Thursday, December 05, 2013

Tracy Anderson's glute(n) advice, and more

-The latest Slate Culture Gabfest takes on viral social-media shaming of public obnoxiousness. A topic near and dear to my heart. The more people who start questioning viral shaming, the better.

-The latest in parental overshare: a parent (with a distinctive name) provides an annotated version of his seven-year-old daughter's Christmas wish list, complete with photos of the "insane" (his word) list itself, kid-handwriting and everything. Given the number of places I've seen this linked to, and the stats visible on the post itself, I suppose it counts as having gone viral. Is it funny? Sure. Is it an invasion of this kid's privacy? Yes, that too.

Parental overshare comes in two forms: tragic-and-exceptional and humorous-relatable. Both are privacy violations, but it might be more obvious why the former would pose a problem. We're sympathetic to the extent to which a kid's problems can deeply impact a parent, but ultimately the information - the relevant medical records, juvenile-detention stints, abuse-victimhood, etc. - belongs to the child. (OK, we as a society are perfectly fine with infinite parental sharing; I, and like three other people, are not.)

It's less obvious why it's iffy to post about within-normal-limits parenting escapades. Lighten up! seems the obvious counterargument. And does tend to be good advice generally.

But imagine you're the kid. It's kind of terrifying to imagine being known for your brattiest/most ridiculous childhood moments. And children - on account of being children - virtually all act in ways that would seem, in adults, narcissistic, impatient, and lacking all sense of proportion. Thus why, when adults make the sorts of fusses that these days so often go viral, we refer to them as acting like children. But your age at the time whichever item was posted will be less memorable than your display of spoiled entitlement. It will be you who threw a tantrum over not getting the right jeans. You who saw it as the world's greatest tragedy when you weren't invited to that sleepover. Should this be exploited for material on a Gawker affiliate? Is it somehow OK if your decompensations were hilarious, or if your parents were clever writers able to make them sound more entertaining than they were?

-Usual suspects Mark Bittman and Tracy Anderson have come to the rescue this (eternal!) holiday season, with tips for not becoming too glutinous or whatever's the preferred euphemism this holiday season. Both advice columns are also, more subtly, efforts to distance themselves from reputations as (very different kinds of ) ascetic extremists. Bittman doesn't tell you to extensively research each ingredient, but rather to eat real foods. Simple! Anderson, meanwhile, manages to admonish without calling her audience fat. She advises against juice cleanses, and also endorses putting food into one's mouth should one be so inclined. Moderation!

Except not really, if one reads between the lines. Bittman's "real food" suggestion is not as straightforward as all that. We get this as an aside: "(Most real bread, for example, is water, flour, yeast and salt, with the possible addition of olive oil or a seasoning or two, and the possible subtraction of yeast. Yeast conditioners and ingredients with five syllables have no place in real bread.)" Yet in this day and age, bread is sweetened. It just is. Even the most basic-looking ones at Whole Foods. Because that's the issue, right? Bittman's audience isn't confused because it's thinking of food as nutrients - that's so 1990s. It's about what constitutes real food, and a Talmudic debate is needed to dig up the answer.

Anderson, though, starts from a place far less reasonable than Bittman does, and thus would have to do far more to soften her reputation. (Relatedly - why do I know this? - she's on a broader campaign to distance herself from a quasi-pro-ana image. It seems to involve juxtaposing insistence that women not focus on skinny jeans with advice on fitting into the same.) She insists on a minimum of "30 minutes, six days a week" for workouts. She finds it dangerous that parents feed their children excessive amounts of... fruit. And laments her own gluten allergy, which I suppose we're to generously assume isn't a convenient allergy to carbs. (I don't doubt all medical gluten concerns, just of those who've made a career of honing and critiquing Gwyneth Paltrow's "long butt.") How could Tracy Anderson not be allergic to gluten?

And then there's this: "If you’re hosting, make sure everything in your house is organic and nothing else." But of course.

9 comments:

Petey said...

"And children - on account of being children - virtually all act in ways that would seem, in adults, narcissistic, impatient, and lacking all sense of proportion."

