Until recently, I was in a pretty unhealthy relationship. It spanned a good portion of my life and although on the outside, it may have seemed like everything was peachy, not a day went by where I didn’t think about it. The guilt. The shame. The low self-esteem. The thoughts I was having. It was all-consuming. Over the past year, I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself to try and repair this relationship. It’s taken time, but we now respect each other and have found a way to live in harmony. The interesting thing though is.. my relationship wasn’t with another person…
It was with FOOD.
I realised that for the longest time, I was attaching some pretty serious emotions TO food… with guilt being the worst one. I was feeling guilty about eating certain foods.. to the point that in order to make myself feel better I would just label that particular food as bad or naughty. I was blaming the FOOD rather than looking at my own choices. It highlighted for me how tragically easy it is for people to develop eating disorders. I spent so long feeling guilty about what I ate that I forgot what it was like to actually ENJOY eating.
As someone who has been through this, I can totally understand HOW it happens. Not everyone is a nutritionist.. we are largely guided by what is around us. Marketing plays a huge role in how and why we choose the things we do. So when exactly was it that food went from being "high in fat" to "high in guilt"?
There are so many buzz words thrown around these days… “good food”, “bad food”, “super food”, “clean food”.. like if it’s not clean.. then what.. it’s dirty??? Good, bad, clean, unclean… what does it actually mean?? Tell someone with a nut allergy that almonds are a “good” food. Yes.. they contain a diverse range of proteins, fats and minerals that can be beneficial to a diet… but if you end up at emergency with anaphylactic shock then that’s not so “good” now is it?
At the end of the day, food is just food. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s not anything. It just IS. Sure there are foods that are nutritionally healthier than others but on the whole, what makes them one thing or the other are the LABELS we attach to them. So all of a sudden a 'green' juice is deemed “good” and a burger is considered “bad” (even though a green juice might have 3 times the amount of sugar and hardly any soluble fibre in it… go figure). The food industry (whether they know it or not) is indirectly judging people for their food choices. You don’t want to be made to feel guilty about what you choose to put in your mouth. It’s about knowing the effects that these foods have on you that you should be focusing on so you can decide whether or not it’s the right choice for you. How does eating certain foods make you feel? What will it do to my body?? The more we educate ourselves around food, the better we will be at making choices that are right for us.
So where does that leave us then?
Understanding your choices and the consequences of your choices. Realising that if you cut out entire food groups from your diet you may also be cutting out certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are vital to your body’s health and wellbeing. Educating yourself on how to replenish these elements so you are still functioning at your optimum. Perhaps not blindly following whatever latest food-fad is going around without first considering how it will affect your body. Don’t get me wrong.. I know how hard it is to make those decisions… walking into a supermarket today is like travelling to a foreign country. As soon as you set foot inside you are confronted by a barrage of conflicting information all in a language that you really don’t understand. We’re living in a foodie mine-field and we haven’t been given a map.
So how do we navigate this treacherous territory?? Education. From where? Wherever you can get it. A great place to start is the good old fashioned food pyramid. Remember that weird looking thing we got taught at school? Well they’ve updated it to suit our modern-day dietary requirements with the addition of items such as dairy-free alternatives, tofu and quinoa and they’ve removed added sugar from the pyramid altogether. But the message is still largely the same. A healthy option is to eat things as close to their natural state as possible. Choose a mostly plant-based diet, limit your salt and added sugar intake and eat from across all food groups. And in the era of the internet we are also lucky to have a plethora of delicious, nutritious, easy-to-follow recipes literally at our fingertips so it’s really just about working out what suits you and your lifestyle.
MY objective is to remove the “guilt” from our food choices.. Let’s face it, it’s no good scoffing down a bunch of Tim Tams because they taste good but then beating yourself up about it for the next 3 days. The “guilt” you feel can trigger other emotional food choices and from there it can be a very slippery slope. I’d love to see words like “good”, “bad”, “clean” and “cheat” removed from our foodie vocabulary altogether. The emotions they conjure don’t make us feel great about ourselves at all. Better education can lead to more informed choices which can result in us feeling better about ourselves all round!! And I think it’s safe to say that we ALL want that.