For a lot of people, December is a time rich with celebration. And for lots of us celebration is accompanied by food, aromatic stews, heavily spiced. Birds and bees dressed for feasts. Lentils and noodles and things eaten by hand, food is essential to our thriving and can be a rallying point for joy. Food can also be very complicated for some people. eating can be a source of stress. In this episode, we explore food and nourishment from multiple angles, the joyful and the difficult conversations. We'll explore questions such as whose food is considered healthy. What's the difference between eating disorders and disordered eating? And what the heck is a food apartheid? Dr. Amrita Ghai, Idil Farah and Leslie Campbell, move us beyond macronutrients and take us through a nourishing discussion about food and its connection to wellness. Check it out. Hi, everyone. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining me for Episode Four of Living Well In Conversation. Today, I'm joined by three brilliant guests, who will share their expertise, their experience with us. And so without further ado, let's get into the conversation. Welcome to you all. Our first question is the principle question of the show. And it's what does it mean to you to live and to be well, and so I think we'll start with Leslie on this question, Leslie, what does it mean to you?
Leslie Campbell 01:43
What does it mean to me? So, um, yeah, I first I guess I wanted to recognize that this is something that is going to mean very different things to different people. It's a really simple question, but I think it's really difficult to answer because there isn't really a single definition that would apply even to most people. And we must remember that kind of what some of us consider as unwell, might be some other folks best days. And therefore, we need to kind of meet and accept people where they're at, instead of kind of taking our preconceived notions of wellness and applying them to the circumstances of other folks. I have a definition of kind of living and being well, that feels right for me in my life. And I guess I would, I would encourage others to seek out their, their own understandings for themselves. And what also, I guess, acknowledge that there is some ableism, wrapped up in this idea of wellness, as well as some folks are just never going to be well, in the eyes of others. And if that's someone's baseline, then that needs to be okay. And they shouldn't be judged for that. So as such, I think we need to be careful in our discussions about wellness to think about who may not be included in those definitions as well.
So for you, in particular, what does that look like?
Leslie Campbell 03:08
Yeah, I mean, I think that means being able to do the things that I seek to do, it means being able to thrive in the way that I define that. I mean, for me, it's important to me to be able to be able to spend time in the outdoors; to access the food that I choose to eat whatever that looks like on the particular day, some days, it's pizza and burgers, and some days it's a salad. It's yeah, it's kind of really self determination, I think is is part of what is fundamental to being well, to me kind of being empowered to make the choices for myself, that I that I choose for my wellness.
Absolutely. And those sound like good things for you, from your lens, as you mentioned. And yeah, definitely in line with what the ethos of this show and what this work is, it's about that fact that it is about, you know, not being essentialist and not having a single notion of what wellness is. And trying to engage multiple conversations of what it can be, what the possibilities are, what the spaces are. So definitely something worth noting there. Thank you for that. Idil, how about for you?
Idil Farah 04:24
For me I second that. Living...wellness is individual and to me living while goes beyond being free of disease. It's about having the capacity to live a rich, energetic, connected, soulful life. It's a holistic experience. So you know how I'm moving in my body, the quality of sleep, the mental capacity and the energy that I have to engage in life meaningfully.
Yeah, thank you for that. How about you, Amrita.
Dr. Amrita Ghai 04:59
I have I really agree in into this subjectivity and definition of wellness, I think about a lot of the folks I work with. And in fact, sometimes there's this internalized pressure to be really getting a peak sense of wellness, often people will have certain definitions, let's say around particular outcomes within their physical wellness, certain fitness schools, you know, feeling happy, let's say in terms of someone's mental health goals, reaching a certain level of status and someone's career or education path. And, you know, I think that those are all important things to attend to, and can certainly impact a person's a person's sense of day to day wellness, and their living. Really being cautious around what kind of pressure we do put on ourselves, because none of those things really on their own will necessarily guarantee a sense of wellness, and in fact, can lead to distress around, let's say, not being able to meet some of those objectives for many complicated reasons. So when I think about myself, I try not to get too caught up in a little bit of a hamster wheel. Sometimes if thinking about what is sort of the next achievement. In my physical well being and my mental well being and my career and my role, and my family or with my friends, I really do try to think about sort of day to day, how is it that I want to feel and I'm able to do that?
Right. And I think that connects with some of the things that Leslie was talking about in his definition, right? About that ablest notion, if we look at wellness as a goal, right? Is it is it achievable, then if it's framed as a goal, for everyone? And like Leslie was also saying, my wellness might not be your wellness, right? And so what happens if we frame\ wellness in a particular way? And how does that, you know, further move people away from that actual goal, then? Right, or that actual possibility? Yeah, for sure. And all of you deal with food in a way. So for you, then what is the connection between food and wellness? Whether it's wellness as a tool, wellness, as a path, wellness as a social, social condition? What are some of the connections for you, and we'll start with Idil this time.
