February 22, 2011

'Diet Rhetoric' and how to move on

I want this blog to be a positive space, but I also want this blog to be a honest space.  With that in mind I want to address this issue of foods, some being bad, others being good. 

How many times have you heard someone say "I'm having cake, I'm being bad today."

Or how about this: "I've really been focused on my diet, nothing but good foods."

Or maybe "I can't have that, I'm trying to be good."

I am very tired of this kind of rhetoric.  I am tired of some foods being categorized as good , angelic foods and others as evil, terrible foods that bring out the worst in us.  I am also entirely over this idea as 'good' foods as tasting like paper and 'bad' foods being everything that we actually like to eat. 

By demonizing certain foods and beatifying others, we, meaning many women and maybe some men too, we extend those ideas to our own behaviors.  Meaning, if I eat a 'bad' food then I am a bad person undeserving of love, deserving of fatness and poor health.  However, if I eat 'good' foods then I am somehow also a good person and by extension worthy of both self-love and love of others, happiness, a great job and all other awesome kinds of things.

What absolute nonsense.

This idea that someone can somehow earn worth by eating only 'good' foods and avoiding 'bad' foods is incredibly detrimental to the self-worth of women.  These people can either falsely build esteem on their ability to highly control their diets or struggle to love themselves based on this ridiculous notion that by eating certain foods they are bad, wrong, or unlovable.

If you can, let it go. 

Since January I've really been examining how I approach food.  I've had a lot of help with this.  I have a nutritionist, as I've commonly mentioned on this blog, but I also have other mental health professionals who help me examine how I tie my self-worth, esteem, and self-love to what I eat and how I feel about food.  Also, by labeling some foods as bad and the action of eating them as bad, you are also arguing that these actions are somehow sinful, wrong, or evil.  Not so.  Not even a little bit.

I just want to let that all go.

Instead of categorizing foods as either good or bad, I want to encourage any potential readers to think of food in a different way: as everyday foods or as sometimes foods.  An example: I think of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy as 'everyday foods.'  Foods I can and should eat everyday in order to keep me healthy, happy, and strong fall into this category.  'Sometimes foods' are foods like cake, soft pretzels, Barnaby's pizza and wings, beer, real Coke, peanut butter M&Ms, etc.  These foods have a place in my diet, most often in situations that are celebratory like birthday parties, holidays, or restaurant get togethers.  These foods are not bad.  They give me quick energy and more often then not are part of a lot of fun times that I am not willing to give up.  Nor should I have to.

By giving up this idea of 'bad' and 'good' foods I can let all of this rhetoric go and instead move my life forward.  By maintaining this idea that there are foods that are 'sometimes' foods and not 'everyday' foods I can let myself enjoy them while still understanding my relationship with them.  I do not have to think of any food as somehow detrimental to either my self-worth nor my future health of ability to lose weight. 

 Be well.


annie said...

i think you would love this girl's thoughts on a similar topic: http://or-so-i-feel.blogspot.com/search?q=FED. she blogs about a lot of things, but i've directed you to her posts on nutrition and health; her ideas sound similar to yours, so i think you'll enjoy some of what she has to say. she struggled (struggles?) with an eating disorder, and her perspective is really fascinating.

Elizabeth Dean said...

thanks annie- i can't look at it tonight but i'll make sure to look at it this weekend.

Megan said...

Your view is a great one to have!

I'm having some 'sometimes' m&ms and they are delicious!

Elizabeth Dean said...

Thanks Megan- I think this can be a very freeing philosophy.

Jess said...

Absolutely. This is something that I had to take a real effort to learn when I was recovering from my eating disorder. Food is just food, it's value-neutral.