Absolutely, we know. that people live longer if they participate in religion (generally) and that’s largely down to, IMHO:
meeting regularly with people, aka community
having a practice of thinking about ethics and your place in the universe
rituals to celebrate the passing of time and/or life
a built-in support and mutual aid network when things go wrong
I think a lot of folks have strived to replace this. Hence a lot of formerly Christian people meeting up in atheist meeting groups on Sunday, and the rise of Humanists and other non-religious religious-esque rmeeting groups. I also see people who adopt a lot of other movements or identities in a religious fashion - be it environmental activism, workout groups, etc.
As someone who’s been involved with the bike fun community for years, I think it has largely filled a lot of that niche for me - built-in mutual aid and support (oh so many fundraisers especially before the ACA), regular community meetups, a sense of purpose and belonging, and some light-hearted activism to make the world “better”. I’m even going to a bike funeral procession - my third this summer, unfortunately - this weekend.
I’ve been striving to figure out what concepts each religion has that is actually food safety, public health, or imparting common sense wisdom. Like halal, kosher, etc = smart for just making sure your food is safe, wrapped in religion.
I just finished “French Women Don’t Get Fat” and holy shit. My mom is definitely a product of similar books and always seems to be chasing that “lose 10/20 pounds” thing and has been ever since I can remember. When I was in elementary school I remember talking to another girl in the cafeteria about something food related and it was obvious we both had moms that were into exercising for health and eating a certain way. Now I’m wondering how many of the books from back then were just “How to have an eating disorder 101” before the general population was as aware of eating disorders (or as aware of them being a bad thing).
I actually read “French Women Don’t Get Fat” several years ago. Recycled my copy. Not even good enough to go back into the Free Little Library from whence it came. The recipes being bad didn’t even register to me lol, I was that uninterested in what the author was saying. BUT! I do align with her Strong Yogurt Opinions. Homemade is waaaaaay superior IMO.
I listened to French Women Don’t Get Fat! I didn’t read that book but I remember when that whole idea was kind of “the thing” like alongside the Mediterranean diet. There was definitely a sense (and still is I think, especially that some people have towards the Scandinavian countries) that Europeans were doing everything better or more holistically.
I did have a question this episode and this might be me just not understanding something about EDs because of lack of first hand experience. But in the episode they really slammed the idea of ritual with food and talked about how thinking about food all the time (in terms of sourcing the freshest ingredients, the melon thing, caring a whole lot about food, etc.) was disordered and even a sign of an eating disorder. But also how having other ritual associated with food (they mentioned she said to eat without tv on, always use real dishes, focus on what you’re eating and savor it) as being kind of dangerous and linked to disordered eating.
But isn’t that also just…culture? Like as an avid amateur food historian I can’t actually think of any traditional cuisine that doesn’t involve quite a lot of ritual, like serving the head of an animal to your guest of honor, or giving the guest of honor the eyes and cheek of the fish, or in some places the fattest grub, or lengthy Japanese tea ceremonies, or allllll the ritual food stuff from various African religions (you even had to cook certain dishes for certain gods, one of which is now the national dish of Brazil, but I digress), etc. Even smaller things like starting a meal with an appetizer or ending it with sweets, like that’s all ritual!
I think the idea of savoring and mindfulness as harmful, and of ritual with food being problematic, just struck me as very strange. I kind of heard those portions of the book (as they were told in the podcast) more as “here is how to get back in touch with your food culture/heritage and to increase enjoyment”.
I also thought it was a bit odd how they read certain other things. Like they said the book suggested treating yourself and not being so rigid if you’re out eating with friends, and they interpreted that as hiding an eating disorder from your friends, which seemed like a leap to me. Like, don’t most people eat a lot more out at a restaurant than at home? That seems normal to me and I don’t think it’s because people are pretending they eat more all the time, I think it’s because you eat more when you’re having something novel and tasty and also talking and laughing and maybe drinking too.
They also extrapolated the idea that if she wasn’t eating out a lot (since she said that is in moderation) that means she would also have to lose her social life to have this type of diet? But people have each other over for dinner or drinks all the time! IDK I felt like it was a LOT of stretching to make it sound super super extreme. And I was really surprised they didn’t feel like it was any better even though she disclaims the whole book herself, like she says up front (and they said also throughout) that this was specifically about her and what she observes of her native food culture. And like…the main push in food writing in the last 15 years has been to listen more to first hand accounts of food culture and not just of studies from anthropologists and scientists and stuff.
