Food choices are not a moral issue – please stop labeling them ‘good’ and ‘bad.’
“I was so naughty yesterday.”
“Salad again? You’re being so good this week.”
“I’m not eating sugar at the moment so keep that cake away from me.”
How many times have you heard phrases like this around the office, at your family home or between friends?
Labeling food is everywhere…
Most people don’t even think twice about how they discuss what they eat. But more often than not, labeling food ‘good’ and ‘bad’ can cause extreme stress, confusion and guilt.
I spent most of the first lock down trying to navigate my way through anorexia recovery.
Luckily, I was surrounded by supportive friends who created a safe environment for me to slowly break through my rigid food rules and heal my body.
But as soon as I stepped out into the real world again, I realised how common unhelpful comments about food are.
In my early twenties, all food for me was the enemy. I spent six years of my life avoiding anything society had labelled ‘bad’ and my whole world revolved around eating ‘healthy’.
Obviously, I can now see this was anything but ‘healthy’, and meant that the enjoyment of food – and life – no longer existed.
But the most important thing I learnt while receiving therapy for my eating disorder, is this.
Food is food. It has absolutely no morality.
When we label something as good or bad, it evokes feelings of guilt. And what effect does this have on our relationship with our bodies and our self worth?
Typically, diet culture tells you that eating something that gives you pleasure is bad. This mostly stems from a fear of gaining weight as we’re told to avoid foods that might lead us to get ‘fat’.
If you end up enjoying these foods, the negative feelings can become overwhelming.
“I have no willpower”, “I ruined my diet”, “I’m so bad”.
Those intrusive thoughts can then lead us thinking of ways to ‘make up’ for what we’ve eaten. Should I skip dinner? Do an extra long workout? Or give up and eat more ‘bad’ foods?
Diet culture thrives on these rules and it’s almost easier to stick to that than to trust ourselves and our cravings.
But let’s be clear, food is not the enemy and your choices don’t define you as a person. If you eat something you enjoy, you are not a bad person.
And if you gain weight, you are definitely not a bad person.
None of us can change our mindset overnight, we have all spent years listening to the £2bn a year diet industry create a dangerous fear around eating and fatness.
So it’s okay if you still feel guilt after enjoying something you have previously classified as ‘bad’.
Most of the time, it’s used as a coping mechanism and we’re not here to shame anybody’s coping mechanism, especially in a society that places such high value on unrealistic body ideals.
But instead of acting on that guilt and punishing yourself and your body, try offering yourself some compassion. And remember your worth has absolutely nothing to do with what you decide to eat.