Nothing irks me more these days than listening to people talk about their morality in relation to food. Not sure what I mean? How many times have your heard or said to yourself the following:
“I’m being so good today, I had a salad for lunch.”
“Oh no can do, no chocolate cake for me, I’m being good today.”
“Oh I feel so naughty eating this candy bar.”
“She’s being good, she’s passing up that croissant. Good for her.”
What you eat has nothing to do with whether you are good or bad as a person. What food you consume does not make you a better or worse person. Your actions in the world make you a good or bad person. This idea that the food you eat makes you good or bad isn’t an easy one to shake, and yes, I’ve struggled with it too. It’s a concept that’s deeply ingrained in our society and one that is linked to being stuck in a fatphobic, diet culture, privileged mindset.
Yes, I used the ‘P’ word people are struggling with in other areas of life, but honestly, think about it. Our ancestors (like think caveman ancestors) didn’t sit around thinking “Oh I’m going to be so good today and only have meat and no berries today.” No they actually ate what was available to them as food resources. People living in food deserts or food swamps and especially people living food insecure or in food scarcity have very little choice to be “good or bad” when it comes to eating food. Being able to make a decision on what to eat is a sign of privilege my friends and its one that A LOT OF US (myself included) have and take for granted.
Now I want to make it very clear that I do think some foods have more nutrients than others and that I am not saying that you shouldn’t be conscious of what you are putting in your body. Sure, eating vegetables is a great thing to do (for most people, for some it may not be) and vegetables have nutrients in them that a butter croissant doesn’t, but eating a croissant may have some benefits for your soul that broccoli just doesn’t have.
What this all boils down to is that you get to make choices throughout the day. When you choose an apple over a candy bar, it’s not that you are good or bad, its that you are making a decision to eat an apple because that’s what you want, whether it be for health goals, your love of apples or because that’s what you wanted in the moment. The idea that you are being bad or not acting correctly by eating a candy bar is linked to people pleasing, it’s linked to a message society has for people to make them feel guilty for liking something society has deemed not okay. You are giving over your power to make choices that are right for you when you let guilt overcome your food decisions or when you let societal labels dictate how you feel about the items you eat. You get the privilege of choice in what you eat, why give that away?
And here’s something I’ve learned along the way. When I stopped labeling food as good and bad and stopped viewing myself as disciplined or not disciplined (which is essentially saying I’m good or bad) I noticed my food decisions change. I no longer craved or desired a candy bar all the time and was okay with one every now and then. I watched my food decisions change daily. Somedays I wanted a muffin or pastry for breakfast and other days I had eggs with spinach in them. Sometimes I crave a salad and other times a sandwich or pasta. Embracing the idea that I have the power to choose what I want to eat without feeling guilt was a game changer. It also made me stop and listen to my body and make notes on what food did not make me feel good after eating it… a ton of sugar makes me feel sick… so now I try to limit the sugar I consume not because it’s “bad” but because it doesn’t serve me the way I need it to.
Having a choice in what foods you consume is a place of privilege and when you let yourself feel guilty or shame about eating something you are belittling those who don’t have the same privilege you have in the world. Food injustice is a real thing and you widen that gap every time you say “I’m being good today and not eating fast food” because for some people, that’s their only option. So the next time you find yourself judging your own morality based on the food you consume, think about the people who don’t have the same choices you have… are you judging their morality based on what they eat? No? So why do it to yourself?
Use that energy to help others get access to food instead. Be the change you want to see in the world…not part of the problem.
PS… if food is bad… you probably shouldn’t eat it…it’s probably spoiled 😉