Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Ember, Contributor

cw: fatphobia, disordered eating

Food is what fuels our bodies. So why is it that there is an ever increasing rise of popularity in dieting and diet culture? A movement that encourages us to deprive ourselves; to aspire to be thin. To put it plainly? A hatred for fat bodies that results in widespread disordered eating.

The way we frame different topics and discussions is very important. This especially applies to the way we talk about food, our bodies and other people’s bodies.

Caloric science is based on outdated Western scientific methods from the nineteenth century by Wilbur Atwater. It is the estimate of how much energy is contained in a portion of food by burning it in a tank submerged in water, and measuring how much burning the food increased the temperature of the surrounding water.

However, it is hard to accurately predict the energy stored in food; our bodies do not work as simply as a furnace burning fuel. There are many factors that influence the calories of the foods we eat, like how the food is prepared, if cellulose is present and how much energy it takes to digest the food.

Not to mention, there are additional factors that affect digestion, such as metabolism, age, gut bacteria and physical activity. Labels on food do not accurately represent what we’re putting into our body nor what we’re getting out of it.

Ever since Canada enforced the Healthy Menu Choices Act back in 2016, which requires food establishments to list the amount of calories in their products, there has also been an increasing number of discussions surrounding the negative impact of the addition of calories to menus.

Another measurement that is often used to determine how healthy we are is body mass index, even though it is an inaccurate measurement of “health” for multiple reasons. It was meant to analyze the weight of populations, not individuals, and doesn’t take into account whether mass is fat or muscle. As a result, BMI is a biased and harmful method to gauge health.

Along with measurements like calories and BMI, language surrounding food can also be dangerous. You may hear things like “carbs are bad”, or you may hear discourse on “healthy” versus “unhealthy” foods, “cheat days” and “clean eating”, to name some examples. This language can contribute to the notion that we should feel bad for eating food, when it simply is a way to nourish ourselves and additionally, something to enjoy.

Diet culture is so pervasive and present in society. It is encouraged by menus listing calorie amounts, peers, elders and healthcare professionals in various ways. Thoughts like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” stem from conflating “health” and “weight”, which has roots in racism, classism and fatphobia.

Diet culture is so pervasive and present in society. It is encouraged by menus listing calorie amounts, peers, elders and healthcare professionals in various ways. Thoughts like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” stem from conflating “health” and “weight”, which has roots in racism, classism and fatphobia.

Hannah Meier, a dietitian who contributed to a project tackling women’s health, writes about how society glorifies dieting. In Meier’s article titled A Dietitian’s Truth: Diet Culture Leads to Disordered Eating she writes, “I was half-functioning. I remember filling pages of journals with promises to myself that I wouldn’t eat. I planned out my week of arbitrary calorie restrictions that were shockingly low and wrote them all over my planner, my whiteboard, the foggy mirror in the bathroom.” 

For many of us, the mindset of diet culture swallows you whole, consumes your every thought and waking moment, then spits you out like rotten food.

Oftentimes, people aren’t advocating for diets because they want to be “healthy”. Instead, they often feel passionate about dieting because of their hate and disdain for fat people since they associate being “fat” with “unhealthy”, “unhappy” or “unlovable”.

It’s also important to note that views on fatness and fat bodies change depending on the time period and culture; renaissance paintings often depict fat women in angelic and celestial aesthetics. As well, certain cultures, both past and present, value fatness as a symbol of privilege, power, wealth and fertility.

Diet culture, eating disorders, and fatphobia are so tightly knit together that they are like an ill-fitting sweater woven by your grandmother that you didn’t want or ask for. Sometimes you think about wearing it, to make things easier or simpler. But it won’t. You will only become a shell of your former self; a husk that is barely scraping by.

Any joy derived from depriving yourself is temporary. A scale will weigh how much of you is there, but it won’t weigh how much of you has been lost to an eating disorder. It is a mental illness, a distortion of reality and external factors that influence how you think. You can’t just stop having an eating disorder on a whim.

