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Feb 22
I can just imagine government health advisers screaming at me — “How dare you say that fast food is good for people”, “How socially irresponsible — we’ve just spent five million on anti-fast food ads.” Well, tough. It worked for me and it seems to work for a lot of people who might just be suffering from some of the problems that I was. Eventually, I managed to make it out of the mall, into cafés and restaurants. I realised that single people eat out a lot more than couples and families, and that there are solitary eaters everywhere, more so than in past generations. And I believe there is something unnatural about eating alone. It is, maybe, a sickness of our modernity: we crave the pack feast, the extended family table. We suffer some subtle trauma in not sharing in the social ritual of food. Ultimately, this fearful period of food readjustment did me some good — it reset all my settings back to the default — to the stage before I became middle class, neurotic and food-obsessed. I learnt how to eat anything I wanted, without the guilt, without the fear of the calorie count, without the fear of being “bad” through my food choices. Years later, I’m cured of my disorder and I’ve learnt a few things. One is that our modern obsession with healthy eating is a symptom of a sick mentality: it’s a displacement activity to gloss over the increasing social fragmentation we’re experiencing. The glycemic index and antioxidants are issues that we can control, and we feel we have to do this because we’ve lost control of our lives and our families. The greater problem we face is living alone — a phenomenon that’s on the rise faster than obesity levels. And help can sometimes come from the strangest of places. A mall, for God’s sake! I look back at my mall eating with a certain nostalgia and upon shopping malls as, in many ways, unexpectedly benevolent places. Most of all, I learnt how to stop being a food snob. I learnt how to eat again, without thinking, drinking, doubting or interrogating my food choices. I re-learnt to get over food and to worry about the much bigger problems that shape who we are in the world.