I think I am practically gluten free. I think I drink enough water. I think I take spirulina every day and eat a mostly vegetable-based diet. So why am I still a little bit fat? Last month I decided to photograph every morsel that passed my lips. The results were horrifying. Welcome to The Food Delusion.
It was the highlight of the show. That moment. That scene. When Gillian McKeith, the aggressive nutritionist on TV presents a poor pudgy family with a week’s worth of their own food choices. Every morsel consumed, every drop drunk, every secret midnight snack, all laid out on a trestle table in their kitchen; layer upon and layer of food, slabs of cake, melted ice cream, burgers covered in cold solidified fat. Like The Last Supper gone wrong. Jesus on a bender. And the parents cry and the children’s bottom lips wobble and Gillian points at a mouldy piece of cheese, or a half eaten burger, and says something like, ‘That’s you that is!’ before patting them on the back and saying ‘It’s time to make a change.’ followed by a family road trip to the vegetable aisle of the nearest Lidl.
Well, I was my own mouldy piece of cheese. I was a half eaten burger. I had just been shown my own trestle table but without the assistance of grime-faced Gillian. The instrument of my shame had been my own iPhone, and it had started seven days earlier.
You see I had decided, the prior week, to photograph every morsel that passed my lips; every bite, every nibble, every snack and every meal. I started documenting my food this way after becoming confused at the current state of my body. It’s not that I’m fat. I’m not fat. I’m not even chubby. But I am skinny fat, which is the worst of all kinds. I store fat on my skinny frame. It hangs from my limbs, wobbles from my belly, flaps from my arms. There are areas of my body that resemble an actual mollusc – no skeletal structure inside. But this was in spite of my super food lifestyle. You see, I am a health guru. I am a lover of health. I have all the tools. I know all the jargon. I have a kitchen full of all the stuff. I’ve got a juicer (masticating ad regular) a NutriBullet, a soup maker, a slower cooker (who doesn’t love bone broth) and an assortment of alkaline super health cookbooks. I even have a cupboard of health, a veritable cornucopia of every kind of supplement known to man. If you came to me I could fix you up. I’d set you on the healthy path.
I also lecture on healthy eating. Not professionally. Not yet, anyway. Just to friends and relatives, the odd stranger, a man on the bus; parping my opinions all over the place, a trumpet of health, positivity and change. My dad and boyfriend suffer the worst. Many a mealtime has been ruined by my innocent sounding suggestions, such as ‘replace your pasta with cold shredded courgette’ or ‘Cauliflower really does make a great pizza base’, ebbing every droplet of enjoyment out of their supper.
All the while I was secretly pinching many inches under my organic t-shirt. With all the knowledge and all the chat, I was still squishy on the outside, hungry on the inside, with the will power of a skinny-fat lemming. I couldn’t say no to a bacon sandwich. I NEVER turned down a piece of chocolate. And two lattes on the way to work? ‘Yes please!’ with a sugarcoated cherry on top. I consume faster than I think. Items are devoured whole, like a snake swallowing a little mouse, all at once, all in one gigantic gulp.
So, how could I get my actions to align more with my intentions? How could I slow myself down? How could I become a regular skinny person and ditch the molluscs from my arse, hips and thighs?
The answer, as it turns out, was in my pocket. It’s the one thing I always have with me. It’s the one thing I can’t seem to escape. My phone. And my social media feed. I hated both in equal measure. But what if I could use them to my advantage? What if I photographed and shared everything that crossed my lips? Every rushed choice, every sugar laden latte, every three-minute rushed meal eaten from a saucepan or slung on a plate, more yellow than green, more functional than nourishing. Would that make me more accountable? Would that stop me in my tracks? The answer was yes. And the change was instantaneous.
Just the thought of having to photograph my food choices started a massive change in me. Stood at my kitchen counter, about to reach for something to nibble on, out of boredom, not hunger, to break up my working day, the thought of photographing those choices filled me with shame. As did the thought of photographing the Jaffa cake I ate last night while watching a film. And the next seven photographs I’d have to take after that as I repeatedly got back up to eat Jaffa after Jaffa, straight from the box. Eight Jaffa photos lined up for all to see. My lazy thoughtless choices. Not really choices at all. Just consumption. My unconscious consumption.
But it wasn’t just WHAT I was eating. It was HOW I was eating too. Perched on a stool, running for the bus, walking from the fridge to the sofa. The dinners eaten in front of the TV instead of at the table, food on a shabby old cracked plate, the different parts of my dinner looking like they were attacking each other, a food group fistfight to the death.
As soon as I had to photograph each and every one of these choices, as soon as my unconscious consumption became Instagram feed conscious, I slowed down. I questioned myself. Do I want this? Am I hungry? Is this even real food? I would take a few extra minutes to make sure my food looked nice on my plate, I sat down, I tried out the age-old art form of chewing. I got skinny, healthy skinning, and fast. It wasn’t about eating less, going without, going small. It was about going big, eating more often, taking more time, eating the best, making conscious well thought out choices. It was also about thinking ‘Shit, does this look good, what will other people think?’ They say that shame does not lead to change, but maybe, in this instance, it does? At least, in the beginning it did. It was the shame of the (insta)feed. But quickly it became about the shame of my prior lack of self-care, an Insta-reality check to treat myself and my body with more love.
We all speak about acceptance. Accepting who we are. Accepting where we are in life. Accepting that we may never blossom into Giselle. But maybe we should start accepting that we live in a shallow, image led society and, for once, use it to our healthy advantage.
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Take a photo of every single thing you eat. Try it for just three days. If you really want to make change fast, commit to posting the photos on your social media accounts. It’s amazing what a healthy dose of public shame and judgment can do to a secretly snacking person.