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“OBESITY” & POWERLESSNESS: Crisis of the soul — not just junk food & lethargy

I don’t like to use the word obesity. But since many of my food & farm colleagues are in the public health sector and health care is a major topic of U.S. conversation—both informally and policy-wise—it sometimes seems prudent to use that term. Obesity.

With this blog, I would like to add a component to the obesity discussion that is often overlooked by the U.S. public health community, by food-and-farm folks, and by the general U.S. public. I’m speaking about our spiritual bodies, our souls.

About 10 years ago, because of my work on an Illinois food plan (Illinois Food, Farms & Jobs Acts, 2008-2009) I was invited to be a member of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity.

From the very beginning, I was uncomfortable with the naming & framing of the issue, but I accepted, for the following reasons:
—I did not fully know WHY I was uncomfortable 
—I thought it would be a good opportunity to make connections, learn more about the Illinois food & farm landscape from a health perspective, etc.
—I hoped that some funding opportunity for my work (food + farms + democracy) would manifest.

After about a year, I resigned from the volunteer position, loaded with a lot of life learning about
—selling out democracy for a revenue stream
—centrist positions support the status quo (nothing was going to change about obesity & food-related health issues)
—the power of words and framing
—the over-dominance of Chicago in Illinois politics (yes, I already knew; now I really really knew)
—the spiritual underpinnings of obesity (and many other physical conditions that we try to treat materially—with medicines, food, exercise, etc.)

Since then I have continued to gather information and understanding for framing my own response to the over-materialistic framing of the “obesity epidemic”.

My current knowledge and understanding is contained in this new blog, a response to a colleague’s posting of a 20-minute video by American comedian Hasan Minaj. This is a slightly edited version of my January 13, 2020 response to Hugh Joseph over the COMFOOD listserv.

I believe that COMFOOD is the oldest (1996 ?) and largest (6,000 subscribers) food & farm listserv in North America. It was founded by the late Community Food Security Coalition and hosted by Tufts University.

COMFOOD posting on Jan. 13, 2020
Response to video, How America is Causing Global Obesity

Hi, Hugh, and all —

Thanks for posting this 20-minute video, How America is Causing Global Obesity

Hasan Minhaj connects a lot of dots, especially for U.S. voters who may not know the history of high fructose corn syrup (and why it’s in so many foods), the history of NAFTA, the history of capitalism, and the history of U.S. official corruption.

I would like to add one more component to the obesity discussion that is often overlooked by the U.S. public health community, by food-and-farm folks, and by the general U.S. public. From the quotes in the YouTube by Europeans, Asians, and others, I would guess that it’s often overlooked in much of the world.  I’m speaking about our spiritual bodies, our souls.

SPIRITUAL GARBAGE: “Unmetabolized grief”
U.S. people are carrying hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of what Martin Prechtel calls “unmetabolized grief”. This grief comes from generations of stress and fear, caused by all varieties of physical, emotional, and mental violence perpetrated by humans on each other, but culturally rationalized by over-powerful people, primarily through patriarchal (i.e., “alpha male’) empire-building institutions, including religion, capitalism, and economic theory (including the psychic warfare—i.e., lying—that we call advertising and marketing).

If I understand Prechtel correctly, recorded history shows that this unmetabolized grief has moved primarily westward.  Based on my own understanding of history, it seems to have followed the axis religions from China, India, the Middle East through Europe to North and South America. This combination of patriarchal blind beliefs, popular confusion, and institutional coercion has caused deep personal and collective trauma—now termed “intergenerational trauma”.

Now, as Hasan Minjah points out, the U.S. is exporting capitalism, junk food, technology, state coercion, and our collective confusion in every direction—under the name of freedom and democracy. “The empire of freedom and democracy” — has a nice Orwellian ring to it, doesn’t it?

