Truth as aVibe and Splinterarsing

Lucy Aphramor
with thanks to Kolleen Gladden on Unsplash

Truth — What’s Your Vibe?

Athletics track? Lawn? Meadow? Which of these evokes your sort of Truth? Do you want something that can be measured to the split second with an undisputed champion and more-or-less objectively decided second and third place, an aura of triumph, unambivalent well-deserved accolade? Certainty. Predictability. Precision. Here, Truth is a race to the finish in a competition that is powered by the existing engines of privilege, such as attending a private school, having positive role models, not living in a war zone. Outliers are permitted, and always easily recognised as an aberration. They have achieved against the odds, and in a handy twist their achievement is a badge of our good-personhood, thought-through inclusiveness. Medals are given, sponsors win, and the rules of the game don’t change.

Except when it suits the powerful.

Maybe your sentiment for Truth is a lawn: neat, lush, its pleasing monotones easily surveyed. A quick glance and you know what’s what. Trimmed to fit. Nothing bites your bum. You can walk across it with your bare feet confident you won’t feel nettled. Your neighbours have plots like this too.

Beyond this, out of sight and sound and smell lies the wasteland. This is the place where things that don’t fit get dumped.

But there are people wondering if Truth smoothed green is perhaps missing something, and so they turn to the wasteland, bravely, risking being outcast. I gather my fragments and go in search of them. And smell that? It’s blossom, or it’s the ripe sweetness of decaying fruit enriching the earth. For there are the edge lands too which might, in time, re-emerge with Truth as a meadow:

vibrant, with hidden prickles, self-seeding, fragile-fertile, in danger of being steam-rollered over. It cross-pollinates, buzzes, smells intoxicating, gives you a nasty rash. It is irascible, it pulses with rhizomes and over-wintered tubers, welcomes wind- blown seeds, tries out burr and bristle and My, that’s an interesting type of weed. There is richness here.

Truths Communicated through Food Conversations

I want to link these questions on Truth to changing the conversation on food and public health to promote justice. I think we need to be alarmed by the way popular narratives centre ‘lifestyle’ and personal healing and disappear power and connection. I think we could be doing more to speak a different story into being, one for instance, where any discussion on sugar and diabetes would integrate historical trauma and oppression syndrome within a decolonising agenda.

I’ve previously said that Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating (I/ME) use a binary, and any approach that uses a binary is oppressive. In particular, I’ve interrogated a hallmark belief of I/ME that body signals are intrinsic and can be trusted as a route to wholeness. This idea circulates as a Truth across I/ME discourse and practise communities. Just as ‘ignore body signals’ is implied, tacic knowledge in Diet Culture, ‘trust your body signals without reserve’ is a knowing carried in Non Diet Culture, and I’ve explained why I find it dangerous. We need precision in language and we need to be mindful that Truth circulates and impacts lives beyond any meaning made explicit by the written word.

Another point I make is that if I/ME instead fostered a relational mindset, one of interconnection and non-dualism, we’d be having very different conversations about justice, food and health than we are.

(Just to clarify, I’m not commenting on the practice and uses of mindfulness even though I’m talking about mindful eating. Weirdly, mindful eating doesn’t actually enact mindfulness, which is close to the nub of the problem. Similarly, I’m not suggesting we should disregard body signals when I say IE is oppressive.)

What Keeps Us Stuck? And Where Do We Stop Learning?

When we start learning we’re new to the field and the task is to build skills and knowledge. The term neophyte describes this newcomer — it refers to the learning of an apprentice, a professional, and a religious novice alike. As we get more familiar with the field, we shape new learning to align with our values. In the professional and activist world we’re now an advocate, purposefully adopting a particular political stance. An advocate becomes a devotee when beliefs that threaten thinking are protected at all cost, as if it is a religious creed we are espousing, not a carefully developed theory, and certainly not an analysis for praxis based action.

I/ME are not imperfect concepts in need of repair, they are dangerous concepts in need of replacement. We need to scrap them and redirect collective intellectual and heart endeavour to knowing each other through a paradigm that centres connection and has a reverence for integrity, for Earth Restored.

Following up on gaps in my ideas will strengthen the usefulness of the rewrite for advancing justice and healing. That’s a different thing than acting as if any flaw automatically annuls the substantive f!ck up of the binary.

Similarly, any reflex urge to amend I/ME is wholly understandable, but if the goal is radical transformation, acting on this reflex misses the point. The point is that I/ME rely on a bedrock of foundational assumptions that obstruct emancipatory thinking and harm people. Assimilating radical ideas into existing theory, and doing away with Connected Eating, is an option, but it amounts to a slight of hand that does not favour deep change. A streamlined assimilation dances to the tune of perfectionism and linear progress and the surface, front-facing, star-rated learning of neoliberal education. It replicates a colonizing agenda of plunder and entitlement.

Among other things, it’s splinterarsing. Splinterarsing is a term coined by dietitian Fiona Sutherland that describes the act of straddling paradigms, specifically, grafting non-diet/HAES insights onto a diet agenda. This is a disingenuous move that cements Diet Logic and misrepresents HAES politics. In splinterarsing, Truth is a position achieved by being Right, not one arrived at through change and understanding. It is anchored in the will to dominate, not liberate.

I/ME are not imperfect concepts in need of repair, they are dangerous concepts in need of replacement.

With thanks to Sharon Mccutcheon on Unsplash

I am picturing a growing-to toppling book pile of clever titles, great writing, and revolutionary daring smothered under same samey-sameness. There can be a type of comfort in barricading ourselves behind the familiar so we don’t have to work with new ideas

but it is not what we came here for.

Let’s learn from the tensions between paradigms, let’s be respectful of the scholarship and people behind ideas and reflect this in process, let’s not obfuscate, misdirect, and co-opt.

Ignoring the deep mind-body fault-line of I/ME and its atomistic stance keeps the colonial, neoliberal creed intact and serves a logic of supremacy, not mutuality.

The task lies in changing the source from which we act, not bolting on revisions.

With big thanks to Nicole Maunsell and Julie Reynolds for conversation, support and editorial advice.

Lucy Aphramor is a poetitian. They perform social action poetry working with director Tian Glasgow from New Slang Productions. Lucy developed Well Now as a way of transforming trauma through food and body stories.

Lucy Aphramor

Written by

Lucy Aphramor is a poetitian — a radical dietitian and performance poet. They developed the health justice approach Well Now.

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