6. Wired (Energize)

“Wellbeing provides the policy paradigm by which mind and body can be assessed as economic resources” (Davies, 2011). 


This is my call to arms,                            

I want you to join me,  

When we live energised

We can all change the world.

Amped-up, young, naive face,

A job to make mum proud,

On top of the world:

high  on the commuter train.

Polished brogues, fitted suit,

my handshake and my charm

hides the comedown it seems

I keep running into.

Wake-up need, caffeine hit,

mind wired into a screen

digits speed into lunch

quick! It’s hard to relax.

Crystal-clear, I’m lit up,

I know I can impress

board room executives

who treat people like shit.

Synapse click, plug me in,

harbour my desires

no time to stop and think:

 

should I be doing this?


From the end of the 19th century, the interest in nutritional science was growing, not only to improve the health of the nation, but also to increase the productivity of the workers. Almost a century later, the discourse surrounding nutrition was dominated by metaphors of work and economics.  Food was fuel which became “energy” (Lupton, p. 72, 1996). The wellness movement today remains focused on helping people work to their maximum because “healthy bodies are productive bodies” (Cederstrom and Spicer, p. 4, 2015). Therefore, illness is a “failure in terms of work ethic” (Varul, p. 5, 2011). Subsequently, pain-killers use marketing slogans such as “get you back to being yourself,” to allow people to continue being productive (Metzl and Kirkland, p. 28, 2010).  Wired questions the relationship between energising and work. By revealing a sinister side to the word energised, I show how the health-food discourse feeds into a moral imperative connecting health to work.

My poem was inspired by reading a website called LiveEnergised, founded by a writer and food coach Ross Bridgeford. The ‘about’ section of the website, entitled “Ross’s mission,” describes his dream to “ENERGIZE the world.” Throughout this piece Bridgeford uses persuasive and dramatic language, believing that he can “change the world” and improve all aspects of life with his dietary advice (Bridgeford follows the alkaline diet) (Bridgeford, 2015). The first stanza of my poem, in bold text, was constructed using quotes from Ross’s mission. For the remaining five stanzas I continued writing in a similar type of rhetoric, but written about a very different meaning.

Since the first two lines of the poem, taken from Ross’s mission both had six syllables, I decided to make all lines of the poem six syllables long, and to write six main stanzas to add a sense of control and discipline, mirroring that of the health-food world. However, it also adds a disrupted rhythm to the poem which reflects the chaotic lifestyle of the character. The poem depicts the drug habit of a young, busy and stressed city banker: whilst a productive worker, he is an unlikely symbol for health. Whilst his preoccupation with being energized imitates the discourse of modern foodbloggers such as Bridgeford, his eventual unhappiness shows a far more complex relationship between work, energy and health.

In addition, I was inspired by a drawing produced in my focus group. Energize (Fig) was produced during an activity in which each participant drew one of my 12 words for the rest of the group to guess which word it represents. My poem uses the idea of being charged-up; the character is “wired” to a screen using the phrase “plug me in” as a reference to his next drug fix. These metaphors show both his need for energy to participate in a successful work life, and the need to feed his drug addiction.

Energize, Drawn by focus group participant, June 2015.
Energize, Drawn by focus group participant, June 2015.

This drawing also offered me a different way to look at the discourse of health-foods, when applied to the rhetoric of health-foods like ‘Ross’s mission.’ We are told we must get more energized by “plugging” into the health-food world, and following their extreme dietary rules. I’d rather stick to the coffee, thanks. Yet it also de-romanticizes food. Food becomes a way to ‘charge’ up our energy reserves rather than something with cultural and social meaning.

The references to drugs in this piece are relevant to the moral discourse of healthy eating. For example, the stigma of eating bad foods is compared to that of drug use. For example, sugar is framed as an addictive habit that gives you highs and crashes, and my next piece about detoxing also uses the same name as that in substance abuse.


References

Bridgeford R. Ross’s Mission. Live Energised. 2015 [accessed July 2015] Available from URL:http://liveenergized.com/about-ross-energise/

Cederström C, Spicer A. 2015. The Wellness Syndrome. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Davies W. 2011. “The Political Economy of Unhappiness.” New Left Review, 71, Sept-Oct. 

Lupton D. 1996. Food, the Body and the Self. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Metzl, J. M. and Kirkland, A. 2010. Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality. New York: New York University Press.

Varul MZ. 2011. “The Healthy Body as Religious Territory: Health Consumerism as New Religious Practice?” In Emerging geographies of belief, ed. Brace C et al. 239-254. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

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