Food is not good or bad. It is not clean or dirty. Food contains nutrients, not morality.
Something I know, but something I’ve admittedly had to consciously remind myself from time to time.
When I began my #FitnessJourney, I went all in. Like, I went from eating a pound of cheese in under a week to eating a cube of cheese once every six months. This is not an exaggeration on either end of the spectrum. Honestly, it worked for me. You hear a lot of people offer the advice of “start slow,” but I’m not that kind of gal. My brain was seriously reliant on food groups that didn’t contribute much to my body based on the quantity + frequency in which I was consuming them and I craved a radical change.
However, I can’t deny that, albeit unintentional, the dramatic shift in choices lead me to demonize certain foods (cough cheese cough) instead of taking them for what they are: a nutrient profile.
The words “moderation” and “balance” and even “treat yo’self” have been regulars in my vocabulary, and are plastered all over the health & fitness sphere, but why? To justify behavior viewed as less than? As a euphemism for associations of guilt? To level set the morality of a choice? Not anymore, I’m calling for a revolution.
If you ask me, the concept of moralizing food stems from a lack of nutritional education and understanding. Let’s face it, it’s confusing as hell to be a consumer in 2018, where influencers and marketing reign supreme and trends stick faster than protein pancakes to a griddle 😉 The knowledge we are quite literally “fed” is constantly changing, partially due to actual scientific advancements and partially due to popular influence. Do you remember when butter was the worst thing you could pick up off the shelf? It was margarine or nothin’! Now, the script has flipped, and we’re told to steer clear of margarine like our lives depend on it. Spoiler alert: our lives do not depend on it. For this reason, the average consumer is completely clueless when it comes to assessing nutrition labels. While we can physically read a label, we lack the knowledge to translate and apply what we see. We don’t know the straight-up science behind eating, the chemical connections food makes in our bodies and minds – from a performance and pleasure standpoint. And since we are unable to classify food from a neutral, scientific standpoint, we turn to morality. Whether we choose to eat certain foods or not eat certain foods, we do it because some external influence has told us they are good or they are bad.
“I was good all week, I deserve it.” Sound familiar? What we’re actually saying is, “I ate salad every day for lunch this week, salad is good, which makes my choice good, which makes me good, which justifies the fact that I feel like eating a donut, which is a bad food, which in turn dirties my morality.”
And so the cycle continues, on and on. It’s problematic because, as consequence, the way food actually makes us feel and function, from satiety to energy levels to emotions, is masked by a sense of transposed morality, in which our classification of the food becomes the classification of the choice, and the self.
If we had the tools to control the narrative, what we could be saying is, “I am choosing to eat this salad because the macronutrient profile supports my energy levels in the afternoon, and the flavor profile caters to my preferences.” Or, “I am choosing to eat two slices of pizza at dinner with friends because I enjoy it and it supports my social wellbeing, but I know that three slices makes my stomach hurt.”
Here’s the deal: all foods fit into a healthy lifestyle, from kale to cake (sheesh, even bananas get shit these days). No foods are inherently good or bad, no foods are entirely healthy or unhealthy, no one food alone leads to weight gain or weight loss. Foods simply contain nutritional information that serve unique purposes. It’s not about one choice, but the sum of every choice, and how these choices interact with each other over time.
Flash forward two years (can you believe it?!), and I have done some major lifting, living, and learning. I’ve got a whole lot of new knowledge and a whole new outlook on fitness and nutrition. I have crafted an ever-evolving definition of what a healthy lifestyle is for me.
I choose to fuel my body with intentional ingredients not because they are good or superior or clean, but because they support my preferred level of performance and function. More importantly, not because I should or shouldn’t, or can or can not, but because I want or do not want to.
Are you ready to join the revolution? I challenge you to in identify, acknowledge, and evaluate the motives behind your preferences. Do your research, become an educated consumer, listen to your body, forge your own path, and strip food of morality.