Trigger warning: Eating disorder behavior and discussion of dieting.
I have a fucking problem with vegetables. It’s not so much a problem with vegetables as an appreciation for literally any other type of food.
Food was a tricky subject in my household. My dad’s disordered eating and weight-loss obsession inundated the whole family with a dieting mindset and destructive body-shaming behavior.I tried my first diet when I was 10. It was a soup diet, where you ate the same sad, cooked mash of vegetables every single meal for… was it, could it have been for a whole week? I think it was. I didn’t like veggies much before then, but I certainly hated them afterward.
Instead, I found other ways to maintain household expectations of thinness. I started to regulate what I was allowed to eat by the number of miles I ran. That’s how I justified my eating disorder; it wasn’t an obsession, merely correlated to another metric. As long as I ran the exact amount of calories I’d eaten, I was even. I was okay. It was easier to run until I was half-dead than face criticism for the size and shape of my body, than to face the shame of not being thin.
Even better, my dietary punishment was seen as a positive by most people. Hell, it even got me a fucking scholarship. When I finally quit running at 25, I wasn’t quitting a sport. I was quitting my eating disorder, come what may. Eating vegetables now reminds me how often I don’t eat them, which leads me down another shame spiral over my too-big body, one that has failed all the self-imposed rules that running used to help me maintain. Vegetables aren’t the enemy, but sometimes, irrationally, it feels like they are.
Unlearning these eating habits after leaving my parent’s house has been a long process, and I’m not even close to done. There are plenty of days when I feel like I’m starting from scratch. One tool that really helped me was reading an anti-dieting book that my therapist recommended, Intuitive Eating. The other, as stupid as it sound, is Trader Joe’s Cold Pressed Green Juice.
Drinking juice is a privilege. Drinking juice is for rich people, my sister and I used to joke, surveying the shiny $12 bottles that slowly rose to prominence during our childhood. Bound by steeper budgets, my mom bought raw vegetables in bulk and juiced them at home, a bold, early DIY act that’s still pretty badass when I think about it (However, this was Oregon in the ‘90s, she might’ve been legally obligated to participate in this kind of crunchy behavior).
Americans are taught that veggies and fruits are the best things to put into your body, but plenty of us still don’t do it. A solution, to trick our baby minds, is juice. And the best juice around, for my money (which is meager), can be found at your friendly neighborhood Trader Joe’s. TJs is popular enough, the scrappy, millennial wanna-be health food mecca — which originated in Pasadena, by the way — needs no cheerleading from me, yet I’m stuck praising them anyway.
Most cold pressed juice in the greater Los Angeles area runs in the range of $10-$12 per bottle, but Trader Joe’s manages to produce one that’s less than four dollars. That’s not just impressive, it’s kind of a game-changer. Do the math: five bottles (a weekday supply) for $20, instead of $50, still high, but a reasonable weekly budget for fruits and vegetables.
The ingredient list for my soon-to-be favorite juice contains all the things I know I’m supposed to regularly put into my body, but almost never do: kale, spinach, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon, and ginger. It’s not too sweet, but thanks to the lemon, ginger and apples, not so overpoweringly vegetal that it’s undrinkable. At first I’d just buy a couple, drink them when I knew I’d need extra energy or had to be away from home during the day, but surprise surprise, putting fruits and vegetables into my body every day made me feel amazing, and I started to crave it.
It’d be wonderful if this was the point in the story where I told you I followed in my mom’s footsteps, bought my own juicer, and replicated the recipe all on my own with a personal DIY praxis and overarching anti-capitalist mission. But… I decided to start a magazine instead, and I would’ve hated washing vegetable pulp out of the strainer each day, anyway. I fucking hate vegetables, remember? I’m sticking to the $4 juice, and I’m not going running. Yes, it may be a privilege, but for me, it’s also another step toward pursuing peace with my body. That’s worth the investment.