On the individual level of a physical body (based on my own 68 years), this means that many of us are carrying hundreds or thousands of years of imprisoned energy that manifests in 2020 as an inability to live our full personal lives as a self-determined living earthly organism. This imprisoned energy can increase by (a) being excluded from participating in the collective, real-time decision-making that might release that imprisoned spiritual energy and/or (b) by “swallowing” the on-going lies that we are told by our current institutions.

This lis why I work so hard on real democracy—personal power within collective decision-making—especially women’s public authority and information sharing (i.e., transparency).

Since the election of 2016, it seems as if we are on a collective spiritual compost-making project. I think 2020 is going to be one massive compost pile turning and spreading—especially in the U.S.

As some of you know, most of my postings on the food & farm listservs are about real democracy projects. Given the nature of today’s post, here are some personal resources—all of which can be used collectively.

1.  Twitter thread by Prof. Brittney Cooper (Rutgers University)
Thread is also copied below.

“I hate when people talk about Black women being obese. I hate it, because it becomes a way to blame us for a set of conditions that we didn’t create.” 

2.  The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise
Short book of essays (2015)
by cultural teacher Martin Prechtel

3. Shamanic journeying: The River of Grief
“Stepping into 2020 Together” (Jan. 5, 2020) 
Short video ceremony (35 mins.)
Sandra Ingerman & Renee Baribeau

4. The Red Tent movement — for women wanting to reclaim our moon times.
a. Brooke Medicine Eagle video (48 mins) proposing that women take 4 days-month for
—rest & relaxation
—building women’s community
—calling in visions to address the climate crisis, etc.
Blog + video

b. Red Tent Summit (on-line webinars): Feb. 1-22, 2020
Details & registration
Free.  Speakers include 
—herbalist Susun Weed (Wise Women Center – Woodstock, NY)
—Luisah Teish, Yuruba priestess

I hope this is useful.
— Debbie


Twitter thread (9 Tweets) by Prof. Brittney Cooper (Prof. Crunk)
Sept. 16, 2019
Assoc. Prof. in Africana Studies and Women & Gender Studies, Rutgers University
New Jersey’s land grant institution

Some folks mad that I cited research on this show about the fact Black women typically lose less weight and lose it slower even when they follow the same diets as white women. 1st of all: I’m an actual professor so I’mma always cite what the scholarship says.

GIF: TV appearance: “I hate when people talk about Black women being obese. I hate it, because it becomes a way to blame us for a set of conditions that we didn’t create.” 

2nd: if you read #EloquentRage, I spend a considerable amount of time there laying out the problems with the way societal discourses make Black women internalize blame for what are structural problems. #BlackWomenOwn

To believe that we have all these health issues because of individual behavior is to believe we are lazier and greedier than everyone else. That ish is absurd. #BlackWomenOWN

So I typically tend toward a structural analysis, because that is the thing always missing from these convos. Despite being Democrats in the voting booth, Black women wave the flag of personal responsibility harder than any other group. We are hyper-responsible.

So I always know that caring for us as a public scholar means not reinforcing these ideas about how we need to take more responsibility. We take responsibility for every fucking thing. And some shit is not ours to carry.

So yes. I cited the research. And yes, I take issue with folks who get on Black women’s backs about eating better and excercising better, because Sis, you need a better analysis. And I just don’t believe that all the ppl who claim to ‘care’ really care.

Some of y’all just hate fat people and so you can keep your concern. And others of you just need to recognize that the shit is more complex than you realized. 

If you don’t begin from the assumption that Black women have evermore shit to fix, then you cannot come to the faulty conclusion that our weight is something we are to be blamed for.

Do I wanna lose some weight? Yes. Do I think my fat body is wrong? Absolutely not. And am I trying to hear people who say, ‘Black women just need to X?’ Never. Y’all in that chorus can STFU. Read the research. Be informed. And then try again.

Research: I included some mainstream media articles that make the connections but also linked to the journals. That one on Black girls infuriates me btw.…………