Calorie counting isn’t healthy, demonizing certain foods isn’t healthy and having preconceived notions about someone’s health based on how their body looks isn’t “just caring about their health.” Stop calling food “unhealthy” or “healthy”, start calling it “nourishing” or “not/less nourishing. Eat food that makes you happy and makes you feel good. Bodies are so many things, including wonderful and complex. You only have one — so treat it with kindness.

 

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By: Sevda Montakhab

University students face constant challenges including exams or projects that interfere with their ability to maintain good health through exercise and a healthy diet. The first year of university can especially take a toll on students’ health — equipped with a limited budget and unlimited access to cheap snacks, students can encounter serious hurdles when trying to eat healthy.

For the majority of students, university is the first time that they are living independently. While these students may have knowledge of their nutritional requirements, the transition to university provides immense freedom over food choice. This is critical as it marks the formation of students’ dietary habits, which can follow them throughout adulthood.

Unfortunately, it is common for students to make unhealthy dietary decisions, as they aim to choose the most convenient food options available, which are not necessarily the most healthy. At McMaster University, the most convenient food options available to students on-campus are those provided by the university’s hospitality services.

It is sad then that McMaster Hospitality Services consistently fail to provide students with affordable and nutritional food options. In doing so, they seem ignorant of the critical role they play in shaping the dietary habits of McMaster students.

The type and quality of food provided by Hospitality Services put students at risk for making poor dietary choices. Despite the variety of food options available, there are only a handful of meals served on-campus that are reasonably-priced and of good quality.

Most food served on-campus is frozen and unappetizing, earning McMaster Hospitality Services a bad reputation among students who a month into the school year often resort to convenience foods including fried and processed meals.

The seemingly-healthy food options offered across campus such as the premade salad packages sold at La Piazza are expensive, stale and sometimes even inedible due to a lack of attention paid by the staff to properly handle the fresh ingredients.

Another cause for concern is the exuberant price of on-campus food, a concern that is severely overlooked by McMaster Hospitality Services. For example, ordering a plate of food at East Meets West Bistro can cost students $15. This poses a serious issue to students who in addition to trying to navigate the most healthy food options available are also constrained by a tight budget.

Observing the rise in costs over the past few years, it is clear that McMaster Hospitality Services focuses on profit rather than quality, and seems to care little about its student customers.  

McMaster Hospitality Services needs to change to meet the financial situation of their students as well as provide them with quality food. There is an urgent need to provide more affordable, appetizing and nutritional food options that can encourage students to make more healthy decisions.

The implementation of such changes is sure to not only improve the quality of student life on-campus but also improve the overall health of the community of the future.

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Hating your body is NOT normal

You do not have to hate yourself. It is not normal, even if it is common. Often, our negative thoughts about ourselves become habits and we don’t even notice how much they have taken over our lives. It is perfectly OK to love your body as it is, or even just to come to terms with it.  Disordered eating is pervasive, and bodily self-hate is everywhere, but it doesn’t have to be. The mantra of “every body is beautiful, including my own” is one that I repeat to myself constantly, and that I also tell those I love when they are struggling. Find your own mantra and use it wisely. You and your body are on the same team; cultivate a good relationship and you will be astonished what you can accomplish together.

Food is everywhere

And I don’t just mean physically, I mean socially. You don’t realize just how many events — religious, family, or friendly — revolve around food until you try to give it up. Swearing off food is nothing short of social death. In hindsight, the saddest moments in my life were those when I sat and ate my pitiful meals alone, picking at celery sticks and egg whites alone in the quiet confines of my room. Food was never meant to be a solitary activity, yet we spend too much time eating independently or in the company of Netflix. Treasure your communal meals, because the nourishment of company is just as important as what you are eating together.

Everyone is beautiful

A funny thing happened when I started being open about my body dysmorphia. The people I thought would be the happiest with their bodies — the slim and conventionally appealing — were no more satisfied with their appearance than the ordinary looking. What I discovered is that how you feel about your body has very little to do with your body itself. When I was a full 70 pounds heavier than my sickest weight, I was also happier with my body than I’d ever been (and the healthiest I’d ever been too). The best way I’ve found to begin healing your relationship with your body is to stop judging other people for their appearance. If you can learn to accept other people, it becomes a hell of a lot easier to coexist with your own “faults.”

