April 2017 by Fiona Pring RD
I’m sure most of us recognise how we tend to label food as being good or bad, right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy. What happened to food being just that, food; a source of nourishment and enjoyment?
Think back to childhood. As long as food tasted good, looked good and satisfied hunger that was all that really mattered. Eating a bowlful of ice-cream didn’t arouse feelings of shame or guilt, but was just enjoyed for its total deliciousness. We ate intuitively, unconsciously regulating just the right amount for our unique selves.
Food can be ‘bad’ if it’s likely to be harmful if eaten, for example if its poisonous, contaminated or maybe past it’s best. Food cannot be intrinsically ‘morally bad’ or ‘morally good’, it’s just food! However we seem to attach a moral value to food guided by our own beliefs, often formed by how food is represented in the media i.e. does it make you fat or keep you from becoming fat and all the negative hype attached to that state of being.
It’s true that the food we eat can impact on health, there is plenty of research to back that one up but does denying ourselves the foods we enjoy for the sake of our size really benefit us? Research has shown that diets and the pursuit of weightloss, in the long term, do not work and in fact the relentless cycle of weight loss and weight regain is detrimental to our physical and emotional health.
However the need to be accepted and to ‘fit in’ with the cultural desire for slenderness can become so ingrained that we lose sight of our body’s own innate wisdom to seek out the food that will nourish us best. We can end up becoming so anxious and confused around food that it becomes an unpleasant battle ground. No pleasure at all in that!
So what can we do to achieve peace with the food we chose to put on our plate and a sense of calm in the body we inhabit?
Adopting a non-diet/intuitive approach to eating can, in time, lead to improvements in our relationship with food, our health and overall wellbeing. Normal eating is flexible, satisfying and enjoyable. There are no rules, no avoidance, no vowing never to eat that sinful food again or beating ourselves up if we do. We can learn to reconnect to our internal hunger, satiety and appetite cues and start to notice our true likes and dislikes. We can start trusting our bodies again, without judgement, to tell us what, when and how much to eat.
In reality all food is morally equal, no good and no bad. Nothing is out of bounds. We can meet our needs and move towards being the healthiest we can be without the negative internal dialogue associated with the dieting mentality.