Thursday, September 4, 2008

Warning: Carbs Ahead

I work in Midtown. The lunch choices are numerous, most of them either deli's or small regional chains. You know the places, Pax, Cafe Metro, Guy and Gallard, and the more prestigious Pret A Manger. Despite the propensity for dry underseasoned grilled chicken sandwiches, these places all have something in common: they are all subject to Bloomberg's calorie posting rules.

Now I understand that America has an agenda regarding the nation's diet and that obesity can rightfully be considered a matter of public health but in New York City having the caloric content of everything you could possibly want to eat for lunch blasted in your face can be a major source of anxiety. Women in this city succumb far more easily to the pressure to be thin. Looks count for a lot here, especially in the circles I (perhaps unfortunately) run in, be it socially or professionally. It comes with the territory somewhat, I work in fashion. Even though my job is blessedly curve-friendly my peers at their jobs are less lucky and even though nothing is ever explicitly said, there is the underlying pressure to look like one walked off an editorial shoot every single day, from the outfit to the body.

So as I pass by the Pret A Manger on the corner of the street I work on I stop to read the window advertisment, "Good food is good, bad food is bad, eat drink and be wary." It's like a battlecry for disordered eating to me. After all, what is a bad food? Most women (and some men) I know have their own version. For me it's highly processed food, white bread, pasta, anything deep-fried, anything sugar-filled, the list could go on. Foods that are a part of the normal cannon of what should be acceptable to eat become "bad" foods. How many people do you know order their sushi with brown rice? The "burrito bowl" to avoid the tortilla? Boneless skinless chicken breast? I am totally guilty of it. When subjected to McDonalds for breakfast on tour it was always an Egg McMuffin, no cheese.

Not that food avoidance is all bad. Some of it is healthy. When eating prepared foods from restaurants and fast food joints you have to negotiate a treacherous field of potential health risks. But we become so wrapped up in our concepts of what we should or shouldn't eat that we forget to enjoy food. Which brings me back to the calorie posting. It's just step deeper into a culture of food paranoia. Diets are worn like a badge of honor, and dietary restrictions and hang-ups are piled high enough to fill a Whole Foods shopping cart. Yes, calorie-posting encourages consciousness to those who may eat mindlessly but it it is another nail in the coffin for those of us all ready in over our heads in a culture of food anxiety.

As you can probably tell, calorie posting has definitely made my shit list.

1 comment:

Peter said...

sushi with brown rice? really?