Beyond Bourgeois Healing Tropes

Almost everyone has a shocking food story. My roommate said she once didn’t know that Ramen noodles were supposed to be a soup, so she would mix in the flavor packet, scrapping the noodles raw like sand. When I went vegan, I used to eat an entire pack of Oreo cookies because at least Oreos were vegan. I used to go days or weeks without a vegetable, yet described myself as vegetarian.

Today I have been gluten-free, dairy-free and mostly processed foods free for 3 years, a radical response that I needed to take after suffering excruciating pain from autoimmune disease. (Please see my other blogs if you’re curious about those issues.)

I am left with so many What ifs. What if parents had enough money not only to raise children but to feed them healthy food? What if there is a relationship between trauma and chronic illness? How do you even individualize trauma when half of all American children are living in food insecure homes? What if the economy valued people who prepare and serve food? What if my spending more time in the kitchen wasn’t looked down upon as being servant-like? What if we had real nutrition education involving public debate rather than government propaganda?

How do I suggest changing one’s diet away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) without invoking classiest, ableist and other oppressive undertones? For many suffering from eating disorders, it is hard enough to simply eat let alone try to understand the complex relationship between nutrition and health. And even if one eats healthy foods, genetic and environmental factors can still negatively affect health.

Yet I find myself gravitating toward this bourgeois “whole foods” capitalist movement because I agree that eating foods as they come from the Earth is a good idea. However, it’s difficult to prepare all my own foods, so I end up under-eating or eating less than ideal options almost every day except for the weekends when I spend a lot of time cooking. I feel like I’ve suffered enough physical pain for one lifetime, and I need all the privilege that I can get to help me cope with my life. The political complexity of using privilege to survive is not lost on me, and it does not come without considerable guilt.

On a path to try to heal from chronic pain, I finally relented to try a low-cost acupuncture option. Everyone and their brother Joe tried to convince me to do acupuncture, so it became a way of dismissing my reality by saying I hadn’t tried hard enough to get better. Certainly, I have tried very hard to recover, from radically changing my diet to moving into a co-op house dedicated to being gluten free and dairy free, to coping with my troubles through writing and art. I have done acupuncture four times so far, and I can’t tell for sure if it is helping.

I see people all around me destroying their health by never eating vegetables, drinking too much alcohol, or obsessively eating processed foods. It’s because they have health left to destroy, I think to myself. How wonderful to not get on people’s nerves, to eat like an American and feel welcome at the table, but more and more people are not welcome at the table in this culture of poverty coupled with disordered eating in which critics who believe in healing are labeled elitist and out of touch with reality. When we demonize the healer (or someone who is on a healing journey), then how will we realize that the real nightmares of oppression live on in the corporate food lobby and the higher prices applied to people who try to fight against chronic health problems with better nutrition?

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About pennapril

feminist, activist, poet
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