Do you live in a "food desert?" Or do you live in a food paradise but create your own personal food desert? I'll explain...
Some areas of our country are genuine "food deserts," places where there is limited access to affordable, nutritious food. Technically, you live in a food desert if you must travel over a mile to find a full-service supermarket. If you don't own a car, your choices are few--frequent the convenience store, pay a neighbor to drive you to a good market, or subsist on prepared foods that will keep.
In a 2010 report on food insecurity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that about 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, struggled to get enough to eat at some point in 2009 because they lacked money for food. Many of these people reside in food deserts. And their situation would be even worse without food stamp benefits (the SNAP program) which now covers a record 42 million Americans (about 1 in 8).
So there is real pain out there for food desert denizens. You might even argue that the widespread existence of food insecurity in the US is a cause for shame and a rallying point for action.
But many people are causing their own food pain. Are you creating your own food desert, even if you live in the midst of plenty?
You might be creating your own food desert if you belong to one of these groups:
Dieters create their own food deserts by following harsh food rules--draconian calorie intake and restricted food choices, for example. And in the long run, diets don't work!
People with eating disorders such as anorexia deliberately starve themselves in order to live up to an unrealistic idea of thinness, beauty, or "self-control." Their obsessive fear of gaining weight rules both their food habits and their life choices. (If you have an ED, please get help.)
People with disordered eating patterns create their own food deserts by skipping meals, compensating with unhealthy snacks, eating unbalanced meals, grazing, and overeating.
People with "orthorexia" (literally, "right or correct appetite), are fixated on "perfect" healthy eating. These "health-food junkies" can become victims of malnutrition, even starvation, if they cannot balance their "nutritionally correct" diet with sensible eating. (For a fascinating and funny personal story by Steven Bratman, the M.D. who coined the term "orthorexia nervosa," click here. Among his gems: "Many of the most unbalanced people I have ever met are those who have devoted themselves to healthy eating.")
People who haven't learned to self-nurture may neglect to bring a lunch to work or gobble down what they do have in a nano-second. They "don't have time" to nourish themselves with a good meal.
So, are you living in your own self-created food desert? And if so, how could you create a more nurturing way of life for yourself? Here's a start, and I hope you'll add to the list in "Comments:" Eat regular meals. Eat one meal per day with people you like. Eat healthy foods, and savor occasional treats. Turn away from food guilt. In short, eat with joy!
© Meg Selig. All rights reserved.
Ver Ploeg,Michelle, "Access to Affordable, Nutritious Food is limited in 'Food Deserts," http://www.ers.usda.gov/amberwaves/march10/features/FoodDeserts.htm.