I know you have heard it. You have maybe even said it yourself.
“I am being good today. I brought a salad for lunch.”
“Are you eating that whole slice of cake? YOU ARE BAD!”
“I was naughty this morning and had a doughnut with my coffee.”
Aside from the fact that this food chronicling is annoying as fuck, it is actually inaccurate and detrimental on a lot of levels. Even just conceptualizing of food and the consumption of it as if either has intrinsic moral characteristics is completely unhelpful. You are not a bad person if you get extra cheese on your pizza. Let’s unpack this together here, ok?
So, to start, different foods have different qualities, obviously. Celery is crunchy, wet, and low calorie. A chocolate bar is sweet, dark, and melty. You can also describe food in a desirable way such as “this pie is sooooo good!” What you cannot do talk about foods in a way that makes it seem more virtuous or righteous simply by being. In parallel, you cannot talk the people who consume good or bad food this way either.
You can eat nothing but raw fruit and veggies and still be the most horrendous asshole in the world. You can also eat a pint of ice cream every night and be a saint. Food does not have that level of control over you as to be an influence on your character. It just doesn’t work that way. The way it actually does work is not cool. If you believe that your food (and the food of others) is bad or good, you are giving up control of yourself. The reality is that it is your thoughts and actions determine your character, not what you shove in your face.
To be clear, my commentary here is not referring to the actual benefits of food. It is bad for diabetics to ingest a lot of sugar because it can cause health issues. Bananas are good for expectant women because they are rich in potassium and offer quick energy to fight off pregnancy fatigue. I know you get this but our language is imperfect so some qualifications are important.
It is completely fine if you eat nothing but lettuce for lunch. It is also completely fine if you have nachos and beer for dinner. You are an autonomous adult with agency and free will. There may or may not be repercussions of these actions but these are decisions you can make without overtones because they eating is not an issue of morality or ethics. Ever. When you use this paradigm, you can think some pretty screwed up thoughts about yourself and your life and that is not going to benefit you in the long run. There are ways to think about it that will benefit you more overtime.
The final issue why you should avoid this trap is that nobody cares. Seriously, no one cares what you think about yourself if you eat and apple or a slice of pie. A few weeks ago, I posted about the fact that women who engage in disparaging fat-talk are less liked by their peers. This applies to talk about food too. And you never know who is going through what so if you are food policing out loud in the office lunchroom, you could be doing damage to someone who is engaged in her own body love struggle and that is not ok.
Since it is clear that this Carrots vs. Cupcakes thinking is not serving you, how should you think about it? This is so ingrained in our society that it may seem too difficult to try to change your thinking. I find that simply thinking of food as energy to supply my body works best for me but any neutral thoughts are going to be more useful. “That is an apple” or “this taco is spicy” are examples. You can try out in an effort to rid yourself of this messy thinking. It can take time and practice to change your thinking but it is really worth it here.
Are you tired of thinking the thought that you did something wrong because you enjoyed some ice cream? At the retreat, we doing thoughtwork on this very topic! Come join us!