I mean I totally get that they hate the entire premise of it being about dieting and the passages about her gaining weight being problematic, etc. But I didn’t understand the intense critique of alllll that other stuff when it’s just, a French lady describing what she thinks the average French lady eats, how she thinks about food, procures food, etc.
Also minor other interesting food history note: but in the paleo episode they joke a lot about how ancient people couldn’t have had much access to honey (bc bee stings, and how they misunderstand pre-agriculture times) and that’s super incorrect. There are lots of old and current tribal people who harvest and eat raw honey, and they even have funny phrases relating to getting honey sick from eating too much at once, lol.
The part about ritualizing food being linked to ED was kind of underdeveloped IMO. It’s different to like, savor your meal and eat slowly/mindfully than it is to take, say, 5 hours to eat one cookie. I think they could have been more clear about it, but it’s a gray area between what is normal and what is disordered. For me it’s the hyper-fixation and scheduling your whole life around eating (but also very much Not Eating) that leads to a dark place
Yeah, that’s much more extreme than what I was taking “ritual” around eating to mean. That makes sense tho, and especially if that’s your main association with the ideas of rituals and eating your sensitivity level probably gets really high to anything that sounds even adjacent. It also kind of explains their other reactions, because I was also confused when they talked about how planning your meals rather than snacking a lot (like the author suggests) is the first step to being like, “Well maybe I can just not eat lunch at all, maybe I can last another hour, maybe I can not even eat at all today” but then they also said the author specifically mentioned that you shouldn’t skip meals. But I think maybe if you are primed in a certain way it’s like…all of it feels like a slippery slope.
I was thinking that’s kind of how a lot of sober people talk about drinking. Like a certain subset of sober people definitely think any ritual drinking is dangerous territory (i.e. a wine after work, a beer at the game, etc.) and that anyone at any time can become an alcoholic. There’s this idea that there’s no such thing as normal drinking just different phases of alcoholism so people who “just” have wine on the weekend or have champagne to celebrate are already in a stage of attachment. Which I don’t personally believe! But I have family members who got sober and are like that, and so does dh. I think they’re just super sensitive to it. (e.g. if you jokingly said, “man today was rough, I need a drink!” they would be v worried, and like, want to pull you aside to check-in…I would just think it was a flip turn of phrase).
Yeah, I think you nailed it—it’s the slippery slope thing. The presentation of ideas of restriction and ways to make life-consuming rules for yourself around food that don’t reeeeeeally have to do with enjoyment. That’s the yikes point (for me) and I can see why they caution it so heavily give their audience is maybe more sensitive? Just a hunch!
Also they’re not claiming to like, be doing an objective detached journalistic review of things. Like, they’re obviously going into each topic with a highly defined theory of mind on the topic and looking at it specifically through that lens of belief. They might even assume a higher than average level of listener experience with EDs and things, which would explain why they don’t define things? This all makes more sense now though!
I could be misremembering because I read it so long ago, but I thought there was a section of the book that focused on how in France, the best of the best food goes to schoolchildren—organic, fresh, local/in-season stuff. And how we really can’t say that’s the case for American children. Can anyone confirm if that’s part of the book? Sort of wish I had my copy still just for this moment lol.
Ritual eating- I agree in the context’s that you described are very normal. But ritual eating in the form of an individual ritual for every meal can become harmful, especially if the rituals are meant to limit the food you’re eating and for every meal. A book about anorexia I read was the woman would cut her piece of cheese into 10 slices every time she ate it and it would cause her extreme distress to eat without cutting food into a million tiny pieces as she was going through recovery. So these little rituals can add up to very disordered eating patterns and taken to extremes.
I couldn’t eat food prepared by other people for a while because that meant I couldn’t weigh each ingredient and portion size and calculate the EXACT amount of calories i was eating. It was a ritual and it was very distressing if I couldn’t adhere to the ritual for a while. So religious forms of ritualistic eating are completely different IMO.
Breaking out two rituals they spoke about- eating on fancy plates- probably fine. I think it’s okay to celebrate food and think about where it comes from. Not eating in front of the TV or other rituals might be very benign or healthy to avoid a binge or overeating to the point of discomfort. But the ritual of only eating one type of food on your plate at a time is intended to limit your food and this could turn into a very difficult ritual to unwind.