Life is too short for diets

Remember what I said about food and social death? I was not kidding. A diet takes away your focus on the important things in life and replaces it with a cycle of guilt, self-hatred, and smug superiority. While not all diets are eating disorders, they have one important thing in common; they narrow your focus down to one thing and one thing only — the food you cannot eat. They also don’t work. Five years after a diet your chances of keeping the weight off is only five percent likely, and many people actually gain back more weight than they’ve lost. My — admittedly extreme — diet has even had permanent or semi-permanent negative effects on my body and mind. You are torturing yourself for nothing. Seriously, life is too short.

Relearn everything about your health

Thinness is not health. We all have that one skinny friend that eats terribly and does not exercise — and as an autonomous human being, that is their right — but why on earth would we assume that they are healthier than the fat person who exercises daily and enjoys wholesome food? More and more studies are showing that lifestyle has a much larger impact on health than size, and the two are not necessarily correlated. We accept the fact that some people can be naturally skinny, but we can’t accept that some people may be naturally larger, and that there is nothing wrong with that. Some people are naturally fat and they are not any less healthy, beautiful, or worthy of respect.

Photo Credit: Cicanevelde.hu

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By: Sohana Farhin/ SHEC

Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah, Salma Hayek, Megan Fox, the clan of Kardashians, Jared Leto and Beyonce, have claimed to use detox diets to lose weight. The most popular celebrity detox diet is known as the Master Cleanse.

The Master Cleanse was created by Stanley Bourroughs, a man arrested for practicing medicine without a proper license. The detox diet promises to “cleanse the body of toxins and obliterate cravings for juices, alcohol, tobacco and junk food.” The diet plan consists of drinking a glass of salt water in the morning, 6-10 glasses of a concoction consisting of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper throughout the day and drinking a laxative tea at night for 10 days. For these 10 days, you do not consume any solid foods.

First and foremost, what does it mean to detox your body? “De-tox” literally means eliminating toxins — harmful agents that are found in the environment, including mercury and bisphenol A. Detoxification is a natural process that occurs in your body in which organs such as your liver, your kidneys, your lungs, or your skin excrete toxins to eliminate them from your body. Despite being “based on a natural bodily process,” there is no scientific evidence that proves that certain detox diets actually help the organs in our body in the process of detoxification. Detox is becoming a buzzword widely used by celebrities, and it is essentially a sales pitch with no evidence-based research to back it up.

At the end of the day, losing weight can be attributed to creating a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories in a day than you are eating. Celebrities have used the Master Cleanse to lose weight, but the reason they are losing weight is not because the concoctions they drink throughout the day have magical detoxifying properties, but rather because of the large calorie deficit that these diets promote. Although you will consume very few calories while on a “detox” diet, you will be deprived of macro and micronutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function optimally. This will stress your body, with particularly intense effects on the digestive tract, and may have negative long-term health effects. Additionally, it can lead to a cycle of dieting followed by binging. This process, popularly referred to as “yo-yo dieting,” can lead to weight gain as well as physical and mental health complications. Ultimately, it is advisable to always consult a healthcare professional to make dietary restrictions that will work for you and your health long-term.

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By: Emily Current

At a time when we are realizing that climate change is becoming an increasingly pressing issue, that our society as a whole doesn’t have the greatest eating habits, and that there are ethical issues surrounding meat production, many people are turning to veganism as a solution. Veganism, not eating any animal products, including eggs and milk, is often seen as healthy, environmentally-friendly, and socially-conscious, making it the magical solution to all of our problems, right? Not quite. While veganism is often presented as the best option for everyone, we need to realize that not only is veganism not perfect, but also that it is not an option for everyone.

