Alexandra Jamieson is the author of the new book Women, Food, and Desire: Embrace Your Cravings, Make Peace With Food, Reclaim Your Body. Her other books include The Great American Detox Diet, Living Vegan for Dummies, and Vegan Cooking for Dummies. A certified holistic health counselor and healthy gourmet chef, she works online and in private practice with clients on health and weight issues. She is based in New York City.
Q: You write, “Food, in our current culture, has become the other F-word; most of our interactions with it fill us with shame, guilt, and discomfort.” How did that come to be, and how are you trying to change it?
A: That cuts to the root of my personal revolution with this book. It’s a big middle finger to the “diet-industrial complex.” We’ve been brainwashed with every grocery-store trip. At the checkout counter, we’re bombarded with images from women’s magazines showing pictures of unhealthy yet delicious food porn, next to pictures of impossibly thin women.
Q: How do you suggest that people process this?
A: The best thing to initially do is get mad. See it for what it is—magazines are selling us the Madonna and the whore….I love a good chocolate cake as much as the next lady, but so many of us are suffering from [food-related issues]. The old mindset of calories in, calories out is not the answer.
Food is awesome. It’s one of the coolest things about being a human being. It’s how we connect with each other. But it’s gotten so mucked up.
Q: In the book, you state that “what we think we crave and what we really want are two very different things.” Why is that?
A: The initial food cravings we struggle with are usually for the very immediate, your body’s first line of defense to try to feel good. Your body is saying, “Something is off here, you’re tired, you’re anxious—have a cookie!” Your body is trying to make you feel better.
What’s happening is that there’s an underlying desire from the body for real nourishment, real rest, real intimacy, connection, creativity, impact.
How much are we really going for these true inner deeper desires? Do we feel we have the support to go after these things? Most of us can’t say “Hell, yeah!” to that, so we get into the cycle of depriving ourselves of our true desires and placating ourselves with desires that distract.
Q: Why are women particularly susceptible to cravings?
A: I do think this affects men as well, but there’s one major difference between men and women in this culture. Things are changing, but it’s still a work in progress.
We as women are not allowed to own our sexuality as men are. Masturbation is accepted and joked about for young men and boys. There’s still too much abuse and shame [around those issues] for men, but for women, we’re not even allowed to ask about masturbation and sex.
To eat and to fornicate, those are two things the human body is meant to do. We are either shamed for being too sexual or…try to turn off our sexuality so we don’t get shamed.
The overlap with the two is so apparent with my clients. We are all pleasure-seeking machines, but we’re not allowed the space to explore, so we turn to the other pleasure, food….
Q: You discuss the importance of trusting yourself around food. How did you learn to do that?
A: Trusting ourselves around food is a challenge. We don’t trust ourselves with anything. [Your gut] is your emotional intuitive core. When it’s not healthy, your intuitive brain is impaired. Your gut really is your second brain.
We feel how people are and what’s good for us [in our gut]—we get butterflies in our stomach, or a gut feeling about something. That’s your body telling [you] something. If it’s impaired, our ability to make good decisions is impaired….
Q: Are you working on another book?
A: I’ve got 18 ideas, but I’m really just recovering from writing this book! I started a podcast this year, which I love doing. I want this book to be part of the growing conversation on women’s health, on human health. I hope this book takes on a life of its own!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m launching a free cookbook that’s available now on http://alexandrajamieson.com/wfdbonusdownloads/. It’s divided into savory, fatty, salty, and sweet. There are over 50 recipes that you can download for free.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb