J500 Media and the Environment

We Are Not What We Eat by jackiemcc

While I was growing up, I was exposed to many different cultural foods. After my parent’s divorce, my dad introduced my sister and me to a local Indian restaurant. When my stepmom came along, she introduced us to her favorite type of food, Thai. And in high school I had a few friends with different ethnic backgrounds, in which I learned about different types of food from. Before encountering these cultural foods, I was a little skeptical to try them, because I didn’t know if I would like them. However, I usually try new foods at least once. And I’m glad I did, because these cultural foods have been an important part of my family.

This led me consider my personal eating habits, and how they reflect who I am. I don’t think the saying ‘we are what we eat’ necessarily holds true; I think it’s more about ‘what we eat reflects who we are.’

Just because I have a can of green beans in my cupboard, doesn't mean I am a tall, jolly green giant. I am quite the opposite in fact. Photo by Jackie McClellan

Believers of the former popular saying argue that ‘we are what we eat’, because if you eat fatty and sugary foods, you will gain weight and become fatter, and vice versa, if you eat healthy foods, you will lose weight and become skinnier. This may be true for some people; however, it is not true for everyone. Someone with a high metabolism could eat a lot of bad foods, and not gain a pound. It all depends upon your body type.

Also, I would like to beg to differ that ‘we are what we eat’ in regards to our personality. Sometimes they are just not compatible. For example, I know plenty of people who like sweets, and whose personality is not so sweet.

Let’s also consider the literal meaning of a food. Simply said, we are not animals. I mean just because I eat parts of a pig, doesn’t mean I’m a pig; in fact I’m far from it, I’m one of the most organized people I know.

This concept is more focused on ‘what we eat reflects who we are.’ I say this because our bodies conform to what we eat. We can’t control how that affects our bodies; it will either affect us in a negative or neutral way.

We can also be shaped based our cultural experiences and family traditions with foods, like I mentioned above with the Indian and Thai food. My family isn’t Indian or Thai, but it shapes our family values. Everybody enjoys different types of food, and that shapes who they are, what they eat, and where they go. A certain restaurant can be a family tradition, and mean something to that family. For example, when I was a younger, we always went to a nearby country club for Easter brunch every year. It defines us because we have many memories from there.

From a literal standpoint, I can’t stand here and say ‘I am what I eat’, that just doesn’t seem right to me. I look at it from the viewpoint that ‘what we eat reflects who we are.’ We are shaped by what we eat, we are not what we eat.

-Jackie McClellan

Warm feelings for an icy chest by jmuselmann

Once upon a time last week, I decided to start making a change. I guess it was what is languidly referred to by communications and philosophy people as “cognitive dissonance” that finally caught up with me. I started staring at all those paper latte cups I had with me every day and thought, god, this is ridiculous. The sheer amount of cups and lids I use was not only a green atrocity, but also shed light on how much of a caffeine goon I am. So I finally drug my thermos and my computer around for a day to try on my sustainability hat.

All went well—I saved the lives of at least two cups, only to be used by the people in line behind me, and spared a few spiraled pages for another day. But guess what? That evening I found my computer charger—among other things—dowsed in my spoiled latte swill from eight hours ago. And I suddenly remembered why I had previously stopped lugging the adult sippy cups. Charger defunct. Spirits again tarnished.

Every time I attempt things like this, they end in folly, I often think. Then I look in my fridge and wonder how I was surprised. It is a sick sight: food wrappers I somehow couldn’t take out of the fridge; half a can of soup saved in vain; condiments that have been rifled through with messy hands halfway through a meal (likely the Ramen “needed something”); my prized thick, pulpy orange juice; yogurt, for those creamy personal moments I need after a long day; and most recently, evidence of my new-found appreciation for Kraft Singles, as articulated by an old friend. And in the thick of a terrible winter, my new way of storing groceries (wherein refrigerated items are extracted while the rest is left in bags on the floor until time of use) points to the subtle, horrifying laziness I am capable of. How is it again that I can stab at sustainability when my own lifestyle is so… dilapidated? Can a messy person make the world cleaner?