But couldn't more universal viral public shaming help keep these kids in line?

I mean, if a 5yo screaming in a supermarket knew for sure that he/she would end up a mass culture laughingstock, wouldn't that be a surefire deterrent to such aberrant behavior?

Zero tolerance seems an effective solution to all the world's problems, no?

CW said...

Bittman's limited conception of what is "real bread" seems especially silly in a column about eating during the holidays. Lots of traditional Christmas breads are enriched breads containing things like fruit and honey.

Petey said...

"She finds it dangerous that parents feed their children excessive amounts of... fruit."

You mock. But hasn't it been conclusively proven that fresh fruit is the #1 cause of Long Butt?

Phoebe said...

CW,

True enough. Although as a rule, I think Bittman and the like are completely right to point out that bread these days is always sweetened. The problem isn't the breads we know are sweet, but that a regular loaf (white or whole wheat) has added sugar. The only ways to avoid it are avoiding bread altogether or baking one's own.

Phoebe said...

CW,

True enough. Although as a rule, I think Bittman and the like are completely right to point out that bread these days is always sweetened. The problem isn't the breads we know are sweet, but that a regular loaf (white or whole wheat) has added sugar. The only ways to avoid it are avoiding bread altogether or baking one's own.

Britta said...

If you live anywhere with a bakery, avoiding sugar in breads isn't that hard. Most bakery bread is made without the addition of corn syrup, or only enough sugar to stimulate yeast. Also, lots of supermarkets have their own bakeries, and their breads are often sugar free, and/or some supermarkets will sell local bakery bread. I feel like "good" bread is far more available now than it was 20 years ago. My family was an early adopter, and now I can't eat supermarket bread because all I can taste is the sweetness. I love breads that are intentionally sweet, though. I don't agree with everything Bittman says, but I do think that getting rid of extraneous sugar in our diets clears up more room for intentional sugar. Like, I would rather eat sugar free bread and spaghetti sauce and then eat cake. I do agree that this should be more on the end of corporations, who should be regulated, rather than solely on the onus of the consumer, but there are small changes we can make while we wait for a new FDA to appear.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

Totally agree re: it being better to know when you're eating sugar. But disagree re: this being a small change it's possible to make in the mean time. With tomato sauce, yes, because you can just heat up (crushed, even) tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, and you have near-ready-made sauce with ingredients of your choosing. With bread, however...

While it's definitely possible to get bakery or bakery-style bread more than it used to be, I, at least, have no reason to believe this bread doesn't contain sugar. This is something I've thought about, if not all that extensively. I do try to get bread at the (excellent) bakery in town, because it's supposed to be better, but then I start to wonder, why? I mean, apart from it tasting better, that is.

Whole grain bread quite often does contain added sugar, yet one is advised to choose that over white bread (including baguette, etc.), because white flour is basically sugar or something. The ingredients tend not to be posted when one is consuming something purporting to be "real food," so it can start to become a bit of a research project.

Britta said...

A lot of bakery bread I've seen has ingredients on the bag, and none of it has ever contained sugar, unless it's specifically sweetened bread. I really think that, unless you live in a food desert, getting sugar free bread is much easier than most people assume, and that bread from a bakery that doesn't taste sweet probably doesn't have sugar. I only eat bakery bread (bought at the supermarket), and now tasting prepackaged shelf stable supermarket bread, the sugar flavor is overwhelming, and not in a good way. Also, a lot of the mass produced "whole wheat" bread is dyed to be a dark brown, so it's not even necessarily better than a baguette in terms of refined flour.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

In my limited experience of knowing bakery-bread ingredients, white-flour bread, like baguette, won't have sugar, but multigrain bread (i.e. not just dyed brown) will. Often honey, not generally corn syrup. Something to do with whole-wheat not being thought palatable otherwise.

And more broadly, re: food deserts, population density also enters into this. I don't think anyone would call Princeton an underprivileged pocket of America, but where do all these wealthy people shop? Strip malls. Maybe Whole Foods rather than Shop Rite, but there's a kind of artisanal, little-shops experience you can only really get in a city or certain smaller towns.