, not one above the other. With exercise I came to an appreciation and love of the human body, with as much awe as I have for the movements of my cat. I learned that when I honored all life, no matter how different, I was more gentle. When I was thankful and grateful for all earth’s creatures, I was more respectful of my unique gift. My eating and exercise habits are a profound expression of my spiritual beliefs. They keep me centered on what is important to my existence. So when you say I am skinny, you ping me to the core.

In the late 60’s I gave up eating flesh completely. Nothing is more repulsive to me than a chunk of body part on my plate. I frequently visited Mrs. Gooch’s health food store, drank their liquid protein, tried the soy chicken, and read a lot about food and healing, and the vegetarian alternative. I became an insatiable student of health. It became a part of me.

Overweight people are not alone in hearing disparaging words from friends, and the public at large. As obesity grows in America, and we distance our body from its natural healthy way, perhaps combative thoughts and words become more prevalent as a means to deflect the fear of losing our own true selves. Or perhaps, often, people just don’t know better. Being different screams out for scrutiny. Sticks and stones do hurt my bones, but words will also hurt me. Can we learn to observe each other and see the splendor of diversity?

Human perfection is impossible, while humanism can be reached, one conscious thought at a time.

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