In a world where billions are dying of hunger it is sometimes difficult to have sympathy for people with eating disorders. But like Drew discovered in his post “Decisions. Decisions?” there is much more to this story than bad personal choices.
Our food system is disordered, and it is making us sick. There is an overabundance of cheap, processed, fattening food and a depreciation of fresh food prepared at home. Most of us are getting fatter, but our cultures worship of thinness continues to rise. I’d like you to think about all the advertisements you see in a day. How many are advertising food and how many are advertising beauty and/or weight loss products?
I’d also argue that our disordered agricultural practices are contributing to the problem because this is the source of our access to massive quantities of cheap “food like substances” (to quote my man Michael Pollan). In all of human history we have never been able to obtain so much food with so little exertion, and now we are dealing with consequences that we could not have anticipated.
What was going on with agriculture between the mid-19th century and now? Industrialization changed our world and our people in ways we could not have predicted. Suddenly we were out of the fields and working in factories and cities. Life expectancy increased and our access to food improved, but it seems we lost our connection to that food with each passing generation. Check out this information I found from the U.S. census: U.S. rural labor was 60% of the total workforce in 1850, reduced to less than 40% in 1900, 15% in 1950, and 2% since 1975. I learned in school that correlation is not necessarily causation, but I can’t help but think that this “disconnect” from our sources of food has played a bigger role in the eating disorder epidemic than it has been given credit for. Continue reading