This is a tough post for me to write. Mainly because food, diets and all of that is something that is so personal. It’s intensely personal but also something that people will fight tooth and nail about, depending on who you speak to. Usually, I find that this is such a touchy subject that I try and avoid talking about it both on my blog and in ‘real life.’ I never want to offend anyone and everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I wouldn’t want to push mine on someone else. Saying that, one thing that I really think needs to stop is people associating guilt with food. So often we hear people make offhand comments about food, associating it with guilt:
“Oh I just had a naughty cupcake”
“I just ate a decadent brownie and now I feel so guilty, I’ll have to go to the gym tomorrow”
“I made these awesome muffins, they’re healthy and guilt-free!”
First off, when people make these kinds of comments I don’t even think they realise how much they’re associating food with guilt. These kinds of phrases can be so damaging to the psyche because it puts food in black and white categories. These foods are good, these foods are bad. So obviously if you eat a bad food, you’d feel guilty afterwards, as you would if you did a bad thing.
The problem is, how do you sort what foods are good? There’s so much conflicting information surrounding food circulating the web, books, documentaries, the media, everything. Say you’re trying to be healthy for example. Well, what’s healthy enough? You start with your basic fruit and veg and grains. Then oh nope, these people say grains are hard to digest. Ooop, fruit is basically sugar so you may as well eat an oreo, the next people say. And vegetables? Oh please, they get sprayed and this vegetable is actually a fruit, this vegetable is hard to digest, this vegetable doesn’t really have that many benefits in the grand scheme, another group of ‘experts’ will say. So goddamnit, now you find yourself with one thing left. Leafy greens. Do I want to live a life full of leafy greens? Um no thank you, that’s going to be a firm no from me.
So then jesus, now it gets to a point where you’re eating fruits and feeling guilty because the sugar is ‘too high.’ When you associate guilt with food, you’re blurring a lot of lines. If you start associated certain foods as being bad and guilt-ridden, then it’s a slippery slope because you can keep narrowing and narrowing that field of what you consider to be healthy and non-guilt-inducing foods. It completely screws around with your mindset.
Another big thing with guilt is, don’t you always want what you can’t have? If donuts are bad and you shouldn’t have them, how much do you suddenly want a donut? But if I told you that you had to eat a donut every single day, suddenly you probably would want anything but that. Labelling foods as bad just makes you want it more, whereas if food is all neutral it’s so much easier. Easier for your mind and your body.
Even the whole concept of health is so subjective and ever-changing. There was a point in my life where I ate so many greens, veggies and a small selection of fruit. I was gluten free, dairy free etc etc and I was exercising regularly as well. I was doing everything I thought was making me the healthiest person I could possibly be and you know what my (bloody brilliant) naturopath said when I saw him? I wasn’t doing great. I can’t stress enough how spot on my naturopath is either, that man knows what he’s talking about.
A few years past and I got physically sick, mentally sick and fed up with feeling guilty if I didn’t eat ‘healthily.’ So I entered a ‘fuck it’ stage of my life. I let myself eat whatever I wanted and it was so freeing. At the start I was like quick shove some processed sugars into me asap and all the carbs I can find. Then after I got through that stage and knew I could have what I wanted, everything normalised. Portions were normal, I just ate what I wanted. I’m talking regular cinnamon buns, brownies, cookies, whatever. I saw my naturopath, expecting to be told I’m dying or something and you know what he said? I was the best he’d ever seen me.
Honestly I was so confused at first, but it just confirmed to me that food is so complex and so are our bodies, so you can’t really judge foods and make them good or bad, because you don’t know internally what’s going on with your body and what it needs. You also don’t realise how much your mind and the way you perceive things affects your body and even your digestion. So feeling guilty about eating something isn’t helpful at all. It only fuels people’s unhealthy black and white labels of food as good and bad only.
If you eat a muffin, eat the damn muffin and enjoy every bite, guilt-free. If you have a green smoothie, awesome if you’re feeling like that. You’re not suddenly better than the person next to you who only eats pizza and chips all day. Do what you want or need to do to live a happy and healthy life with your body, mind and soul, but don’t include guilt in that equation. Just take care of yourself.
With so many issues already around in terms of body image and confidence, let’s all just agree to eradicate the relationship between and guilt and food, yeah? Save guilt for if you accidentally murder someone…
What do you think about the relationship between guilt and food?