People today tout clean eating as having less to do with losing weight and more to do about feeding yourself mindfully. But Mary MacVean claims it’s an old trick, repackaged with new vocabulary.

“There are all these ways of talking about what is essentially the same thing – a super strict control over what goes in your mouth,” she says. “It just has different names now.”

Gwyneth Paltrow’s recently released cookbook purports to not be focused on dropping pounds (but in reality promotes restrictive diets). Weight Watchers rebranded as WW, dropping the dreaded word “weight” from its name. Atkins and NutriSystem have been replaced by keto and Whole 30. But no matter the rebrands, they cannot fool MacVean, whose work revolves around branding food as a means of healing and self-care.

MacVean is executive director of GrowGood, an urban farm in partnership with the Salvation Army in Bell. GrowGood’s land covers an acre and a half with three different gardens, a chicken coop and a substantial greenhouse. Most importantly, it also provides jobs and opportunities for the 500 homeless people who live in the shelters across the street on Mansfield Way.

On a recent visit to GrowGood, MacVean strides through the garden with a group of students, giving them tastes of the nasturtium leaves and pink peppercorns freshly fallen from the tree. This, for MacVean, is the crux of the organization: connecting people to the things they eat. She believes that may help the problematic relationship people have with their food.

MacVean doesn’t remember a time in her adult life where she wasn’t concerned with her weight. In high school, she would set an alarm early to wake up before her parents, pour a little milk and cereal into a bowl and leave it in the sink so her parents would think she ate. MacVean is in the majority of women on that front – adopting habits to control her weight and appearance from an early age. A study done recently showed that 80% of women have had some issues with body image throughout their lifetime.

Read the rest of the article on Ampersand’s blog here.