Today’s most popular diets aren’t just about achieving the current body trend of zero fat and chiseled abs. The most highly-marketed eating plans encourage us to show the world (through Instagram obviously) who we are. We are quite literally eating our identities.
On one side of the ring are the folks who munch on nothing but the few products left without a Daily Mail health warning. That leaves basically not a lot. On the other are the hardened warriors who engage in HIIT whilst gorging on mounds of flesh on a one way ticket towards big guns, cardiovascular disease and cancer. These are the underlying themes behind dieting du jour.
Let’s look at two of the most successful lovelies of the food industry, Ella Woodward – the Delicious spokesperson for extreme healthy eating who suggests we cut out fun things to remain healthy, and Joe Wicks, whose muscular meat-based cookbooks have sold over a million copies. But are these big names really here to promote wellness or are they in fact mouthpieces of industry?
So clean it’s dirty
I’m more on side with the clean eating fad as veganism could probably save the world and certainly the current famine in Africa (more about that later) but clean eating can be pretty dirty too. Branded mainly towards women this style of eating has recently come under fire with spokespeople frantically removing the terminology from their websites because the words themselves attach a moral virtue to foods.
Deliciously Ella as a brand is a disciplined perfectionist who sacrifices treats to maintain her health, and even if it is a way of fighting illness it’s also a way of maintaining purity, a desirable quality amongst women.
Throughout modern history women have been encouraged to remain slender and small, not just for physical reasons but political. It’s also no coincidence that the faces of wellness are young and thin, overwhelmingly white, and with a backdrop of privilege.
One of the most worrying aspects of this super healthy trend is how closely the language resembles that used by people with eating disorders. It’s not uncommon for sufferers to describe food as making them feel dirty or unclean. This is very much a female thing – to feel dirty for not eating right. Orthorexia is the modern day eating disorder defined as an unhealthy obsession with healthy food and of cutting out key food groups.
Shame is a clever emotion in marketing terms and keeps us pumping money into the industries that prey off us. In fact this is one of the main problems with extreme dieting which makes certain foods sinful.
Meat or morality?
Embraced by your average guy, Joe Wicks’ cooking style appeals to those who don’t give a toss about clean eating, and it’s genuinely concerning that he has risen to the top of the charts.
You’ve probably heard of The China Study, and if not then here are the facts. Meat causes disease, and I loathe to bring up the Nazis, but a clear example was when the Germans occupied Norway in 1940. The Norwegians were forced to eat plant-based foods. Circulatory diseases plummeted but in 1945 when freedom ensued the levels returned to ‘normal’.
What’s worse than disease? The blasé attitude that goes towards the meat industry. Most of us are in denial. The darkness that flows through the world of slaughterhouses is so black it’s deemed invisible. Nobody wants to know about sentient beings being mass murdered, it is just too shameful a part of our nature.
But we’re also murdering people. The amount of grain it takes to feed our cattle could feed 8.7 billion people. That’s 2 billion more than the earth. The current famine in Africa is a direct response to our meat bingeing ways so kindly put down your sausage, sir, as you whinge about Trump and climate change.
We’re also messing with the environment. It takes ten times the amount of fossil fuels to produce the world’s meat and let’s not forget the time you laughed in Biology class when you heard that a significant amount of methane in the atmosphere is released by the heinous amount of cows it takes to keep Ronald MacDonald in diamonds.
You might say, “I don’t care about nazis, death or sexism, I just want to be hench.” Well, mixed martial artist Mac Danzig went vegan and is ripped as can be. When he quit eating flesh he reported massive gains in energy and better recovery in-between workouts.
So, whether you prefer to identify yourself with virginal women or meat-head men, it’s hard to ignore the fact that these intense styles of eating reflect something more sinister. Celebrities have always been used to sell and promote products, to add a friendly face to connect customers emotionally to brands. Specific personas are picked to appeal to a certain demographic. Others are kept in the background.
And what’s Joe’s Wick’s reason behind his bizarre way of eating like an unconscious and murderous idiot? “I wanna wear a nice smart suit and do the front cover of GQ and Esquire mag and talk about my business and my mission,” says he.
If you take it a step further it becomes a slightly more depressing reflection of gender identification – sacrifice vs selfishness, which leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.