Idil Farah 07:24
I consider food as information. It informs our day to day decisions based on the chemical reactions that occur in our body. And so it's a really important part of our wellness. It nourishes us on a deep level, right? And informs our body on how to behave and move and what like genes and diseases are developed, or like are activated. For me that is, it's essential that we look at food as a source of health care, right? It's how it's, it's actually a primary source of health care for me, because it's these decisions that I make three times a day, that decide how I feel, and are like, baseline for my health. And so it's an integral part of my wellness. It's it is changed how I feel in my body. I am... my relationship with food is, is more of a nourishment and intentional nourishment. It's a sacred act. It's blessed. It connects me to my environment, to the source of the micro environment we came from, whether it's land or sea. So it's more than like the grams and the calories or the vitamins. It's a lot more than that to me. So you know it for me, it's an essential part of my wellness.
And it sounds like it's the core right? Down to the micro. I want to get into that a little bit later. But haven't you Leslie, what do you think?
Leslie Campbell 09:13
Yeah the connection between food and wellness is a slippery one. Because I mean, I think it also depends on that person and their life. I really liked what Amrita was talking about with in the previous question around around that hamster wheel idea of wellness, because it really kind of makes the idea of wellness as a practice something that is not like a goal to be achieved, but something that has kind of always being revisited and worked on and that sort of thing, and really drives at home. So I mean, in thinking about the connection between food and wellness, a big part of the work that we do at Foodshare focuses on food, insecure communities and supporting food access programming to address food insecurity. It's really difficult to be well, in a food insecure context, oftentimes, because of how many ways food impacts our lives. It's also complicated by the fact that food insecurity is almost always related to poverty, and to folks not having enough food. And this also probably means that they do not have enough money for many of the other things that they need in order to be well, outside of food. Although food is a very important one. We know that rents in Toronto are high. And for folks earning lower incomes, this, this can mean doing things like we're having to choose between the food, medicine, or goods that their family needs. And sorry, between choosing between the household goods that their family needs and putting food on the table. That's a really difficult choice. And we know that rent is not a flexible budget line. But we have seen that folks often choose to cut corners when it comes to food. And if they have to, in order to pay that rent, either by reducing their intake to stretch food budgets further or by reducing the quality of the food that they purchased. So, being forced to make these choices just makes it more difficult for folks to live and be well in these contexts, whatever that means for them.
Right, even the nature of having to make the choice itself rather than the outcome of the choice too, right? That pressure, that stress. Absolutely. And you know, that's another topic, we'll get into, you know, the social conditions that surround food and wellness as well. Yeah, absolutely. How about you Dr. Ghai?
Dr. Amrita Ghai 11:47
I think Leslie's point is so important, because there has to be this initial assessment, when you think about the relationship between food and wellness around does a person have that reliable access? In that case, the tie is really going to be to this sense of safety. Right? Fundamentally, before we can prioritize a lot of other needs, we need to feel that sense of security and safety. You know, I think for myself, and I think about many of the people I work with: the biological, you know, outcomes that are tied to nutrition and food become very important given that I do work a lot with people who, unfortunately, are having difficulty eating enough or eating in a manner that prioritizes their their physical wellness, that prioritizes their cognitive functioning. I think for myself, I really think about food and wellness being connected to my social wellness. It's a way for me to connect with my family. It's a way for me to express my cultural traditions; to feel tied to my culture. But I really think it's such an important point to recognize that I think without that baseline level of security: I can go into a grocery store and buy what I need that evening for dinner without having to really think too much about it. And I can access those other elements of wellness once you tap in that.
And that point about being able to even go into a grocery store is sometimes one that we take for granted, right? Where in some areas that grocery store, or the options for grocery stores are few and far between. Right? And so maybe we can talk about those social factors and get into some of the definitions, right? Sometimes we don't explain what words mean. So let's start there. Leslie what is a food desert? And how does food vary across social lines once we once we think about that?
Leslie Campbell 13:45
Okay, that's great questions. Um, I so a food desert has traditionally been defined as an area where food access is difficult because there may not be the kind of food resources that people need, whether it's grocery stores or markets or that sort of thing. But I would also like to point out that the idea of a food desert is a misnomer, as I learned from my wonderful colleague, Karen Washington who's a community food advocate and the co founder of Black Urban Growers down in the US, she likes to use the term food apartheid, which she says is more accurate food desert suggests that things just happen to be this way. There just happen to be neighborhoods where there don't happen to be grocery stores or markets or that sort of thing. But But she teaches that the term food apartheid more accurately acknowledges the fact that where grocery stores are or aren't is a conscious choice, and where resources are allocated is also a conscious choice. And this often determines who can access food. It also addresses the term food apartheid also addresses the fact that racialized communities are the ones who most often find themselves living in spaces with low food access. And I also think that the food, the term food desert is too passive because it doesn't acknowledge that food deserts are often a function of a lack of access to money. Perhaps there's not a grocery store in someone's neighborhood. But perhaps the bigger problem is that they don't have access to enough money to afford a car to drive to the grocery store or the next neighborhood over. So I mean, if you're able to increase the income in a household, then often issues with food insecurity related to proximity to grocery stores are able to be dealt with in other ways. I mean, the other piece there is that perhaps there is a Sobeys or Loblaws in your neighborhood, but your food budget only accommodates a No Frills or a Food Basics, or something with cheaper grocery options. I have also heard this phenomenon referred to as a Food Mirage, where there are food resources in a neighborhood, but they're not accessible to people for financial or other reasons. So yeah, I mean, I think the ultimate important piece here is that this comes back to money and the lack of access to money. And you also asked about how food access differs across social lines?
Leslie Campbell 16:21
Ah, that's that's another big one, but I can I can give it a stab.