First, we need to consider the fact that veganism is an individual choice and it is not always the best option for everyone. Consider for instance, people recovering from eating disorders. Veganism requires a large amount of thought and time being put into what foods can and cannot be eaten, and many people in recovery cannot handle this amount of conscious restriction on what foods they can or cannot eat. The fact that veganism cuts away two of the four food groups is extreme, and many people may not have the time or energy to be able to find a healthy, balanced, vegan diet. So while veganism does have the potential to be healthy, it simply does not work for everyone.

One of the selling points for veganism is that it will supposedly help lessen the impact of climate change. It is reasoned that since plant agriculture requires less water and produces less greenhouse gases than farming meat, it is better for the environment. However, veganism isn’t the great solution to climate change that it is suggested to be. With veganism comes an increased demand for certain foods like quinoa and soy products (some of which must be imported) that actually leads to the development of monoculture of such crops. These monocultures lead to water depletion and drain soils of their nutrients, making this agriculture unsustainable. While eating plants may in fact have an impact on greenhouse gasses, it is not a flawless environmental solution.

Because veganism is not limited to food, but also extends to all animal by-products, there are some issues with veganism unrelated to nutrition. For example, some vegans avoid certain vaccines, like the flu shot, because they are typically grown in eggs. While this may only be a minority of vegans, it is still a problem that people are not getting vaccinated, which is important to maintaining health.

Veganism isn’t the great solution to climate change that it is suggested to be.

Veganism is also expensive, meaning that it is simply not an option for many people. For example, soy milk costs almost twice as much as regular milk. Even if you think that veganism is the way to go and that people should adopt it, it is not fair to tell people who cannot afford it that they should go vegan. If someone is struggling to pay for food in the first place, they should not be guilted into buying more expensive foods. It is important to realize that income is a factor for some consumers, and this means that not everyone has the option of even considering ethical purchasing.

Overall, people need to realize that veganism is not what it presents itself as being. Is it inherently healthy? It can be, but not for everyone and not easily. Is it better for the environment? Maybe, but it can lead to monocultures and water depletion. Is it socially-conscious? No, it is not financially accessible. While none of these issues are exclusive to veganism, they are important to take into account. Because of the way veganism is presented as an ideal to be adopted by everyone, it is critical that we stop and think about the ways in which this might not be true.

Photo Credit: Bettaveg

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If bacon is bad for you, then I don’t want to live, and if the WHO is right, that won’t be a choice for me. The other day the aptly named organization (as in WHO do you think you are, destroying my world by telling me that the most delicious meat is carcinogenic?) tweeted: “Experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal #cancer by 18%.”

The first thing to say is, “What part of my body exactly does colorectal cancer affect? Can I live without it?” The second thing: people forget that there’s an 82 percent chance of not getting cancer (I don’t think that’s how statistics works, but whatever), and a 100 percent chance of having foodgasms for the duration of your life if you consume pig fat.

The fun hating “experts” from the International Agency of Research on Cancer examined over 800 “scientific studies” to determine that bacon belongs in the dreaded “group 1” of noxious substances that negatively affect human health. Other fearsome substances in this group include asbestos, alcohol and cigarettes. I fear that one day, my child will need to use a fake ID to buy bacon with a picture of a dying baby’s lung on the package.

So what’s our alternative? Dulse, a strain of red algae that apparently has a strong bacon flavour. These people are probably the same people who claim chickpea cookie dough tastes like the real thing (it doesn’t). Somewhere in an American grocery store, Ron Swanson is tossing all dulse samples into the garbage. When asked about the bad news for bacon lovers, Ron called it, “total f**king bulls**t.” He emphasized that we should not panic, and instead procure as much bacon as humanly possible and hide it in as many locations you can. Wise words.

Taking a step back, I quickly realized that 50g of bacon is approximately equivalent to six medium slices of bacon. If you’re eating that much bacon everyday, we have bigger problems to deal with. Also, cutting down on bacon consumption to a reasonable amount is not difficult. Instead of using two strips to wrap your scallop, use one. Get your Double Down from KFC without bacon. It’s definitely okay to eat it once you replace the carcinogenic bacon with dulse.

