Food is a pretty controversial topic. What kinds of food should we eat? How much should we eat? What’s considered “healthy” and “unhealthy”? As someone who has spent a significant portion of her life ruminating over these questions, I know that this can be a stressful and confusing endeavor.
But more than obsessing over a nutrition label or calorie count, one of the more pervasive aspects of food culture is its ability to change and morph our perception of which foods are deemed trendy. As the name suggests, food trends are constantly evolving: we’ve seen the food zeitgeist shift from low-fat to sugar-free to gluten-free in a matter of decades. And because our culture tends to rely on the latest pseudo-science to inform most dietary choices, it’s no wonder that certain foods go out of style rather quickly.
When I talk to friends and family, many people comment on the world’s growing health consciousness. And it’s true: there are more vegans and vegetarians than ever before, and whole, plant-based foods are now widely recognized as fundamental components of a healthy lifestyle. However, alongside this growing awareness, I think there is a second, equally important trend that deserves our attention.
Conversely, this trend celebrates indulging in what we consider to be “junk food.” Pizza, ice cream, chips, cookies, etc.—these foods all fall into this category. Don’t get me wrong: at PD, we encourage mindful consumption of all of the above and consider these foods to be part of a healthy lifestyle. No, what’s concerning here isn’t so much about the food itself, but rather the types of individuals that are promoting it.
Take a cursory glance at your various social media platforms—Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest—and you might come across memes that say, “Pizza is my best friend” or ask, “Who needs a boyfriend when I have Nutella?” From my own experience, the individuals sharing such confessionals are not overweight in the slightest; more often than not, they are slender (if not skinny), with glow-y skin and shiny hair. Seems a little incongruous, no?
There are several troubling factors about this trend. First and foremost, promoting the (excessive) consumption of unhealthy food is a kind of false advertising. It’s like saying, “See? You, too, can keep your thigh gap and slender waist if you eat ten slices of pizza in one sitting.” While I’m sure there are women who can indeed maintain this aura of perfection, they are not the majority.
Second, overweight or obese women who see thin women happily indulging are made to feel guilty and alienated for their own identical food choices. They are made to ask themselves, “Why can she eat a whole carton of ice cream and maintain her figure, but not me?” (Of course, this observation is made without considering the fact that perhaps the ice cream was the only thing the woman consumed all day, or that the whole thing was possibly fabricated.)
Furthermore, a junk food trend is dangerous because it emerges from the notion that a woman’s insatiable appetite is titillating to men. We’ve all seen the Superbowl commercials that feature scantily clad women gorging on juicy hamburgers, all of which are designed to appeal to the male gaze. Not only does this propagate an absurd notion of an ideal woman, who can maintain a perfect physique while eating whatever she wants, it also stipulates that a woman’s personal choices must always (always!) be an extension of her sexuality. In other words, it perpetuates the pervasive chauvinist idea that whatever a woman does/is, should be to increase her power of attraction…including how and what she eats.
It’s so important that we maintain awareness when these types of trends gain popularity. While there is no reason why we shouldn’t consume less healthy foods, it can become dangerous when these foods inform a trend that promotes an impossible (and unhealthy) ideal—both for the women advocating it, and for the women who judge themselves against it.
What do you think of the junk food trend?
Also by Molly: Ashtanga Yoga Poses for Opening Your Hips
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Photo: Carl’s Junior