[Laughter] Get us started.
Leslie Campbell 16:28
Access to food is tied to money. Number one. Access to money is tied to poverty and who experiences the most poverty. Poverty is linked to systems of oppression that determine who faces the greatest barriers in accessing the money that they need for things like food. Systems like colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, all play into the kind of access that people have to money. And these systems function to create differences in access across social lines. At Foodshare, we've led programming for a long time that is designed to be universal, so that anyone can access. But we've noticed that this programming is disproportionately accessed by Black, Indigenous and other Racialized communities. We've historically not had a lot of data to back this up. But in 2019, then we did a study in partnership with the Proof food insecurity research team at the University of Toronto to explore this question further. And the study was guided by this question of how do Black and white households in Canada differ in their risk of food insecurity. And the study looked at Canada Community Health Survey data and analyzed it through the lens of race and found ultimately that Black households in Canada are 3.5 times more likely to be food insecure than white households. It found that 10% of white households in Canada are food insecure compared with 28% of Black households. Similar trends have also been found by others looking at Indigenous communities in Canada. A 2012 study by the Government of Canada found that among off reserve Indigenous households, 22.3% of people were food insecure, and 8.4% face severe food insecurity, which which are rates approximately three times higher than among non Indigenous households. Subsequent 2019 study found that these figures jumped to almost 60% of households reporting facing some form of food insecurity in Indigenous communities that are remote or lacking year round road access. So all of these statistics suggest that access to food is radically different across social lines. And that includes race. And these findings really capture the way that systems like structural racism and colonialism work together to determine who faces the greatest barriers to access the money they need for food, and therefore, who was the most food insecure. I that was a bit of a roundabout way of answering your question, but I hope that kind of can address them. I mean, it's always good to share the stats, you know? It's always good to get into the numbers and have those discussion not to say, like not having the numbers invalidates the reality. I think that's important to say too, because some people rely on the numbers as a way of silencing, right? And not acknowledging things, certain things are happening. Very True.
But it's, but it's good to share them. So thank you for that. Idil when we hear that, you know, I want to use the right terms now. When we hear of things like food apartheid and food mirage, right, in terms of being able to access the quality of food that is nourishing, right? So not simply, you know, whether it's good or bad food but truly nourishing food. What does that what does that mean to you in your work as a nutritionist as somebody who tries to teach people to become empowered through through their eating?
Idil Farah 19:58
Well, being a nutritionist it's always coming from a place of privilege, right? Like, actually having access to food, right? And so knowing that a lot of people don't have access to food, and quality food, nourishing food, right? That they have to make a choice between, you know, paying the rent, and you know, putting food on the table, and, you know, maybe feeding their kids noodles or McDonald's. So they..or like just even pancake mix, so they don't go to bed hungry. It's, it's really key to like point out. Working in the city and working in different neighborhoods and seeing the quality, quantity, variety of foods that are offered in grocery stores' the number of grocery stores, how many grocery stores that are in a neighborhood. You know, some neighborhoods have like four across each other. And then there are ones that like, have a small grocery store with like, no,, the variety of produce, or the quality of food is really like lacking. And then it's even more expensive in those neighborhoods. I know for sure I've seen the neighborhoods with the grocery stores, it's just the food is low cost there's variety, food goes on sale more often. And then in these other areas, where people who are struggling with low income or you know, they're the ones who are paying more. And you know, it's shocking, and it's sad, because and that, you know, it's more than the food apartheid, that's actually to me, educating educating people and showing them how they could take, you know, how they could advocate for themselves, how they could go to these grocery store owners and ask for better quality food. And how can we like, where [are] other places where they could access quality food in their neighborhood, giving them that information, sometimes is more important than what they should be eating, you know? Where is the food bank? All of these things, because eating is a human right, we need to survive. To survive, we need to eat right? So you know, being a nutritionist, sometimes you're putting on different hats, and it's important to educate myself and to also know how I can serve my clients the best way I can.
Right. So really focusing on nourishing people in terms of food, but also in terms of the information that you're sharing right, towards empowering them to make a difference for themselves and for others. And then remembering that it's not just about them doing all the work right, still also holding our our systems, our governments accountable as well. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. And for you, Amrita, it takes it takes a little bit of a different lens, because as you mentioned, you know, you have lots of concerns with your clients around making sure that their biological needs are attended to because of the particular mental health needs that they have. So how does this all play into your work?
Dr. Amrita Ghai 23:18
I think it's all extremely relevant. You know, as a, as a health professional, you know, whether individually or collectively we can be part of the systems that replicate some of these difficulties, if I say to someone I work with, what do you need....You know, one thing that that helps a lot of people to eat more regularly is to have some repetition, at least initially in their eating goals. And if I make a suggestion, you know, go to a bulk foods store, go to Costco and buy a whole pile of this one item. I'm overlooking that not everyone has that cash flow to be able to benefit from the cost savings that in my mind, I'm thinking, I'm helping this person with their budget and actually, I'm not. And so I think that being able to recognize that you are meeting people where they are. You need to know what are the right questions to ask because there's so much intersection between food security, mental wellness overall, and disordered eating. There is more likelihood to develop disordered eating, whether somewhere on that spectrum or full blown eating disorder, if you're someone who struggled with food insecurity at some point in your life, even if it's not currently happening. And the research is quite clear around that. I think there is a role to play when you are working with somebody as a health care practitioner, in terms of understanding that the suggestions you're making may not actually consider where they actually are.
