by Patty Joy
I recently signed up for a workout class that meets at 6am, which admittedly is a bit early for my taste, but I love starting off the morning by moving my body. And well, let’s be honest, it’s done, so I no longer have to worry about squeezing it in for the rest of the day.
With tired eyes, I made it to my first class and it was a kick your bootie kind of a workout. By the end of it, I was hot, sweaty and quite frankly, extremely glad it was over.
On our way out, the instructor thanked us & said, “Have a great day & remember to eat clean!”
My eyes perked up immediately, as this kind of lingo about eating triggers me. But as enthusiastic as I was, I felt the energy of the girl next to me defeated, and watched her sink her shoulders & head down & say under her breath, “I guess I won’t be eating that burger I was going to have for lunch.”
My response was quick & steadfast, as I wanted to save her from the moral guilt and shame that is imposed upon us with that kind of self talk.
And so, without any hesitation, I said, “Girl, you better go get that burger because there’s nothing better than a juicy tasty burger, and I think you just inspired me to do the same!”
And with no exaggeration, I enjoyed a delicious burger night with my family that evening. I will admit, my menu was inspired not only by my new workout buddy but perhaps a dash of vengeance as well –assuming my instructor’s list of “clean” foods does not include a burger and fries.
I thought so much that day about the way people talk about food. They describe it with words like; good, bad, naughty, clean, sinful, as opposed to delicious, tasty, salty, sweet, yummy, I even feel like gross is a more appropriate word (if in fact you are really talking about the taste)!
I am well aware that some food choices are more nutrient dense, have more or less preservatives, salt, fat, carbohydrates, GMO’s, gluten, sugar, fiber, ect., but they are all choices that keep us alive.
It’s basically like gas. Our cars run on gasoline. There are different kinds of gasoline to choose from; 87,89,91, gas with techron, diesel, ect., and at the end of the day, whether it is generic or premium; gas is gas. Your car will run on any variety. It may run longer or more efficiently on a certain type of gas, but the jury is still out on that argument.
This is the bottom line, food has no moral value. It is not inherently good, or bad, sinful, or naughty. Food is fuel for our bodies, and when describing it, our focus should be on its taste, presentation, color, origin, and even the exceptional nutritional health benefits it has (although I do suggest that with caution, as sometimes it can be too much of a focus).
If you say, “I ate so badly today” it becomes a moral judgment that we place on ourselves. Our self worth is contingent on how we treat ourselves; how we speak, see, and evaluate our beliefs and actions. This kind of language is dangerous, really dangerous. If you start saying anything to yourself long enough it will affect how you see yourself. And so the phrase, “I ate so badly today” could easily send the message that your bad choices make you a bad person, which is the furthest from the truth. However, words like, “clean” are equally as dangerous. After all, the antithesis of clean is dirty, who the heck wants to eat dirty?
Our food choices do not define us, but these kinds of descriptions will begin to seep into our stream of consciousness and affect our self worth, self-esteem and confidence. I know this first hand.
For many years my “good” days were dependent on what I ate. And if I “messed up” I always had tomorrow, as if I could rectify the “poor” food choices I had made the day before. I did that long enough for my self worth and happiness to be contingent on the kind of food I ate. It was a terrible and painful time. It took me years of soul searching, but I finally realized that food has no power. Food is food. That’s it.
I would like to say I am by no means perfect (perfection being the very last thing I strive for), I am however realistic and human. I also have days where I describe my food choices with moral values attached. Yes, that’s right, after that whole spiel, I too fall victim to this whole idea, but instead of feeling guilt and shame, (because those two never take anyone to a positive place), I turn it into a moment where my attentiveness to the ridiculous is praised, and my ability to reaffirm the truth that food has no moral value is grasped before it enters my chain of thought. I am a work in progress!
And so, eat foods that you enjoy, that keep your tummy satiated, that evoke a wonderful memory (like my mom’s red beans, rice and chicken), honor your cravings, and let go of the guilt, shame and misconceptions about the value food has in our life. Celebrate the gift that most of us reading this article have the choice of what to eat for our next meal, not like the millions of starving human beings around the world that die of hunger every year, now that’s a real moral issue we should addressing.
Speak kindly, lovingly, compassionately and thoughtfully to yourself, that is true goodness.