Indeed, to present oneself as sustainable suggests a certain degree of organization, say not virtue for those that can seem to pull it off—and that’s why it  makes everyone feel terrible; it’s like self-righteous in-laws (by Mother Nature) with a political fervor to fuss until everyone feels bad, even for trying. But sustainability is also an idea—and a motivation—that emerges in odd, unexpected new shapes every day, and we should be open to them. Though we continue to discover dazzling complexities of nature each day, models to help the planet don’t have to be. Nor does someone  have to trod weightless on the planet to recognize how ornate and delicate it is. And I thought lugging the thermos was too tedious.

Somehow, something wells up in me—call it guilt, call it sporadic moral compunction, call it optimism—to try new ways to render myself less abrasive for the environment, and, when they end in disaster, to try another way.

—Jacob Muselmann

Looking at food pantries as a mirror by Lauren Cunningham

In case you missed it this week, The Associated Press reported that a woman claimed that the fat around her midsection, otherwise known as love handles, saved her life from a gunshot. She was quoted in the story saying, ‘I want to be as big as I can if it’s going to stop a bullet.’

Now, not only did I think her quote was one of the most illogical statements I’ve read in a while, but the story got me thinking about how the types of foods people eat show in appearance or beliefs about nutrition.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always eat what I should. (I don’t think anyone really does.) But since taking time to learn about the importance of healthy, sustainable and local foods, I really try to pick out items in the grocery store that reflect this awareness. Unfortunately, because I am a college student and don’t have a lot of money, I can’t always afford the best foods.

My mom often is my hook-up for healthy, locally-grown food, such as this ground beef from Santa Fe Trail Meats. (Photo taken with my iPhone TiltShiftGen app)


I think my food pantry and refrigerator reflects my conflict of “Do I buy all fresh, local or organic food or do I buy cheap junk food?” pretty well. In my kitchen, you can find anything from ground beef from Santa Fe Trail Meats or whole grain bread to Velveeta shells and cheese or off-brand cereal.

Honestly if I can get twice as much cereal in a big off-brand bag for half the price of a cereal like Kashi, I’m going to choose the off-brand bag. Yes, I would love to buy Kashi everytime I buy cereal, but that’s extra money each grocery trip I could use for bills, rent, etc.

For me, primarily focusing on buying higher quality proteins, fruits or vegetables is the best option for the income I have right now. Once I have a steady income, I definitely want to be able to shop primarily at places like The Merc. The reality is that I can’t afford it now. It’s enough for me to try to find fresh or healthy foods, let alone organic or locally-grown foods.

Luckily, I do have healthier opportunities around me even now that I always try to take advantage of. One of our family friends shares the vegetables she grows in her garden with my parents and with me, which I love. As a teacher, my mom also regularly tries to buy local foods from her students’ families or co-workers (hence, my supply of meat from Santa Fe Trail Meats).

No, not all of the foods in my kitchen reflect someone who always chooses the healthiest option of food. But I’m not that person just yet anyway. I think my food selection still shows that I am constantly thinking of the smartest, most sustainable food choices for my budget.

— Lauren Cunningham

No say about food today by tesshedrick
February 26, 2010, 4:43 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 6, Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

If someone were to ask me what my favorite food was, I would probably choose the simple lunch meat, turkey.  I could eat turkey everyday and never get sick of it.  However, if someone were to ask me how often I eat my favorite food, I would maybe say once a week.  Why, you ask?  Living in a sorority house gives you no freedom to choose what you eat.  The menus are decided by the chefs; basically, I just eat whatever they make even if I dislike it.

From my living situation the past year and half, my choice about the food I eat has basically been eliminated.  Since money is tight for the average college student, going out to eat usually isn’t really an option.

There is one place that has a special place in my heart, Subway.  The prices are great, it’s fast, and it’s healthy.  The five dollar foot-long has dramatically impacted my life; I mean I can buy one sandwich and get two meals out of it.  It’s brilliant!

If people are what they eat, I’m Subway.  Living on my own next year, I am curious how I will choose the poster foods of my pantry.  When I envision my kitchen next year, I see lots of fruits and veggies, pasta, and chicken.  Who am I kidding, I don’t know how to cook!