Right. And we often talk about comorbidities in the sense of physical elements that coexist together. But we can also talk about comorbidities in the social sense. So as you're saying, you know, food insecurity can actually relate or predetermine, if you will, a likelihood or predisposition towards having disordered eating later on in life. Right? So but before we get into talking more freely about disordered eating and eating disorders, maybe let's go back into the definition. So what is disordered eating versus eating disorder? Dr. Ghai?
Dr. Amrita Ghai 25:21
So eating disorder, I mean disordered eating refers to sort of a whole continuum of behaviors that on their own are not likely to necessarily lead to a full blown eating disorder. Maybe I'll talk about what an eating disorder is first. So eating disorders are severe mental health illnesses. They are not lifestyle preferences, they're not choices. They're multiply determined by genetic vulnerabilities or factors, social and environmental factors, individual psychological traits. And they really involve a persistent pattern of behaviors, thoughts, resulting emotions, that are really maladaptive. So specifically, many people with eating disorders restrict their eating in a problematic way. They may be very inflexible with their eating. And again, there's a continuum along what that looks like. Restrictive eating doesn't necessarily mean starving yourself all day. It can mean having a lot of rigid rules around how you eat. Many people might lose a lot of weight. A lot of people I think, traditionally think about an eating disorder as meaning that someone is emaciated. In fact, that's not always the case. And most people who live with eating disorders have a weight that's unremarkable. There can also be patterns of binge eating that are followed by various attempts to compensate whether, you know, making oneself sick through purging behaviors, problematic laxative use, exercise in a way that's tied specifically to weight and shape control, fasting. And I think another element to really be mindful of is that eating disorders don't just affect the behaviors, but they profoundly affect one's emotion functioning. So there's a lot of anxiety and low mood that underlies a lot of this context. And individuals develop a lot of anxiety in their relationship with their body image. Fundamentally, in order to deem something as an eating disorder, a person's life has to be impacted negatively in some way, whether that's how they socialize, their ability to work or go to school. There is impairment there, due to either any of these behaviors or thought patterns I listed, or because of a preoccupation that really makes it difficult to do anything else. Something that's important to also notice is that you have 100 different people who have eating disorders, they're all going to look different, not just in terms of what they physically look like, but how they present. So they're really multi dimensional. And not everyone who has an eating disorder will often recognize it. At first, there's a tendency to kind of minimize, actually, one's relationship or one's difficulty with these behaviors. So it means it's very complicated to identify. And that's the first step ultimately, in terms of treatment.
And so I think a lot of time when we think about eating disorders, and disordered eating, we often think about like white as you're saying, super emaciated people. Right? And it might not be a conversation that's, that's had, as publicly perhaps, amongst racialized communities. So can you tell us how eating disorders or disordered eating show up in racialized communities? And perhaps why, and maybe some of the ways in which it's nuanced by that particular experience?
Dr. Amrita Ghai 28:42
Yeah, you're right. So the history around just in terms of the academic history around eating disorders, and the development of even diagnostic criteria all come from this place of really identifying eating disorders and narrow portions of the population, really affluent? white women who are well educated and that was the domain in which researchers were looking, you know, for for research subjects or participants to find out, how do we treat this? And there is a really limited and marginalized view, if that is, you know, the narrow scope that that one's looking at. And the reality is, eating disorders affect everybody. They affect, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender age, you will find eating disorders in every group. The problem is that where are these things identified?In undergraduate psychology courses. You don't see those courses reflected by what the population looks like, right? That's a very specific group of people. Similarly, in outpatient or private treatment settings, you're not seeing the whole range of individuals show up in those places. And so the nuance here is that there really is limited knowledge around some of those differences in terms of how eating disorders show up in racialized communities. Now, there are a lot of people specifically looking at this and trying to identify this because it's really identified as an issue. And one thing that has been found is that in some groups, there's actually a higher prevalence of eating disorders, in some racialized groups, than in the general public, which is really interesting. And this is where now there's a lot of intersection between things like pressure to look a certain way in terms of body image, not necessarily being an ideal that is shared across cultures. So again, people are typically looking at does this person in front of me seem emaciated, and if they don't, I'm going to rule out that, not even gonna ask them questions about their eating. And so acknowledging that not everyone is going to share the thin ideal, not everyone who has an eating disorder is trying to lose weight. It's more complicated than that. People with eating disorders are often looking for some way to feel some anxiolytic effect of controlling their eating, and whether that's to look, you know, like a certain definition of that fitness, whether that's actually to meet some ideal with certain body parts, there's not always a shared sense of, what does that look like, you know, in terms of this thin ideal.
