The other day I came across this on a friends Facebook:
“I know these biscuits are bad but they are just so good”.
Now, putting aside the fact that chocolate biscuits aren’t the most nutritious food, this statement reminded me about the many issues that stem from judging and labelling food.
I’ve been receiving the message for a while that I needed to write about ‘food realetd craziness’ which is stemming from fear, guilt and shame around certain types of food -which- has a significant affect on what people eat, how they eat, how they feel when they eat and importantly how they feel about themselves based on what they eat.
I believe the negative judgements we have towards food is one of the most destructive body image tools around.
Here’s the thing: Any subjective thought, value or belief we hold about food is somewhat imaginary. There is a difference between a subjective judgement and objective information. For example let’s talk about one of my favourite foods to ‘fear’: Sugar.
Objective information: By definition sugar is any of the class of soluble, crystalline, typically sweet-tasting carbohydrates found in living tissues and exemplified by glucose and sucrose. (Note: I didn’t read ‘poison’, ‘devil’, ‘fattening’ in there…did you?…yet how many of us hear/ read/ think this to be true? Many is my guess.).
Subjective judgement: “Sugar will make me ‘fat’/ unlovable/ unattractive/ naughty/ etc”. Or “It’s naughty so I can’t have it”. “It’s one for the cheat day because it’s naughty”. (Note: If you tell yourself something is naughty, ‘forbidden’, ‘addictive’, then I’m here to tell you it WILL end up being all of those things and you will want it more- it’s the way we seem to be wired. Go and tell a child not to touch something and see what happens *wink*).
But our judgements around food certainly don’t stop at sugar (sadly). Take a look at your instagram, facebook or many health and wellness sites and you will see carbs, gluten and dairy being framed as ‘evil, sinful, naughty etc’.
And I love this: Apparently dairy, sugar and gluten are ALL inflammatory. Yet I enjoy all of them and haven’t had an issue. AND when I did have an issue with these food/s no one could be 100% sure the food was the real issue.
Which goes to say: Not everything you read on health and wellness websites is written with YOUR body in mind (yet you believe it is and hence the fear/ guilt/ judgements start rolling in).
Many bloggers are writing about their own experiences with food in the context of related illnesses (not all, but I can name many off the top of my head), which doesn’t necessarily mean that you too will have the same side effects that they experienced when eating that food (let’s say sugar).
Which leads me to mention that food related fears are in part influenced by other people- nutritionists, health coaches, people in the fitness arena and health bloggers. However, you might have grown up in a family where food was banned/ restricted for a particular reason. But importantly your imagination also has a huge role in curating the lense by which you view food. And just beacsue you’re really great at looking at some food through a lense of fear and hatred, doesn’t mean you can’t start un-learning what you ‘think’ you know.
I knew that my judgements around food had hit rock bottom when I dangerously started to view fruit as a ‘sugar bomb’ (bangs head on hand). And avoided it like the plague for months, feeling nothing short of shit when I finally attempted to eat and apple. You can read more about my story around food related fears here.
When I switched the game I was playing, which is to say I decided to look at food as food – ditching the judgements/ fear/ labels– my craziness around food dramatically changed. And importantly my whole life changed (what do you know, I started to regain my health, my period returned after 12 months of waiting, my skin cleared up and I started to feel more like ‘myself’ again).
One of the most important changes I experienced when I worked (bloody) hard on removing the labels was that I was more likely to listen to my body and give it what it wanted (e.g. some chocolate) because I didn’t fear food. And by not fearing the food I wasn’t emotionally invested in any imaginative thoughts I had about that food (e.g. chocolate is fattening).
And you know what? I found that when I stopped perceiving food (particularly dessert) as ‘bad’ I wasn’t nearly as enticed/ tempted/ obsessed by it as I had been when it was ‘forbidden, restricted and naughty’. I could eat- and still can eat- a little bit of dessert and be done.
Oh and importantly I had more time for other things in my life too. Instead of spending ridiculous amounts of time running around Sydney finding the best ‘clean’ ingredients and making my own this that and everything because I feared what would end up being less than .05 gms of sugar in let’s say a sauce (COME ON!!!), I could actually start to enjoy and make space for other exciting things. You know, hanging with my man, enjoying the gorgeous city I lived in, getting my nails done….
Reality moment: The more you ostracise something the more you want it (just go look at kids who demonstrate this incredibly well if you need further convincing that this is smack bang on the money!).
This goes without saying: There are some people who need to avoid/ limit/ restrict certain types of food for health reasons. And of course there are some foods which offer more nutrition than other types of food. Thats obvious. I’m not by any means suggesting you go out and gorge on chips and chocolate. What I am suggesting is it is not what we eat but how we eat it that makes all the difference between someone who is crazy about food vs someone who isn’t.
Stay tuned for Friday when I continue this topic with plenty of action-able and practical tips, which work!
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