This week NPR's The Salt shared the story and artwork of Franzi Ross and her sister, Isabelle Ross in "My Food struggle in Pictures: When What I Ate Made Me 'Good' or 'Bad.'" It's an honest portrayal of how one family began to look at food as in black and white, good and bad, and how that ultimately affected Franzi and Isabelle's eating habits. It's a story that I can identify closely with. It's easy to hide an eating disorder behind broccoli, kale, and sweet potatoes. Especially when we are all part of a culture that discourages people from talking about their eating disorders and yet encourages an obsession with "good" foods.
Franzi Ross's article came at a particularly poignant and difficult moment for me, and many people in the United States. It came shortly after The House of Representatives approved a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act with the American Health Care Act. The American Health Care Act is horrible for a number of reasons, only one of which is the large, demoralizing list of pre-existing conditions and the ability for states to apply for a waiver that would then allow them to charge more or deny coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. I won't cover them all here, but here's one list and another and neither is even exhaustive. On that list of pre-existing conditions? Eating disorders. Pregnancy. Expected Parent. Menstrual Irregularities. Urinary Tract Infections.
Reading over the list, I saw myself. I saw those I love. I saw those who needed help and had benefitted greatly from a healthcare system that had finally attempted to do that. I saw an attack against women, femmes, trans, and genderqueer people. I saw an attempt at silencing. If we are threatened with losing health insurance for seeking help over any physical, emotional, or mental health concerns, we will be tempted to fall or remain silent. We will keep our health concerns to ourselves. We will stay sick. We will be part of a system that doesn't take care of its citizens and doesn't encourage them to take care of each other. We will continue to be part of a system that abuses the underserved and underprivileged and benefits those already at the top of the pack.
I don't know why I have to keep saying this, but we are humans. I read one comment that said, "Yeah, there are a lot of pre-existing conditions on that list, but me and my wife are totally healthy." How short-sighted. How uncaring. These are humans we're talking about, these are people with feelings and pains and loved ones. And really, even those of you who are currently healthy, I can assure you that you are human as well. You will fall into the same trap of humanness that we all do. You will get sick. You will need help. We all deserve healthcare, no matter at what stage of our lives that need comes along.
I messaged Franzi Ross after reading her article. I told her how powerful it is to look at her artwork, with its whimsy and courage. It's important that we support each other now. It's important that when we see someone speaking out, we let them know that that act meant something. For my own part, I won't pretend that I started a baking blog for the simple love of baking. Food is political. Access to food is political. Eating, the kinds of food we eat, the way we eat it, is political and historical and complicated. If anything, that list of pre-existing conditions proved that. Pretending otherwise is a disservice to our communities and the communities around us. For me, I've been anxious and discouraged this week and it's important for me to thank those of you who have given me some hope.