Mm hmm. And I find it really interesting, you know, both you and Leslie have brought up those critical social intersections, right? Around race, around culture, and religion even in some, in some ways too. You know, you mentioned fasting, like, how does an eating disorder, look, perhaps during Ramadan, right, and things like that. And so, those things are very important to note, and also add, you know, as a black woman as a, as a fat black woman too, you know, the social pressure around, you know, black women being [perceived as] unhealthy. And so what does that do to perhaps exacerbate, or hide, you know, eating disorders in our communities as well. And to connect with that idea about food choice, right? And where is the choice part actually coming in if, for example, you might have to make choices between certain types of food and rent as they Leslie was saying, or if you know, the access to certain type quality of food in your area is limited through choices of made through power in colonialism, as Leslie mentioned, as well, colonialism, racism, classism, as well as all those kinds of structures, right? So yeah, definitely some points to think about and to nuance, in our discussions. And in our, in our big academic space, something to point to as a, as a as a possibility for [some] our departments to consider as well. Yeah, Idil we talk about nourishing ourselves, right? And so what does it mean to nourish ourselves? And how do you take apart that definition, in the work that you're doing?
Idil Farah 33:05
Well, I just want to add to what you just said, actually, about people living in larger bodies, I think that food is made the enemy, it's kind of, in our society, you know, disordered eating is unfortunately very common, especially in people living in larger bodies, because of all the unhealth, like images that they see of what looks healthy, what you're supposed to be, to look like to be healthy. For me, I know, I, I can never be the ideal, no matter what I do, right? And so a lot of my clients I find, who have disordered eating, are trying to fit into unrealistic body image, right? And then you add all the other things that go with disordered eating, you know, in terms of like, access to food, the, you know, the income. There's so many layers. So, I just wanted to add that because it's really...they're a group of people who never really looked at, and they, because people don't think that they would be you know, because of the way they look that they would have any disordered eating. And a lot of the times, you know, it really does exist. I've experienced it myself. I know a lot of people who are living with it currently. You know, and it's a slippery slope to eating disorder. Nourishing for me, it is more than just food as everyone has mentioned. But nourishing intentionally with food is food. You know, it's working with what you have. It's making sure that you're making the best choices with the budget that you have. And, and meeting people where they are, right? So if we're working with canned foods? How can we make the best options and the best choices there? You know, what do you have in your pantry? And what can we afford? What can we bring together for a meal, and celebrating that! Because food is comfort, it is how we, how we celebrate, it's how we come together, and and really stop breaking food apart into calories and vitamins and all of that and just really looking at food as a way of, you know, connections. It's about nourishing more than the body but like a full like human and bringing our, you know, our souls, the social part, the spiritual part. A lot of cultures, like pray over their food. And so it really is an is a way of bringing all the aspects of yourself.
And that piece about bringing all the aspects of yourself, I think is such a vital part of conversation of wellness that sometimes gets missed. Particularly I think in, you know, the commercialized way that wellness has been presented, a lot of that is you don't bring yourself you bring yourself to this package. And if you fit yourself in that package, and the rest of yourself kind of has to go away. But in talking about the fullness of ourselves and thinking about food in such a connected way, we can also start to think about maybe questions of Indigeneity and food, right and bringing the fullness of all the possible heritage conversations that we can have. And really thinking about that as a global way. I think sometimes when we talk about food and culture, it becomes this really tokenized thing where we bring the costume and we bring the one food dish that anybody knows from your country. For me, I'm Nigerian, so all you hear is jollof rice. [Laughter]. But really not talking about, you know, the space of land and not the space of cultural practice, and ontology, and being in that. And so I want to talk a little bit about land about indigeneity and about food sovereignty together. And thinking about the ways in which food communicate those things are as tied in to those things. So maybe I'll start with you Leslie. In terms of the food sovereignty and land question. I know Foodshare has been doing a lot of work in that area. So let's have a little bit of conversation about that.
Leslie Campbell 37:39
Sure. I guess, I want to begin by acknowledging that I feel a little bit poorly positioned to speak to the Indigeneity piece and I would encourage everyone listening to seek out that understanding. Because there are so many incredible Indigenous teachers and scholars and community leaders speaking on this work. Just Just one I would point to folks who were interested in kind of the Indigenous food sovereignty conversation is Dawn Morrison. But there are many, many others. And I think that we all share a responsibility for educating ourselves on these pieces as part of the important work of reconciliation in this country. I have listened to many incredible Indigenous teachers speak about the centrality of Land to Indigenous food ways and and Indigenous food sovereignty. I guess, I would also mention that this is really a really fundamental piece of the conversation around Black food sovereignty, which is an ongoing conversation as well. And and is also I think, connected to the Indigeneity piece. Because the struggle for Black liberation and Indigenous liberation and independence are both fundamentally struggles against white supremacy, and cannot be achieved without confronting and addressing this. Land is really fundamental to the idea of food sovereignty more generally, because it is through land that one is able to control the means of production. Indigenous teachers speak about the importance of being on the land and spending time in communion with Land and connecting with our human and non human kin and stewarding those important sorts of relationships. Land is also deeply connected to the idea of controlling the means by which our food is produced. And access to land is a major barrier for many folks seeking food sovereignty. And in the same way, I've recently been reading a book called 21 things you may not know about the Indian Act by Bob Joseph, who writes about the ways in which the Indian act was designed to oppress indigenous people in many ways, and one of the means that it did that is through land and through dispossessing people from their access to land. And so by by purposefully disconnecting indigenous communities from the land, and by restricting them to living on reserves, and this was one way that the Indian act moved, or basically used or weaponized land, as far as kind of robbing indigenous people of their ability to be food sovereign. And the, the Indian Act was also used to create the reserve system in 1876, which still exists today. And this effectively constricted people's ability to hunt and trap, and fish, and harvest, and basically practice all of the Indigenous food ways, that had been kind of central to community for for for 1000s of years. And some communities were also removed altogether from their lands, breaking the connection with their lands, history, culture, territory and identity. And so these examples kind of highlight and represent the importance of land to sovereignty and resilience in the contextof indigeneity.
