About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nia Vardalos & the Big Fat Secret to Health


I am not usually one to follow celebrity or Hollywood gossip. But, when I got wind of Nia Vardalos's recent post about her weight loss on CNN's AC360 Blog, my ears perked up.

Now, I wasn't even aware that Vardalos- writer and lead actress in My Big Fat Greek Wedding- had lost weight. Apparently she has. And, apparently it has been getting quite a lot of attention.

Vardalos recently lost 40 pounds.

Why? How? What is her secret?

Well, on June 12th she posted a response to these questions on Anderson Cooper's 360 Blog.

In this post, Vardalos talks a bit about her frustration that her weight loss has gotten so much attention when she has also had some major career and personal accomplishments within the last year - mainly releasing a new film (My Life in Ruins) and adopting a baby girl. She seems frustrated by how image and weight obsessed most Hollywood reporting and press publicity tends to be. She talks a bit about the differences in issues of appearance for men versus women. But, I think the most interesting part of her post is the section in which she talks about how people react to her explanations about her weight loss.

When people ask her about losing those 40 pounds, Vardalos puts it very simply: "I had a blood sugar problem so my Doctor ordered me to lose weight, it was really hard but I did it through diet, exercise and it took a year."

And, she says, most people do no want to hear that answer. Vardalos writes that she can see most people go glassy-eyed and tune out as soon as they hear the words "health reasons" "diet" "exercise" or "took a year" in her answer.

That is not a sexy answer. It is not glamorous. It is not tied to any product (like, say, my good old favorite the Lap Band), nor will it sell any books or pouches of powdered shakes.

I am really happy that a celebrity is coming out and saying that she lost weight the good old fashioned way- through diet, portion control, exercise, and yes, hard work. In my one month trying to eat as a vegan, I became much more aware of just how intense the social pressures around eating were in my life. I talked about how dietary changes can impact relationships because one person's reformed eating habits can be threatening to those that do not want to change. And, I touched on the fact that adhering to a stricter, healthier diet was just plain hard. There were days when I hated it, days I wanted to quit, days when I cheated and then felt weird and guilty about it. The truth is that changing your diet isn't easy, and genuine sustainable change is never going to come down to one big secret or one miracle pill.

I think that our denial about this reality is a major part of the obesity problem in America and a barrier to food reform, so I applaud Vardalos for speaking out so honestly about her experience.

If we are ever going to change the way we grow, buy, and eat food, we have to come out and admit that (#1) a lot of people in America - our friends, our family members, our neighbors, maybe even ourselves- absolutely need to lose weight for health reasons that impact not only individuals but the environment and our nation's health care system and that (#2) losing weight and changing our diets to be better for our bodies and better for the environment is NOT easy.

If we could wrap our heads around those two things, really face them, we might have a fighting chance. At least then we could support each other in our quest to improve instead of denying that we even need to change at all.

While my 1 month Vegan challenge is over, I am continuing to try to eat better and exercise more. I'm not kidding myself; I'd be better off if I lost 10 pounds. In order to do that I am going to have to control my portions better, drink less beer on the weekends, and limit my consumption of sweets. Oh, and I'm going to have to work out a bit more too. It is a process, and I'm working on it. Sometimes it is really hard.

One thing that makes it much much easier is that I have several people in my life who are outwardly trying to make the same changes. For example, I have a colleague at work who is also working very hard to get healthier, and the camaraderie between us on this issue has been immensely helpful to me. When I see her eat a small sliver of cake and say no to seconds, or drop a few more pounds, I am inspired to keep at it myself. I am grateful for this positive social pressure around food. It is helping me get and stay healthier. I think this type of social pressure could really catch on, but first we have to admit that there is no new, simple, Big Fat Secret to health.

Props, Nia. Thanks for putting the message out there.

1 comment:

  1. it's funny, I've always found it easier to lose weright when I do it by myself and don't really let people know that I am even trying. There is often much pressure to cheat "Aw, come on, one little cookie isn't going to hurt you, just eat a little less salad at dinner time.
    I know a lot of people who lie about their eating preferences because it's ust easier to say that they are allergic to things than to say that they are against eating crap with hig fructose corn syrup in it.