With the eating more at restaurants i think what the hosts were saying is bad is that she said “if you indulge make sure you cut back the day after with a walk or reduction in calories equal to your indulgence”. This can become dangerous too as a form of bulemia where you exercise to purge your calories instead of throwing them up.
I think there are some of these things they mentioned that are on the edge of eating disorder territory. You mentioned alcoholism too- i think there is a very strong parallel. You can’t make a rule that says “if you do X while drinking then you are an alcoholic” because it is so individual, especially in borderline cases. I think you need to look at the whole person and how ritualistic eating, cutting back on calories after an indulgence, or drinking alcohol impacts your whole life and if it is limiting you.
So no, ritualistic eating does not equal eating disorder, but it could be a sign of a problematic relationship with food.
What helped me recover from my eating disorder was content around sobriety actually! They are both addictions but just manifest in different forms. I am happy to discuss more of the parallels I found but it is amazing how eating disorders are so similar to addictions. I don’t have the scientific background or research to pull from but i do have my personal experiences so I am sure it’s not universal.
That all makes sense! I have heard of the many bites thing for EDs. I think I just didn’t relate that to being a ritual the way a cultural ritual is? I also didn’t pick up on the different plates for different food as being to make you eat less- I thought it was to mimic the more traditional way of eating courses in French cuisine. Similar to how you might say that proper Korean bonchon contains a tiny amount (a couple Tbsp per person maybe) of radish in a dish, then a separate dish with a tiny amount of fish, and another with a tiny amount of mung jelly, and none of it is ever served together and it’s kept small and separate.
But like…that’s just the mode of serving these side dishes because those are not the whole meal, they’re like, mix-ins. And they’re all separate so everyone can choose what they like and it looks neat and it’s part of the food culture, and it can easily be shared at a table that way vs all on a single platter. So when I heard she said to eat every item on a different plate I thought, “oh, like courses in French cuisine!” haha, not like, “oh to force you to eat less.”
I think I didn’t take the cutting back after eating out the same way either. I thought of it as like, “it’s natural to eat less the day after you eat a lot.” Like if I eat a ton of food out at a restaurant I might skip breakfast and eat lighter the next day too, but I don’t feel like I’m doing penance for eating wrongly- like it happens naturally and I thought she was describing that natural sway back and forth, which is very counter to American ideals about food (which are more mechanical like: we all need exactly X calories every single day and more is always bad and less is always bad). Much like how someone who drinks a lot on a Saturday night might say to themselves, “whew, I’m not drinking on Sunday!” which is seen as normal moderation, but like…that’s also a thing a lot of alcoholics say to themselves when they’re ashamed of drinking too much. And a lot of sober people think if you have to mindfully drink to control your drinking to not over-imbibe, you’re at risk of being an addict (which I actually do agree with). But then there are those people who just naturally moderate with alcohol, like it’s a non issue for them.
I think your reading is accurate to what they were trying to say though. I just kind of read it sideways.
I don’t think you took it sideways! I think you took it from the context of someone who hasn’t suffered from and ED which is a great perspective to challenge those of us who have. It’s easy to get wrapped up into thinking everyone struggles with this when they don’t.
For example- during my learning about sobriety and alcohol at first I had this belief that “everyone who drinks alcohol is either an alcoholic or will become one eventually because of the slippery slope”. Which is totally not true! And it took me a looonnnngggg time to unlearn this. Some people aren’t on a slippery slope.
Drinking on a Friday with friends, drinking after a tough day, having more than X number of drinks, drinking during football games, you name it, can all be problematic behaviors, or not, depending on context!
There is no one symptom or behavior that can define an eating disorder or alcoholism* imo. It is all about how it plays into your overall life. And it isn’t fair to put your issues or context onto someone else. Listening to this episode there were a lot of triggers and things I would look out for because they can be taken to extremes by those with EDs, but there are also completely normal ways these can exist and not be an issue.
During my ED recovery I would diagnose/judge other people based on my experiences and context. That’s not fair to them, and their behaviors might be completely normal and not problematic for their lives. The way I look at it now is that I can watch for signs/triggers in other people and offer my experience and support if I see some deeper red flags or they’re expressing distress/a desire to change their situation. But now if I see someone participating in a trigger for me I don’t immediately jump to “THEY HAVE AN EATING DISORDER MUST HELP” i look for other context around it first.
*i also hate the term alcoholic but that’s a whole different issue. You don’t call someone addicted to cigarettes a “cigaretteaholic”. They aren’t some other group of people to be judged and put down for their addiction to an addictive drug.