Ah, it’s Monday and you’ve decided that today’s the day you’re going to be “good.” You’ll have 5 oz low-fat yogurt, 12 almonds, and 1/4 c. blueberries for breakfast, only mounds of salads with dressing on the side for lunch this week. You’ve done this before, you know the drill, the right foods to choose, “good” foods to eat and “bad” ones being banned this week.
You’ll eat one of those Lean Cuisines or Healthy Choice frozen dinners accompanied with a mound of steamed broccoli for supper. That’s calorie controlled, right? You’re into ‘clean eating,’ yeah!
You’ll leave food on the plate because that’s what you do when you’re satisfied, right? That last bite. I’m not going to eat it. I’m full, thank you.
Some call this dieting. I call it that, too, alongside restricting, depriving, punishing.
What spurs this? What’s behind all the criticism that led you to make these choices?
The criticism of the weekend that was so fun and filled with a lot of high calorie foods your body loves. Pizza, mac ‘n cheese, hamburgers and fries, pasta dishes, cookies, ice cream, and pastries. It was a birthday, holiday, celebration, wedding, slumber party ….. what else have you called it so it legitimizes these in your mind? So it allows that ‘guilty pleasure’ that really sets you in a good mood.
Let’s talk change. Word change. Word selection. Both in the restrictive way of dieting and omitting food groups and flavor, and in the overdoing way, like hose weekend foods that inherently are not bad – yet, that much probably left you in a food coma, though, maybe?
Let’s ditch calling foods binary words like good or bad, healthy and unhealthy, clean or dirty. Who even knows what clean eating means? Dirty food means you wash the field dirt off fresh picked produce, that’s all.
When did pleasure need to have ‘guilty’ attached to it? Last time I looked food is emotionally equal with no morality attached to it. I hear, “Oh, I am good (notice how it’s now about you and not the food?) all week then I have a cheat day on the weekends.” Eating isn’t cheating, it’s not meant to hold guilt and shame. Would you cheat on yourself? And let’s talk about pleasure. All foods mean to please – our palettes, appetites, hunger, sight, smell, even hearing that sizzling fajita meat on a scalding cast iron skillet. And offer comfort. So you can get the same level of pleasure from a good pot roast with potatoes and carrots as you can a slice of banana bread.
All these terms and ways of viewing food only serve to put fear into you. Fear you did something wrong. You can feel in your body. Especially when you should/shouldn’t, eat good/bad food. How would it be to slow all this down, way down, and listen to your body? Choose foods that fill you with pleasure, nourishment, and comfort. That means there’s room for those hamburgers and fries and shaved Brussels’ sprouts and broccoli salad. A side of cupcake with your vegetable soup and cornbread. Remember, extreme eating, whether that restrictive diet approach or the weekend of nothing-but-calorie-dense food that came before it, doesn’t do a body good.
What all this means is losing much, no, all, the language around food, nutrition, and health that we hear tossed around that keeps us contracted into a reductionist, all-or-nothing way of thinking that prevents us from achieving true well-being. Next time you hear yourself or others speaking this diet culture language, I invite you to slow it on down, pull back a bit and include all of this into your view finder. A new vernacular. Let’s start now being kinder and more loving to ourselves.