Food, Health, and Morality

Since when did food become a religion? How does “eating clean” make you a better person? I don’t know about you, but I have witnessed food shame in lunchrooms, dinner parties (when I’m lucky enough to go to one), and I’ve kinda had enough of it.  Take the detox diet trend (something that has been trending since the 1990s).  Since the dawn of time we have focused on detoxifying the body of evil spirits, the four humours (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile), the odd hangover, and now we do it to get rid of the toxins in our body (something that our liver and kidneys do very well on their own…thank you very much).  Note: detox diets and other such programs are unneccessary and can be harmful – our bodies are equipped with the neccessary tools to detoxify our bodies.  You don’t need to detox!

Since beginning my work in the fitness industry in the mid-90s, I have witnessed the judgemental stares and comments that come from the “health conscious”.   Currently, it seems like more and more people are creating personal brands for themselves (a.k.a. personal identities) that encompass all that is gluten-free, organic, free-range, vegan, cold-pressed, and whole.  All that is pure.  All that is good. There are yoga people, cross-fit people, marathoners, ultra-marathoners, and a list of others that strongly identify themselves by the exercising lifesyle they live. Since when did exercising regularly get put on a pedestal? Why do we celebrate those that run or cycle or swim great distances (when research tells us they are doing themselves and their health a disservice)?

Somehow, morality has become intertwined with healthism; a belief that those that participate in exercise and “healthy” eating (a.k.a. the food trend of the week) are somehow better. Talking with people who struggle with disordered eating (anorexia, bulimia, and restrictive eating) they report a feeling of control and superiority when they have successfully restrained from eating for long periods of time. Conversley, when speaking with people with binge eating disorders, they report feeling out of control, shame, guilt, and self-disgust.  A feeling of moral inferiority rushes over us after realizing we ate that entire bag of chips (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The thing is, food is food. In the big picture of health (that is, taking into account all components from social, emotional, and spiritual, to intellectual, occupational, and environmental) a burger is as healthy as a bowl of kale (as long as you don’t stress out about eating the burger).  If we are able to see food without judgement or without naming it “good” or “bad” it is one of the first steps towards reclaiming a healthy relationship with food and eating.

photo-1523634700860-90d0ef74f137So the next time you feel the eyes of judgement upon you as you dig into a healthy helping of nachos (layered in cheese and sprinkled with all the good stuff), remember this…it’s not about you; you’re fabulous. We need to be patient and empathetic with those that continue to deprive themselves and restrict their food due to their lack of understanding about what authentic health is and isn’t.  It’s because of their own faulty beliefs that they project their own self-hate onto you.

Food is not good or bad, it just is.


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