neither good or bad

"Instead of utilizing the word diet our culture is hiding its obsession with fitness through the words 'clean eating', 'cheat day' or 'healthy' food. And I think it’s time that someone called a spade a spade OR a diet, a diet because dieting, clean eating, cheat days, or healthy food… well, (wait for it) they all mean the same thing..."

"Today isn't my cheat day, I am so bad when it comes to sweets. I am really trying to eat clean…"

These days, it’s not uncommon to hear comments like the one above. In our present fat-phobic, green-juice-cleanse-crazed and fast-instagrabale-fitness culture what we put into our bodies has become a morning conversation musing. Our world describes food as being “good” or bad” or eating as “healthy” or “unhealthy”. Food and the body have become a conversation topic that is coloured with only black and whites; Kale is good; Kit Kats are bad. Spirulina is in; sugar is out. A turmeric latte is great; a regular latte is not so great.

Instead of utilising the word diet our culture is hiding its obsession with fitness through the words “clean eating”, “cheat day” or “healthy” food. And I think it’s time that someone called a spade a spade OR a diet a diet because dieting, clean eating, cheat days, or healthy food… well, (wait for it) they all mean the same thing. 

This new language allows those suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating to hide behind the trendiness of a kale smoothie. People think it’s normal eating if they eat healthy or clean because that’s what everyone else is street sermoning.

Trust me, I like a kale smoothie just as much as the next green-monster lulu wearing yoga girl, but that doesn’t mean I don't enjoy red velvet cakes, pecan-crusted pies, or ladyfingers.

When we classify food as good or bad or in other similar terms, as a culture, we are creating food rules that create unnecessary fear, anxiety, and judgment about food. Instead of enjoying eating pizza with our friends we so often end up gabbing about how “bad” the food was for us and how we plan on compensating for it later. But what happened to simply enjoying the pizza, enjoying our friend's company, and enjoying the entire experience of that moment. What happened to discussing things of substance instead of discussing the legitimate substances we are putting into our bodies.

Additionally, speaking about food as good and bad minimises a huge portion of the eating disorder recovery process; the portion that has to do with gaining access to experience and experiment with all different types of foods again with no labels or feelings of guilt, shame, or fear. When you talk about food as good or bad, you’re reinforcing disordered eating belief systems. 

If you are anything like me you have struggled at some point with our contemporary kale-craving-consumer culture and therefore these tips are important to remind yourself of when you’ve spent a little bit too much time in a world that tries to tell us that candy is a killer. 

1. Remind yourself that food is not ‘good’ or ‘Bad’.

All food has one purpose, to fuel our bodies. No food is grown or created on this earth as bad or good. At its core, food is energy and contains macronutrients and micronutrients to keep you and your body vibing HIGH. 

When you understand food as fuel, instead of carbs being bad, you can see bread as an essential carbohydrate with B-vitamins to energise your brain and muscles. Ice creams is not something to run away from screaming it is food that contains essential fatty acids that creates hormones for your hair, skin, and nails.

Next time, you hear someone talking about the over-indulgent pizza you’ve shared, challenge yourself to instead think about how the food is benefitting your body. Because it is!

2. Emotional eating is not the enemy.

Sometimes not so great things happen, sometimes the best way to cope with not so great things happening is to meet up with your friends Ben & Jerry on Friday night and watch Friends together for the 100th time. And you know what, this is OK! 

Emotional eating or eating comfort foods has a purpose. Yes, some foods provide more nutritional value than others but you know what other foods provide more emotional comfort, pleasure, and social enjoyment. It is okay on those more challenging days to practice self-care through the act of enjoying a meal that meets our emotional needs. 

Our body is designed to enjoy and feel pleasure from food. If humans didn’t enjoy food, we wouldn’t be alive! When we’re hungry, our brain is designed to go out and seek food and feel pleasure. So craving that tiramisu after a terrible day is not something to feel ashamed about it’s in your biology to want to feel and find comfort. 

3. Any food is Better than no food.

I’ll be the first to confess that munching down on a fast-food burger, crispy fries and a smooth and sensual milkshake won’t leave my stomach feeling superb. If the choice was between something from McD’s (which I happen to like the taste of) and being an irritable, moody and hangry person because I am waiting for something more nutritionally dense... I would choose McD’s - always.

Being that hungry - sucks. It is also unnecessary when we live in a world where food is ALL around us. Yes, some of it may not be what we prefer to eat but wouldn’t you prefer being accessible and available to the world over being a miserable hangry monster? Over panicking and rushing home to eat your "clean eating" spirulina kale salad? Putting our body into that state of hunger is not necessary, and you know what - it's not very good for us either. 

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that food is just food. It doesn’t have the power to control how you feel about yourself, and either does anyone else. No one can make you feel guilty for hanging out with Ben & Jerry on a Friday night, eating a spirulina kale salad on Sunday, hitting McD's on your cross-country road trip or for being a green-goddess smoothie guru. You are the one who has the control and power to put whatever, whenever, into your body. By ignoring our disordered 'health' culture and tuning into the channel of our internal voice, we can change the channel from one of food labels and take our power back. 

Changing the channel allows us to see food as nourishment. A nourishment that allows our minds, bodies, hearts, and spirits to flourish - fully. 

Ailey Jolie