Welcome to the fifth instalment of a series of blog posts going more in-depth into the thoughts and ideas behind each of the paintings in the Earthly Delights series. The series is based on my experience navigating health and diet culture as a long term participant. You can read the full background by following the link to that blog post below:
Every New Salvation comes along when you are suffering the consequences of your actions.
Maybe you’ve reached your goal weight or maybe you haven’t, but at some point you notice that the old equation of calories in and calories out stops working. Or rather, it works less effectively than it has in the past. Portions have to be smaller and the exercise has to increase to get the same effect as last year. Reduced caloric needs don’t answer the entire question. At this rate you can see that you will be living on baby food portions or working out more hours than you have available. It seems necessary though, because you don’t want to die early. You don’t want to suffer from obesity related diseases, or obesity related discrimination. The body has begun to ratchet up its defence mechanisms against starvation and so, tortured by visions of forbidden foods, you desperately looks for ways to hack the system.
Enter the diet gurus. They have done it and they can show you how to do it too. They’ve been telling people how to eat since 1558 when Luigi Cornaro wrote The Art of Living Long.
Every new diet becomes a new salvation. Each diet requires complete dedication and belief. They ask you to surround yourself with supporters and get rid of negative influences. They turn you into evangelists for the new diet, at least in the beginning while you still believe you have found the truth. Like Christ fasting in the desert you know the rewards of everlasting life and good health will be worth the struggle of remaining virtuous in the face of the temptations the devil within uses to lures you away from your diet & exercise regime. But you have the word on your side, the word of Paleo or Veganism, or Peiganism (what is left to eat at that point? Not much, which brings us back to Coronaro who in his later years limited himself to an egg yolk a day with a few spoonful milk, & bread) Keto, South Beach, Blue zone, All In, Raw Food, Intermittent Fasting, Time Restricted Eating, Master Cleanses and Cabbage Soup Diets. Whatever ails you, you can also find a diet guru to tell you what to eat to fix it. Look great, feel great, live forever, it’s all about what you put in your body, or what you don’t.
Eventually each diet fails to deliver, or starves us into breaking, or damages us further. And on to the next guru. the one that either interprets the old texts the right way, or the one that utilizes all the newest scientific discoveries to help us get and stay thin (and healthy, because that’s really what we want, we’re not that shallow right?). Maybe this one will work.
But what if we entertained the idea that our body was not evil, was not the devil luring us with temptation to eat things not on our list, and the diet gurus were not saviours? What if our body was trying to save us by telling us to break our fasts, while the gurus were the devils tempting us to harm ourselves with new damaging diets in the name of achieving worldly glory?