First edition

Food vs. Life

ATKA ATUN | atka_brozek@yahoo.com

Since my pre-teens I’ve gone through obesity, bulimia, being overweight, being underweight, reaching my perfect BMI, and being overweight again. I guess I can honestly say that my relationship with food is long, complicated and sometimes toxic. Being a good Polish woman I still love food and will stay with it forever.

After a semester in Strasbourg, France, I came back home to discover that I had not only gained eight extra kilos but also, according to my doctor, was ten kilos overweight. Numbers are brutal, I can tell you, especially when your relationship with food seemed to be the perfect one. On that day, I promised myself to answer an eternal question: is it possible to have a good and healthy relationship with food without going crazy?

For some people, rules are simple: eating 4-5 times a day; eating fruit and vegetables 4-5 times a day; eating only seasonal food; quitting salt, simple sugars, pork, trans fats, processed foods and, yes, restaurants because you always have to know what you eat. You should not forget to drink at least 2 litres of mineral water every day, but never more than 3 or 4. I found myself in quite a situation while trying to ‘quit’ water. Apparently, my daily 6 litres is nowadays known as ‘aqua-holism’ and to put it simply: makes you look puffier and troubles your overwhelmed kidneys. Speaking of drinking, consumption of alcohol should be minimized to 200ml of wine per day for women and 300ml for men (unfortunately, days of abstinence do not count as an extra 200 or 300ml on a Saturday!). Other kinds of alcohol are not even considered as part of a healthy diet, which I find weird since the same amount of beer daily is a well-known medicine for purifying the kidneys.

I read all these rules and thought that a relationship like that must suck, and hard! First of all, no cuisine in the world can ever exist without salt. Secondly, eating 4 times a day, not to mention 5, is hard enough without being forced to eat 4 strawberries after each meal. Why? Because diet specialists also strengthen the fact that we should eat no more than 200g of fruit per day, split in fours or fives. Thirdly, no one ever made a good, even homemade, pizza on full grained flour. Believe me, I have tried and it was bad. Fourth, how can you study without eating out? I know some people are able to carry their homemade food around but not all of us have the time, energy or skills to prepare their meals as healthy take-out. Nevertheless, I myself am not a big fan of pork, trans-fats or processed foods which are obviously dangerous to our health, so these rules are do-able for me.

But let’s go back to my semester in Strasbourg. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t plan to indulge myself in France. I love cooking and the amount of products, cook books, and cuisines in Alsace is surreal in comparison to Kraków; and something I had to take advantage of. I was not scared since I had read a fabulous bestselling book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano, and knew the nation’s secrets to maintaining a good figure. These rules can be summarized as follows: eat only three times a day, eat as tiny portions as possible (seriously, they can be really good as miniature meals), do not eat junk food, drink a lot of water and no more than two glasses of wine as your only alcohol and never without food. To me, it sounded like enjoying life!

But in Strasbourg there are macaroons…and lots of them. Every single pastry shop has its own secret flavours and you can choose between rose, mint, white and dark chocolate, blackberry, honey and so on. Not to mention the classic – Pierre Herme – that you can visit at Galeries Lafayette that sells ketchup, truffles, fois gras and other crazy macaroon flavours (2,90euro/piece) that seriously can change your views on life itself. Amazing Christian offers all sorts of flavours and sizes, although in that place it is best to try their hand-made chocolates. Naegel, that you will fall in love with after trying its famous Alsatian tartlette with pork, also offers some mind-blowing king-size macaroons (loving their cassis and rose giants). So it goes, like Kurt Vonnegut likes to say, all for “doing it like French women do – enjoy and be skinny”.

Three months after coming back home overweight, I have tried to be: indifferent towards my figure; to be a non-social, carrot-licking zombie chasing vegetables and fruit  5 times a day (with nowhere to go but Heaven); and finally, I have tried to be both. Once or twice a week I have some dark chocolate with earl grey leaves, a family bag of salty chips or a pack of salty sunflower seeds – because I love it. Now, I only add salt when it’s necessary and try using other spices to pump up the flavours. Two glasses of wine seem reasonable, because it’s good to be up the next day. When I have money I go to have some food at my favourite French bistro. After a month of being on both sides of the force I have lost three kilos.

Is my relationship with food perfect? No. Nevertheless, it’s the only one I can live with without going crazy and most of all – the only one that makes me human.

ATKA ATUN, Literature Editor

Atka is from Poland and completed her studies in linguistics with a specialization in intercultural communication. She has studied in Krakow,
Paris, and Strasbourg, and is currently doing a research track in Japan. Atka has been researching Japanese literature and the influence of minority cuisines on those of ‘host’ countries. She carries her dog around wherever she goes, and eats way too much weird food.

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