I’m sad to admit it, but I think everything in my kitchen will be packaged. This article describes how packaged foods are not the most healthy food, but is this going to stop me from eating it? Probably not.

Therefore, I will not have to mess with the whole cooking thing.  Looking at this previous statement, I realize how pathetic I sound; I don’t know how to cook and I really don’t have any desire to learn.  Good thing I’m not planning on becoming a house wife!

I’m really not too picky of an eater and will basically eat anything that is placed in front of me, which basically doesn’t leave me any time to think of where the food came from.  My hope for next year is that as I (hopefully) start going to the grocery store, I will be more conscious of where the food I’m buying is coming from.

I’m going to call next year my training year; I’m going to figure out what foods I really enjoy on top of being aware of where they came from.  Hopefully after my “training year” I will have a set list of foods that I always have my pantry and refrigerator stocked with.


I'm not a big fan of spicy chicken wings but it was in front of me, so I ate it.

-Tess H.

I thought I was grainy, but apparently I’m just boring. by bendcohen

Jokes can be made all day long about the old axiom that “You are what you eat”.  Most of these, as the title of this piece, are not actually good jokes, but I digress.  Somebody’s lifestyle really can be judged by their diet.  One of the most popular documentaries of the first decade of this century (annoyingly referred to at times as “the Aughts”) was Morgan Spurlock’s “Super-Size Me”, detailing his experiment with eating nothing but fast food for a month.  The changes in Spurlock from the opening of that film to the end were dramatic.  He began as a vegan, in apparently good physical shape, and ended chubby and constantly exhausted.

I bring this up because it gives new credence to the “you are what you eat” proverb.  That famous film showed somebody healthy and vibrant to reflect a thought-out lifestyle, only to become fat and slovenly when switching to a diet oriented around food that is quick and easy to obtain without much effort.

I’m not a big McDonald’s fan, myself.  Sadly, I do have a weakness for Taco Bell, their Tex-Mex counterpart.  It, like the infamous Golden Arches, is cheap and easy to access, not even requiring getting out of one’s car if so desired.  And when I go through phases where I frequent “The Bell” (as the cool kids call it), I’m usually feeling a lot lazier as well.

I’d like to say that my food habits only occasionally display somebody not interested in the experience of cooking a nice meal.  The part of the pantry I claim (I share with four other people) consists mostly of sliced bread, bagels, soup, canned chicken breast, and cereal.  Nothing I eat at home makes more than four minutes to prepare.

According to the “What does the food you eat say about you?” quiz hosted on ProProfs Quiz School, my eating habits are “Plain”.  My habits, which range anywhere from dipping carrots in ranch to enjoying cereal.  I am assessed as this kind of person:

“You definitely enjoy the simple things in life. You don’t make a big deal out of things and you’re not full of drama. You would be equally happy whether you were riding a bull in a bar or staring at your pet cat Fluffy for three hours. You’ve never really been dissapointed (sic) in life, but then again you’ve also never really won anything.”

My corner of the pantry.

This, of course, is mostly tongue-in-cheek.  The thing is, I don’t entirely disagree with it (other than I am a dog person).  So what does this make me, really?  Lazy?  Impatient?  Or just generally apathetic about what deeper meaning my diet has.  I’ve always assumed the latter, but then I usually don’t analyze the collective food that I keep in my house at any one time.

-Ben C.

If you are what you eat, in my case I’m . . . by Kelly
February 26, 2010, 3:51 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 6, Society + Media | Tags: , , , , ,

Sometimes when I’m in the mood for a little self-awareness, I turn to the Internet quiz.  Those simple, short questionnaires are perfect for instant answers that have zero basis in scientific fact. So I opted to take a quiz designed to tell me what my food says about me.

Evidently, I’m “plain.”

“Plain,” according to the site, means “not highly cultivated, simple, natural, homely.” The homely part is unfortunate.  How did they come up with that?  Because I would choose to eat an apple over a mulberry? That makes no sense.