And I mean one of the one big contemporary example of that disconnection is what's happening in Nova Scotia, right, in terms of breaking history writes, for the Mikmaq, to be able to fish in their traditional ways, particularly around the lobster. But also when we talk about, and I think folks have heard me maybe on other episodes talk about indigeneity as being multiple. Part of colonialism. And I often use colonialisms rather than colonialism is to recognize those multiple ongoing encounters or relationships with power that are dominating and oppressive, right. So people often like to think about, and use the idea of post colonial to represent, colonialism has been over, because the Euro encounter is over. And some can even argue the Euro colonial encounter isn't actually over. But you know, the landing upon our shores part might have might have passed, but those relationships of dominance and oppressive power continue. And so colonialisms continue. And one of the things that colonialism does is to act or, or, or get us to commit to this idea that we are alone, right? And so when we take indigeneity, we look at it as a global concept. That that also deserves the nuance of recognizing the indigenous people of the land that we're on at the time, but also to connect the fact that all of us have multiple indigenieties that we can operate from, and if we are perhaps in touch with those a little bit more, and they might be more room for us to relate across. And with difference rather than seeing difference as a threat. So I know as myself as someone being born in Nigeria, we've been born to particular cultures, that that is my indigenous heritage. And I think about that in the, in the ways of how can I create solidarity with the indigenous people here, while also engaging that part of myself as well. And when I think about that, I also think about, you know, some of the indigenous scholarship here around the concept of land and why land is capitalized, Land as living land as being you know, the home of ancestors and the home of ancestral in the sense of being a continuum. A never ending, never ending, always offering offering space. So definitely, in that when we think about land and food, sovereignty, land and security, that disconnect, that violence, or ripping people away from Land, and from their history, from their heritage, from ancestry, and from and from their nourishment. Right? Beyond simply food, but also including food is definitely something that's important to think about when we have conversations about food. So, when we think then about food and what food is good and and you know, whose food is good, sometimes our food as racialized people is left out of that conversation. So Idil what do you what do you do and when people are present and and they don't include their cultural food as, as nourishing or as worthy of discussion in in nutrition spaces?
Idil Farah 44:37
Well, as an immigrant, food and culture are so tied, right? It's what connects us back to our homeland and, you know, the spices, the flavors, those aromas that like how we sit around how we connect around food, and for the longest time, a lot of our food was considered not good enough. Not healthy, even though some of the healthiest foods around, and now people are coming back to what was old; what our ancestors ate, what our great grandparents ate, as now is the new healthy. A lot of these foods are now being celebrated. And it's telling people that your like food, you....It starts with enjoying food, you have to enjoy food. So for me when celebrating that with people, really maybe talking about different ways of cooking or different methods, but not really ignoring that part. The culture is THE key part for for everyone. For me, it's it's how it's actually the end. For me, when I connect with my client, I connect, that's a commonality. That's what brings us together. And that's how we start the conversation, right? And food often breaks all the barriers and you know, our differences. And so, which is why food sovereignty, all these topics are so important because it is a human right. It's the one thing that as humans we have in common and that when we sit across a plate of food, we forget about all the things that make us different. And talk about all the things that connect us.
Food is something to celebrate, and something that prefaces celebration. Dr. Ghai, we'll talk about good food versus bad food. Tell us some of your thoughts on that, and how that factors into the work that you do.
Dr. Amrita Ghai 46:41
Yeah, a lot of discussion, right of good versus bad eating. And I think I think it's fundamentally problematic because when you dichotomize your eating behaviors and your food, you set yourself up for difficulty actually being regulated and eating when eating starts to get disconnected from nourishment and becomes connected with morality, then we feel shame. If we eat something that , and this is I think, you know that the wellness industry, I think plays a big role in determining what has a halo around it, you know, and so if we're eating something that, let's say, isn't celebrated as being good or being clean, you feel like you're failing. And for a lot of people that shoots them in the foot, actually, they aren't able to, let's say, look at what they're eating, not think about the macro and micronutrients and think about what right now, I'm having a burger and fries, because that's what I desire to eat. And this is what my body wants. And that doesn't have to affect what I do later. That's really difficult when you're feeling a sense of failure, when you're feeling a sense of shame around that. I think what's good and what's bad is irrelevant. We are not good or bad based on our food choices. And I think that I have difficulty even sometimes with the concepts of healthy and unhealthy eating, at least with some of the folks that I work with. Because again, there is a morality that starts to get tied to this question of health. And there is this platform, there's this very loud voice, within the wellness space, that is sometimes arbitrarily determining what is healthy and what's unhealthy guiding trends change every couple of decades and some of the foods that people are valuing and putting those halos around now they wouldn't 20 years ago. And then I think this also connects kind of what we're talking about around, you know, how is it important to think about valuing foods in racialized communities, sometimes the wellness industry will also selectively decide what is being again, highlighted within some of these communities as being healthy or being particularly healthy and having that Halo or that veil of, of this goodness to it. And nobody, you know, when I was a kid drinking my turmeric milk, people would turn turn their nose up at that, and now it might coffee shop, you know, I can buy one for $14. So, you know, think i think that this, this ability to move back to this idea of nourishment really involves this disconnection between this value laden dichotomies ation, which disconnects us from regulated eating.