Remember, these “scientists” have been wrong before. Margarine isn’t better for you than butter–and it definitely doesn’t taste the same. Egg yolks, once shunned for its cholesterol content, also turn out to not be bad for you.

Bacon, you’ve been under a lot of heat lately, but know that I will always love you. Everything about you is perfect. Your smell gets me out of bed everyday. The sizzle you makes when you hit a hot pan. The crunch you make when you’re bitten. The grease that coats my mouth and the warmth you spread in my body. Bacon, you make everything better. Never change (but I’d prefer it if you didn’t kill me).

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By: Sophie Hunt

On Oct. 7, the warm fall air was filled with the scent of fresh produce as McMaster students filled Mills Plaza for the first ever Local Food Fest.

The event was hosted by Mac Farmstand, an MSU service that sells locally-grown fruits and vegetables on campus from June to October. The Local Food Fest brought together McMaster food initiatives such as MACgreen, Mac Bread Bin, and Mac Veggie Club, as well as numerous local food producers and distributors.

“Farmstand’s goal is to encourage students to have more local eating habits,” said Jonathon Patterson, Mac Farmstand’s director. “A lot of people enter university after living with their parents and being used to having meals with family. University is when we start to develop our food habits, and local food is so important.”

This year, Mac Farmstand has served an averaged of 200 people per day, almost double the number of clients it has seen in previous years. The Local Food Fest was created as a result of the increased interest in local food that Farmstand has seen.

One of the local vendors represented at the event was The Mustard Seed, a cooperative grocery store that sells food grown and produced in the Hamilton area. The store is located at the intersection of Locke Street North and York Boulevard in downtown Hamilton.

“Anything that can be local is local at our grocery store,” said Meg Makins, a representative from The Mustard Seed. “This festival is all about local food, so it was a perfect fit . . . I think [the event] raises awareness about the importance of local food, and it helps students realize that they can access local food in a simple way.”

The Farmstand closes on Oct. 31, so the service is brainstorming ways to continue to promote local food sources for students that have come to rely on local produce. “We’re looking at continuing past Oct. 31,” said Patterson. “The stand would be closed, but we’d be having local farmers come in for an interactive panel discussion.”

“We’re partnering with the residences to offer smaller cooking classes within residence for students to learn how to cook things that they can cook when living on campus,” added Patterson. “We’re also working on partnering with the Student Health Education Centre for having a dietician who would be at Farmstand just for one day, so if people have questions they can have those questions answered.”

This is the first year that Mac Farmstand has hosted the event on campus, but the service hopes to make the Local Food Fest an annual event.

Survival of the fittest can be a skewed term. In apocalyptic scenarios, common methods of endurance tend to favour the idea of burly men cutting down trees, sowing and gathering seeds, and the inevitable hunting of animals. Although meat may seem like an element of a balanced diet and a necessity for survival, recent studies have proven that vegetarianism may be the way to go.

Research completed at Loma Linda University in California has proved that, on average, vegetarians had a 12 percent reduced risk of death from any possible health-related scenario as opposed to meat-eaters, who all appeared to be looking down the barrel of death.

In line with this research, five McMaster students share their veg*n stories and prove that following a meat-free diet can be a beneficial and accessible change.

Veg*ns on Campus

Second-year Electrical Engineering student Michael Podlovics chose to make the move to meatless when he started university. “When I was planning on living away from my parents, I realized that moving out was a chance to build my own lifestyle,” he explained. Podlovics has now transitioned to veganism and is still rooted in his initial cause for making the change. “The biggest concern I had, and still have, with the industry is the staggering environmental impacts and ethical issues associated with industrial production of livestock.”

A commonly overlooked trait of the food industry is that meat production doesn’t rely solely on animals that are born and raised naturally in farm settings. Livestock production and harvesting is a huge industry that uses valuable natural resources and fossil fuels to mass raise and transport animals that are born to be turned into meals. It’s both an environmental and ethical issue that resonates with many turned veg*ns.

“After opening up my eyes to the reality [of meat production], I knew that being vegan was the right choice for me,” explained Tori Jelilyan, a second-year Health Science student and a vegan since May 2013.

