My tummy is so happy right now. Actually, my whole body is happy right now. Why? Because I JUST HAD ONE OF THE BEST DOUGHNUTS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. I LOVE DOUGHNUTS, AND I LOVE NATIONAL DOUGHNUT DAY! (Seriously people, I have been looking forward to this day so much that I had a dream about doughnuts last night.) Except. . . shouldn’t I add a “but” statement to the end of that phrase? That’s what we do in our society, right? I should say, “I LOVE DOUGHNUTS, BUT I’ll have to make up for it in my workout later.” Or shouldn’t all of my food choices prior to and after consuming this doughnut be an intentional compensation for my “transgression?” Or shouldn’t I insert a sneaky face emoji that announces to everyone that I don’t usually allow foods like this into my diet?
Society plays the “good” and “bad” cards a lot, doesn’t it? The good foods are kale (Does anyone actually like kale? I mean, seriously?), fruit, vegetables, nuts, blah, blah, blah. And the bad foods — the ones that we should never eat (unless of course it’s a “cheat day”) — are fast food, fried food, anything that comes out of a box, and now really all foods that contain dairy, gluten, or sugar. Society teaches us that we should ride the “diet train” with a big ol’ smile on our faces and that if a “bad food” sneaks in, we have to qualify it in some way or explain ourselves, either outwardly or in our own heads. We blame our diet slumps on lack of self-control. But why aren’t we blaming the diets themselves or the food rules that bulldoze their way into our conversations and onto our social media feeds? The ones that tear us further and further from trusting our bodies and having a truly healthy and peaceful relationship with food. Every single day, so many of us keep this mental checklist of good and bad foods. The more good foods, the better. Those days we were “good.” Pat on the back, self! And, well, let’s just pretend the days with more bad foods or sometimes any bad foods didn’t happen and start over tomorrow with a clean slate.
Except, my dear friends, this checklist is arbitrary. It’s make-believe. It’s a manifestation of our need for control, to achieve a fundamentally flawed definition of health, or to squeeze into a beauty mold that too is arbitrary, and sometimes all of the above. The truth is that there are no good or bad foods. Well, let me clarify — foods that have fallen on the floor or that are moldy or otherwise poisonous to our bodies? Those are bad. Our bodies need ALL foods. It turns out that those cravings for a salad or sugar or a burger are really a proclamation of what our body is pining for at that moment. Our body is talking to us (How cool is that?!), and how dare we not listen! Shame shouldn’t have a seat at the table in feeding our bodies. Food is food. Think of your body like it’s a car. You “fuel” your car with gasoline because it needs it to run, to take you all the places you need to go. Our bodies (though seriously way more impressive than a car) work are the same way. Food is fuel. While foods vary in terms of nutrient density, this moral hierarchy of foods that we have created results in way more harm than it does good. So go eat that crisp spinach salad, or that mouth-watering burger, or that beautiful bowl of fruit, or that delectable doughnut. (Did I mention that I love donuts?) Because your body needs all of these things! The key is checking in with your body. What is it needing at this moment?
And you know what? It’s okay to have a doughnut any other day of the year too! A day set aside just for doughnuts is just one aspect of our culture surrounding food that is FUN. And further, it’s okay to love food.No, really! It’s woven into various aspects of our lives and our culture, it sustains us and allows us to thrive, and gosh darn-it, eating is a pleasurable experience.
Not too long ago, I let go of food rules, threw out my checklist, and stopped ignoring my body. And here I am, reporting back from the “other side:” I’ve never felt more at peace in my body.
Blogger, College Student, Eating Disorder Survivor, & Intern at REbeL, Inc.