So, I mean, you mentioned the wellness industry and some of those distortions, right? So what can we do to kind of watch out for that, to check in with ourselves and know, you know, maybe I should step back and see how this might, you know, might be clouding my judgment about myself and my own choices? What can we do to respond to that
Dr. Amrita Ghai 49:47
I really think that something as simple as changing some of the language that we use around eating. The idea that there are foods that are certainly richer and other foods, that we certainly need balance in our eating. But balance is context dependent. So you're not vilifying one particular food when you're considering the context. I think understanding that, again, there's a conflation between health and weight. And that a person can be healthy at any size. People who live in larger bodies are not necessarily unhealthy. You have to look at behaviors, if someone is normalized in their eating with just a moderate amount of activity, and that's a whole other discussion around what that has to look like, they're likely going to be generally stable in their weight, and that might not be an issue. So I think this really unpacking language when you talk about eating healthy, are you actually talking about balance? Or are you trying to achieve some sense of let's say, weight and shape control, or some sense of value based on an idea you might have around? What's determined is good versus bad. And Leslie, I think you had some thoughts on this as well.
Leslie Campbell 50:57
Yeah, I mean, in addition to all of the wisdom that a guy just just just shared, which I fully agree with. I think it's also important to, in addition, remember that so many of the notions of wellness that we value have been constructed by a wellness industry that is capitalist. It's designed on a model of extracting wealth from our pursuit of a wellness ideal. And that ideal is also largely determined by the wellness industry. And so these are tied to so many of our ideas about body size, as Dr. Ghai was saying, and its relationship to wellness. And as an organization that works in the food space, then this is something that Foodshare Toronto has been working for the past couple of years to develop a clear stance [on]: to determine kind of how do we talk about food, especially in relation to body size, which which is another key focus, of course of the wellness industry. And so I mean, for a long time, the way we talked about food at Foodshare match the ways that we heard our partners and the public in general talking about food. We talked about healthy and unhealthy foods, good foods and bad foods. And so a couple of years ago, then then within the Foodshare team, then ancinitiative was started to open up a bigger conversation with Foodshare staff about body positivity, and what that might look like to us as a food organization working at the intersections of many different food justice issues. And so over the course of more than a year, then Foodshare formed a task force and sought input from staff, as well as our advisory board, and external experts to craft a statement to guide our work. That that statement is now up on our website alongside a body positivity action plan that outlines steps that we're taking to address, body positivity in our work. And I would also recognize that there are many names for this sort of work. Body positivity is not a perfect term, terms like body sovereignty, fat activism, fat acceptance, also used to describe this this sort of work. But sort of based on the statement that was developed now as a food organization, we try to acknowledge that many people, particularly people who identify as fat, racialized, trans, queer, gender non conforming or disabled, are most often told who or what they are because of their bodies. And they're also often told what they can and cannot do with their bodies, or how to feel about their body. These messages come from sources like the wellness industry, but also from popular culture, from family members from coworkers, teachers, health professionals, or even strangers at the grocery store. And we ultimately want to build communities that discouraged body shaming and separate feelings of shame from people's food choices. And so if folks are interested in learning more, I'm not sure when this podcast is going to be released. But Foodshare is leading a training that takes place on Wednesday, November the 25th. And we'll be publicly available on food shares website after that all about our body positivity work. And it will share further on sort of how Foodshare is embedding critical conversations about fat shaming and weight stigma across our work. And it's designed for funders, nonprofits, partners, and kind of any food people who are interested in this sort ofconversation.
Thank you for that. Leslie. Idil your thoughts on the question as well?
Idil Farah 54:38
Actually, as a nutritionist living in a larger body, for me, it's knowing how wellness can come in many different body size and loving your body and accepting the fact that you can feel well, in whatever size you know, you live in, right? And the idea that you know, the wellness industry is constantly asking you to do things. But if you're not feeling well, a lot of these things are not even possible. Right? And, and we look at food as this enriched fuel, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, but food works in synergy, right? It works together, all these minerals are available in one food, oftentimes, and when we break down the food, a lot of times we take away the joy, right? And it becomes obsessive. And for a lot of people, like Leslie and Dr. said, these things, it's a business, and they're selling you an ideal. They're selling you an idea. But it's, it's important to change that by the education Foodshare is offering, by showing different forms of wellness, different people in these spaces. It's really important to me more than anything, to take this idea that you need, like to supplement and to make like food that it has to be constantly this beautiful thing that you're putting together. Like it really is about like the simple pleasures, it's about making a plate of food. It doesn't have to look beautiful, but as long as it tastes good. And as long as you're coming together. If I'm making canned beans, and I am enjoying that it should be okay, if I'm having that burger, it should be okay. It's about that balance. It's about creating that like idea that, you know, how am I feeling in my body? How am I moving in my body? Do I feel clear headed today? Can I show up and be my best self and, and moving towards that? I think that is to me like the idea of wellness. And and that's what I really like my what I share in my every day, I think just my prescence, aay as a nutritionist, I'm not what you see every day. But this is the work that I do. I feel good every day. I am living well. And you know, it's good to see that.
