OK, hands up if you’ve ever said one of the following phrases when offered a slice of birthday cake / other tasty treat:
“Oh, no – I’m being good this week.”
“Oh go on then, I’m so naughty!”
“I’m so bad for eating this cake…”
I admit, I have certainly done this in the past – but I’ve decided to stop and think about the language I use to describe food in conversation.
The words we use have a huge effect on the way we think.
Take food for example. Labelling it as good or bad gives it a moral standing, leaving us open to judgement if we choose to eat it (or not eat it). Worse than that, we give ourselves these labels too – “I’m so bad”.
Picture this: you’re in your staff room at work, there’s a tray of cupcakes doing the rounds and you say, “No thanks, I’m being good.” You don’t know it, but your co-worker standing next to you is struggling with body image and is on the cusp of developing an eating disorder. Hearing you say that, confirms what the voice inside his or her head is saying – that they are a bad person for wanting a cupcake.
I know – not everyone around us has eating problems or will necessarily be affected by what you say… but consider the message you’re sending yourself with this way of thinking.
When you label food, or yourself, as ‘bad’ it immediately conjures up feelings of guilt. This guilt is what clouds our minds when it comes to self-image. It makes us feel less than worthy and nothing should have that sort of power over us, especially food.
enjoying some tasty food in Barcelona
Adjusting your moral compass (and eating intuitively)
Food can be many things – a source of joy, a source of nourishment, a source of fuel – but it is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is not ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’.
Take away these labels and what are you left with? Food.
Food that will affect your body and mood in a certain way. Look at it again and ask yourself – do you really want it? Is your body or soul craving it? Will it bring you joy? Will it give you energy? Will it make your body/mind feel good?
Consider these questions and respect your answers – if eating a cupcake in this very moment will bring you joy, eat the damn cupcake.
Recently there was a birthday at work and there were two trays of cupcakes, two regular birthday cakes and a box of chocolates. After looking at them and asking myself these questions, I realised that, actually – I didn’t really want one.
I knew I had chocolate at home. I knew myself well enough to realise that after dinner is when I get serious sweet cravings. I knew that enjoying that chocolate in the evening would bring me more joy than a forced cupcake at lunch would.
This isn’t the case every day (trust me, more often than not I revel in a cupcake) but on this day – that’s what my intuition was telling me.
Eating intuitively and without judgment allows us to enjoy food again.
Getting rid of moral labels eradicates the associated guilt.
Imagine if, as a society, this was the way we all ate. We were brought up to listen to our bodies and to eat mindfully. We were brought up without ‘bad’ or ‘good’ foods.
How many people would have eating disorders? How many would have unhealthy emotional attachments to food? How many would spend their hard earned money on the ‘diet’ industry?
Just some *food* for thought.