While my boyfriend and I were watching (well, re-watching in my case) the season premiere of MasterChef Junior, the American spawn of a popular TV franchise about, well, cooking insanely difficult foods and becoming famous on reality TV, I realized something. My epiphany was somewhat frightening, and extremely fascinating when I came to examine it further during the next few days: I am obsessed with food. See, my excuse is the fact that I have an eating disorder and naturally, my diet and meal plan occupy the majority of my thoughts seeing as, well, food is my medicine now; but what about the rest of the world?
We have developed an unhealthy obsession with food. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we have elevated it to a God-like status through social media and reality TV. When you think about it, how many TV cooking shows, Instagram memes, Facebook posts and whatnot have we created during the past few years dedicated to food? How many people have managed to make a living on cooking, diet advice, and nutritional expertise? It’s one thing when a dietician helps save you from yourself, when they lead you out of anorexia or obesity. It’s a totally different thing when said dietician is earning millions of dollars for talking about something that is supposed to be completely normal. Food.
The enormous amount of fads that we’ve had in the last five years dedicated to food is impressive. Humanity has become so fixated on what they eat, where they eat it, when they eat it, that we’ve created so many crazy food-related idiocies: the blood-type diet, gluten-free diets for people who are not allergic to gluten or have celiac disease, low-carb diets etc. Orthorexia, the obsession with healthy eating, is now considered a viable disease. If the 1920’s were the jazz and liquor age, the 2010’s can become known as the Diet and Fitness era.
Food has become a token. An achievement. A reward. Take the popular mobile application Foursquare, initially designed for location sharing, that has been turned into a powerful marketing platform for restaurants and cafés, offering bonuses like a free cup of coffee for checking in. The ‘free’ aspect of that offer is what drives us to choose between a café that has such a promotion and one that doesn’t: we might not even want an espresso at 8 p.m. but oh my god are we going to get it. And while we’re there, we might as well take a picture of every single drink and dish we’ve had.
Which leads me to Instagram. It’s safe to say that it’s one of the most iconic mobile apps of our generation, mostly because of the amount of bored teenagers that sign up for it, and food photography has become a major part of the movement. The plethora of tags involving food and restaurants is overwhelming – and slightly ridiculous when you think about it. Even in the ED part of Instagram, where people have created their recovery diaries, there is an almost-religious following of health food Instablogs as well as the constant stream of people in recovery taking photos of their own food. And on one hand, it’s good; they’re setting an example of their meal plans and showing others who don’t have the luxury of nutritionists or are simply stubborn enough to try recovery by themselves what to do; on the other hand, though, it might make the problem worse for some people, who get triggered by certain foods (triggers are things that set off your brain especially when related to a mental disorder; in the case of ED, these photos might set off binges, which may lead to a binge-and-purge cycle for bulimics, or calorie cutting for anorexics etc.).
I’m not saying not to be a foodie. Lord knows, I am very picky about what I eat and back before this thing became part of my life, I enjoyed going to gourmet restaurants and trying exotic dishes. What I’m saying is, this is getting out of control. Food is supposed to be something normal, something we encounter every day. And while for people like me it’s a major fear, for a lot of people it’s the opposite – a point of worship and devotion. Don’t make food into a God. Gods are nasty, violent things (see Epic of Gilgamesh).