Thank you, thank you all for sharing so many so many points of wisdom. I'd like to give you your as we call it on the show your "mic drop moment". And you can share one big last piece of advice that you want the people, as it were, to know. And I'll start with you Idil, since you just last finished up.
Idil Farah 57:35
Hmm, I feel for me doing a lot of research into ancestral ways of eating. And it's really important to looking to, you know, food in how you would use it. Like, I feel like beyond the medical industry beyond the wellness industry, really going back to the simplest part of food and to to to start enjoying and celebrating food and start to really look at it as international nourishment. And really look at how you're feeling in your body. That that's my piece.
Thank you. And you Leslie?
Leslie Campbell 58:26
Yeah, thanks. Um, I guess I'm, it's a little bit tangential. But I'm reminded of a 1999 hip hop album by Mos Deaf called Black on Both Sides. And please bear with me while I bring this around. So it's an incredible piece of art. The first track of the album is called Fear not of man and he talks on the track about people asking him all the time like, hey, Mos what's what's going to happen with hip hop. And his response is "whatever's happening with hip hop is whatever is happening with us". If we're doing all right, hip hop is doing alright, if we're struggling, hip hop is going to be struggling. And he says people talk about hip hop, like it's some giant living on the hillside that is coming down to visit the townspeople. But next time you want to ask yourself where hip hop is going, how about you ask yourself where I'm going? How am I doing, and then you get a clear idea. And it kind of feels like this beautiful, late 90s hip hop explanation of the social determinants of health and well being as framed through the lens of hip hop. So I mean, to bring this back to wellness, within the black community, the indigenous community, other communities and its relationship to eating, we need to look at the barriers that communities are facing and accessing what they feel they need to thrive. What is preventing us from accessing the resources we need, I mean, the next step, therefore, is to advocate for the removal of those barriers to accessing those resources and that's something that individuals and communities can do to support this effort. This is ultimately going to require those in power in governments with decision making power to meaningfully listen to what leaders from those communities are saying, and then to act on what they hear. Because ultimately, if a community is oppressed, if it's cut off for prevented from accessing the resources and supports it needs to thrive, then you will see that manifested in different ways in that community. And that's one of the things I think that we see here in this conversation.
thank you so much. And I'm a Mos Def fan. So I appreciate that analogy [Laughter]. And last, but certainly not least, Dr. Ghai.
Dr. Amrita Ghai 1:00:41
I think these kinds of conversations are so important in terms of being able to recognize how there are so many different factors that can be obstacles that come in the way of being able to live well, and to be well on a daily basis. But but the insight often isn't enough, right? Because some of these factors will bombard us or will, you know, essentially, be the background context around which we're trying to live day to day. And so I really think that being able to develop this ability to be a good consumer, of a lot of messaging that we're faced with, you know, so so if you are having a conversation with someone, or there is something on your social media platform, that's being echoed to you, let's say whether it's by the the wellness industry, or not being able to examine that message and recognize, you know, is there some element of this, that's that's attempting to make me feel shame and is trying to sell me something based on that? Is there a lack of acknowledgement that some of these basics around healthy living and food security aren't being acknowledged, that there isn't this equitable access. Being able to recognize that health exists at every size, and that the pursuit of some type of body, you know, whatever language you use around that, body positivity, or I like to think about a neutrality around that can be achieved without looking a certain way. So developing almost that that critical awareness so we can be less impacted, we have a little bit of I an think an armor around us to help us deal with some of these messages that hopefully with time will change, but perhaps not, as soon as they should.
Leslie Campbell 1:02:23
If I may just kind of tag on to that last point, as well, because I feel like one of the things that Dr. Ghai mentioned around being bombarded is really important just to sit and appreciate at the moment. Like, we are all sitting here, doing our jobs, being parents being friends, being supportive to our neighbors, etc. But we're all also trying to survive a pandemic, and remain healthy and and stay alive through this. And so I think it's one of the things I've been trying to remind myself is that it's also really important every once in a while to disconnect from that bombardment. We can we can, we can sometimes nourish ourselves by disconnecting altogether from conversations about wellness, about diet, about body size to give our psyche a break. And and so I mean, yeah, I thought that Dr. Ghai spoke really beautifully to that kind of just overwhelmed sense that wood that we all have and that we're walking around with these days. And and it's okay to just be like, you know, what, this isn't a conversation that I need to be a part of, and, and so yeah, sometimes disconnecting or refusing to engage is, is one means of self preservation. And one way to keep yourself well.
Right. Generative refusal. Go ahead Idil.
Idil Farah 1:03:43
Yeah, I just want to say gratitude for this body that shows up for us every single day. We are, you know, healthy we are well, we were always looking for more, but to remember to be grateful, you know, not just everything everyone said, but they've, I've learned that, you know, wishing for a different body or trying to fit into a different size is really not as important is everyday my body shows up for me, so many millions of processes happen to get me to be here. So you know, grateful for that.
Gratitude is always a good note to end on. Thank you for listening to Episode Four on In Conversation. If you want to learn more about our guests, check out the show notes. And remember, it's been a tough year. So let's move with some kindness for ourselves and for others. And in the meantime, as always, take good care. Bye for now.