Both third-year Multimedia student Rebecca Annibale and fourth-year Philosophy and Multimedia student Mathew Towers made the transition to vegetarianism when they were in the tenth grade.

“The main reason I decided to become a vegetarian was the disdain I felt towards eating meat; not only did I find it not appetizing, but I found it unethical as well,” explained Towers.

Meg Peters, a fourth-year English and Arts & Science student, is also one of the presidents of the McMaster Veggie Club. Peters became a vegetarian at age 12, and a vegan at age 13. For almost a decade now, she has been devoted to maintaining her diet and has used knowledge of the practice to spread its pros and cons with the McMaster community.

Accessibility at McMaster

“Bridges is a godsend for veg*ns trying to eat on campus,” added Peters.

The on-campus vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant has been run in collaboration with Diversity Services since 2005. The café also contributed to McMaster being ranked as a top veg*n friendly campus through the “peta2” list (a branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in 2006 and 2007.

Bistro, or East meets West, has also been noted as a great campus spot for veg*n friendly cuisine as it easily makes substitutes for ingredients.

“A nice new addition to campus has been the Mac Farmstand in the summer and fall, which has started serving up wonderful fresh and local salads,” said Jelilyan.

Although McMaster has definitely proved itself to be a veg*n friendly campus, there is room for improvement to make it more inclusive for all dietary concerns.

“One of the main problems that I have heard from a lot of veg*n students at Mac is the lack of transparency on campus with respect to ingredients,” said Peters.

As tasty as Mac’s vegetarian and vegan options are, many of the servers that deal directly with the students are not well informed on the contents of dishes being made and served. The Veggie Club is looking into fixing this problem by developing a sticker system that would involve labels being placed next to campus foods that are veg*n or can be modified.

Common Misconceptions about Meatless

“The biggest struggle of being a vegetarian is gaining understanding from others, and constantly having to justify our choices,” said Towers.

Identifying as veg*n often leads to associations with pushy beliefs and an otherwise “hipster” culture.

“Sometimes I feel when I tell someone I'm a vegetarian/vegan they instantly assume I'm the leader of an animal rights protest who is going to push my beliefs of vegan-ism on them and everyone I meet,” explained Annibale.

Veg*nism is a lifestyle choice that is often rooted in ethical beliefs and environmental and societal concerns. With negative ideas surrounding their choices, sometimes the true reasons for their beliefs can get clouded in misconceptions about neighboring cultural patterns.

Another common misunderstanding is that veg*nism does not provide enough nutrients to sustain an active lifestyle.

“I have noticed no visible hindrance in my athletic or academic performance. I have actually noticed improvement due to being overall more conscious of my diet and nutrient intake,” explained Podlovics, whose recent veganism and yearlong vegetarianism has yet to affect his athletic performance in recreational sports.

“After substituting plant-based foods for meat, I can honestly say that I feel healthier, more energetic, and I actually have been getting sick less often,” added Jelilyan.

If a veg*n diet is maintained thoughtfully, it can include the same amount of protein as a diet including meat.

Considering a variety of veg*n?

“Should students consider a meatless diet? I say yes! Meat causes more emissions than all transportation combined. But if you're not into binary solutions, just minimize the amount of meat you consume,” said Annibale.

“And as an added bonus for students, meat is expensive and I have found that going vegan has even left me with more money in the bank,” noted Jelilyan.

With a campus that has proved to work for other veg*ns and has been noted as a progressive school in terms of its food diversity, McMaster may be a great place to taste test veg*nism.

“There’s a strong community of veg*ns at Mac,” said Peters.

Keep in mind though that becoming veg*n isn’t a decision you should make overnight. It is a thoughtful diet that requires planning and understanding. The more restrictions you choose to make, the more difficult it will be to accommodate your diet. Look into the various types of veg*nism that exist and choose the right one for you and your lifestyle.

Going veg*n can have a positive impact on your health, the environment, and the ethical treatment of animals. And when it comes to the game of survival of the fittest, you may just come out on top.

 

 

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