Monday, May 12, 2008

To become skinny find a woman to cook for you

This is an image from the Icarus Project, a radical mental health support network. I saw it when it was reprinted in a local zine (more on that later): You can find a larger version here. [Image description: It's a poster headed taking care of the basics. It is divided into 5 parts: eating, sleep and rest, exercise, schedule and herbs, meds etc. Each has a cartoon drawing, half with people who are doing things in a way that is portrayed as unhelpful, the other half with people who are doing things in a way that is portrayed as helpful.]

I wish I was disappointed; I wish I expected more of so-called radical organisations. But no, when trying to illustrate unhelpful eating patterns for depression they show a fat person eating a burger and fries, and they contrast this with a thin people eating a home cooked meal served by a woman (the headline is my alternative title for the Eating Well illustration).

The illustration is not radical. Fat-hatred is not radical. Food-hatred is not radical. People can pretend that their disgust at a burger and fries* comes from their dislike of multi-national corporations. But their disgust at a fat body is in plain view.

* Which as far as meals when you're depressed go seems pretty good to me. It has protein, carbohydrates and fat. It will fuel your body.


  1. Anonymous8:19 pm

    Hm... I may well regret this, but... :)

    The only problem I have with the image is the idea that it's the role of women to feed their friends and family, it could have been a group of people eating well together, it didn't need the gendered message.

    The rest, however, I am totally fine with.

    Issues about weight are real for people living with depression, not only can weight changes be triggered by depression (and are used as a screening indicator), but many antidepressants cause weight gain. Many people surviving on antidepressants find the physical changes caused by the drugs (not just weight gain) distressing and it is a lot more than just a reflection of our society's views on weight. Drugs which change how our bodies are, feel, move and look is just another thing which makes it hard to accept long term reliance on antidepressants. I like that the image acknowledges these issues.

    As for eating well to manage your mood; absolutely, lots of evidence, and it makes a real difference. Burgers and chips, which I imagine are always high in saturated fat (so not good for your brain chemistry or mood), would be worth avoiding if you can find the time and energy.

    Which brings me to the positive image, good food, eaten with friends and family who care.

    Eating well when depressed is hard, eating well when on antidepressants can be hard. Good food, regular meals, gentle company are all a real gift for people struggling with depression.

    The question that brings me to is, why do we rely on women to provide that? Men can help their brothers, fathers, sons, and friends eat well, feel loved and survive depression too!

  2. Anonymous4:36 pm

    Food does can have a major role in over coming depression. I can testify to that first hand, but this cartoon stigmatizes fat people. They're fat, therefore they must be irresponsible with their dietary 'choices', not to mention the other points Maia already made.

    Come on radicals, stop being so bloody reactionary.

  3. Anonymous8:21 pm

    Could it be possible that it's simply showing a typical negative pattern for depressed people? I mean, even aside from the effect that many psychoactive drugs have on appetite, it's quite common for depressed people to eat poor food and become fat and pimply, partly as a result.

    The gendered "good food" thing I do kinda accept, but the so-far unmentioned possibility is that the depressed person in that picture is the one passing round the food. Remember that doing stuff for others can also help pull us up.

    Don't let your preconceptions carry you away, remember that sometimes even women and caregivers get depressed.


  4. Anonymous8:12 pm

    I think Maia makes some good points, I didn't even pick up on the fat-hate under(over)tones. Must have left my critical hat off that day.
    Depression for me has meant weight loss not gain. Skinny does not equate with health, quite the opposite at times.
    I disagree about the burger though, while it'd be great to conscious of the way we talk about food and remove moral judgements, there is genuinely food which is healthy and that which is unhealthy.
    Skinny people eat Mc-crap too.
    Love and mung beans,

  5. Anonymous12:22 pm

    I had been given this cartoon when I was in San Francisco and I had not understood it. I didn't know anything of the Icarus project and the meaning of the cartoon seemed very obscure to me, to the point that I didn't know at all what it was advertising or criticizing and, well, what it was all about.
    Now that I know, I find it fucking damn normative !
    I hate sports, I eat junk food, I have no schedule, I sleep quite unregularly, and I really don't feel I'm suffering that much from it all.

  6. Anonymous9:17 pm

    In 'sleep and rest' the man is walking around late at night while the woman sleeps.

    So? Are they trying to stigmatise men as insomniacs?

    OOooo look in the 'having a schedule' one, all the drunks are white MEN! Maybe they are discriminating against men! Or whites!!!```~

    If you pick away at things long enough, eventually you'll find a thread to pull.

  7. Anonymous12:20 am

    There is a concept that people who sleep a lot run the risk of gaining weight. Well, this is not false, but then people who do not sleep well also run the risk of gaining weight! Appropriate amount of sleeping is very necessary to keep from getting obese. Even children, who do not sleep well, might run the risk of getting obese. However, in the modern times there are a plenty of ways that can help a person to lose weight, for example the weight loss pills.

  8. anonymous said "I hate sports, I eat junk food, I have no schedule, I sleep quite unregularly, and I really don't feel I'm suffering that much from it all."
    that's prolly because you're not depressed!!!
    also, this poster is all well & good, but what if you don;t have a partner to help you out with all these things - i know for me it wold have been a godsend to have someone else around to help me out (not do it for me, but a companion) - it's so much harder to stay motivated on your own.

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