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Starving Children, or Mindful Eating and Social Justice

June 26, 2016

Has anyone ever tried to get you to eat something by telling you, "There are children starving in Africa (or other country of choice)"?

 

I know this used to be a way of encouraging children to clean their plates, although it never particularly made sense to me. I can understand that it might make you grateful to have food, but why would eating more than you want or need, or forcing yourself to eat something you hated, help you or the starving children?

 

I've been thinking about this a lot recently, especially after reading the recent news about the rioting in Venezuela due to lack of food. And while this still doesn't convince me of the need to clean my plate, it does remind me of an important aspect of mindful eating that can often be overlooked - the social justice side of it.

 

I realize this may not be an intuitive leap, and in fact, it took me a long time to recognize the connection. But it's definitely there.

 

Consider this. How much time, energy, and money have you put into dieting, worrying about your food, feeling guilty for overeating, having negative thoughts about how you look, obsessively exercising in attempts to burn more calories, being stressed about what you "should" be eating, buying food you didn't even really want because it was the "right" food - and then buying lots of the "bad" food, more than you might really want, when you got tired of deprivation? Or if none of this describes any point in your life, I'm guessing you know someone who can relate.

 

And then there's everything spent on helping people with eating disorders, or less formal disordered eating, to say nothing of the marketing, advertising, and research money going into the diet industry itself. When you add it all up, an enormous pool of resources is going into controlling eating and shaping how we see ourselves.

 

Now imagine that those resources were directed to something else - perhaps focused on environmental issues, improving education, self-care, interpersonal relationships, cultivating spirituality, or anything else that's important to you. Just think of how much all of that money, energy, and time could do in other, more productive ways.

 

I get goosebumps when I consider it, and how we could transform our world and all our lives for the better.

 

So if you hear someone mention starving children in relation to food choices, maybe can think about it a different way, and it might help you decide where you want to put your energy.

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