But in all other regards, that assessment is probably fair. On a day-to-day basis, my meals are simple, which is basically a result of two factors. Grad student glamor for one, meaning I have limited time and money. I’m sorry, I should be more precise: I have very limited time and money. Time is especially of the essence because when I get home for dinner I’m famished enough to eat my draperies. Which actually would not be simple at all.

Another factor is I just like simple meals. I find them satisfying and charming. Meat and potatoes? Perfection.  If I’ve learned anything in my 24 years, it’s that it is never a mistake to listen to how you feel, and it just feels right to eat this way.  However, while my meals are well-rounded and satisfying, there is a lot more to food than fiber and vitamins.

The food we eat effects our livelihood by nourishing our bodies and connecting to our emotions.  In my case,  grocery shopping and home-cooked meals make me feel responsible, healthy, and self-sufficient.  Anyone who has sat around the dinner table with family or friends knows that food is  much more than a solution to hunger.  Good food makes us feel secure. When I come home to beef and vegetable soup, I feel settled, calm, and cared for.

That’s the magic of food.  I believe that a person’s favorite meal can tell you a lot about their life. Was it a meal with friends or family? Was it formal or casual? Takeout or made at home?  I would assume that most people can associate certain emotions with those different factors. Furthermore, I have noticed that people who are comfortable with food are comfortable with themselves.

Food is important to our physical health but it’s necessary for our emotional well-being too.  When we’re confronted with the problems in our food system today, we need to acknowledge the gravity and depth of the issue.  We should be concerned about the environment and human nutrition, but an unstable food system also implicates our cultures and our connections to other people.

When you sit down for a meal, consider what food does for you. I think you’ll realize that the importance of food is not so plain and simple.


When Good Things Go Bad by KaylaReg

Nope, nothing good in here.

One of my favorite lines in every reality dating show is “This year, I’m putting love first.” It’s so cliché, but it recently made me reflect on the things I’ve been putting first in my own life. Health is certainly towards the bottom, as seen by what I ate today:

One grilled Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and mustard sandwich (315 calories)

A half a cup of low fat Cheez-Its (70 calories)

One medium sized orange (85 calories)

10ish peanut M&Ms (about 103 calories)

One slice of Farm Fresh pizza from Pizza Shuttle (about 300 calories)

Three-fourths a cup of macaroni and cheese (300 calories)

Although approximately 900 calories less than the expected daily intake (for the record, I am not trying to starve myself, I’m just more of a snacker than a big meal eater), it’s 1,173 calories of mostly hydrogenated fat and sodium. This is about average for me and I’m not proud of it.

Yes, I have fresh fruits and vegetables, soy meat substitutes and a wild salmon filet in the freezer. Whenever I do my big grocery runs, I make sure to buy as many healthy all-natural foods as possible, and I usually succeed in making a few good meals a week. But what happens is the leftovers sit in the fridge, my milk gets spoiled and my eggs go bad long before I’ve eaten my guilty purchases like chips and macaroni.

Better, but still not great.

According to research by the National Academy of Sciences, the beauty of my processed food items and my genetically engineered tomato is that they last forever.

What won’t last forever though is my health. In the independent documentary Localize Me, fast-food junkie Daniel Fisher only eats food from Lawrence’s Local Burger for 30 days. He can eat whatever he wants from the all-natural and local menu and he eats a lot. It’s expected that Fisher will lose weight, as eliminating fast food from any diet can only improve one’s health, but the results are truly shocking. He went from 295 to 272 pounds over the month and his cholesterol dropped from 285 to 166.

Fisher’s story is inspiring, and not only because swimsuit season is approaching. Diabetes and heart problems run in both sides of my family, an unfortunately more and more common occurrence in the United States.

It’s so easy to blame my unhealthier choices on a stressful, busy lifestyle, but I don’t foresee it getting any easier in the near future. So, I think it’s time to change this cycle. I probably won’t stick to a 100 percent all-natural, local, and organic diet. In accordance with the ‘finite pool of worry,’ I don’t think I could do the amount of research on food items required to make sure my grocery list lived up to such standards. What I can do is strike the chips and macaroni from the list and find other, actually healthy items on which to “veg.”

Because 57 days into this year, I decided to put health first.

-Kayla R.