This past year has been personally eye-opening for me in thinking about the various ways the diet and fitness industry speak and market health and fitness to consumers.
For the most part, I think the general population understands that eating overly processed foods at every meal is not a great choice for our bodies and will even negatively impact your long-term health.
However, I feel like when we demonize certain foods because that may be what someone has access to daily, or in a pinch, are we really giving helpful tips? Or are we simply carelessly food shaming and not acknowledging that many folks cannot afford, or do not have access to, fresh foods?
I know for me, when I crave a donut or cereal, it’s sometimes a comfort that I need to feed for the short term, so that I am not overdoing it later on. I indulge and I do not shame myself or beat myself up for it (I.e. make sure I get my steps in or else).
Quite honestly, if I am craving a donut and swap it with a piece of fruit, that’s not going to produce the same satisfaction as if I had actually consumed what I am craving.
Likewise, for you to eat a salad out of shame or guilt is not “eating healthy.” Neither is eating dessert and telling yourself you are “being bad.” We need to explore our feelings about food and nutrition and our bodies, and not eat from a place of obligation and shame, but rather, enjoyment.
I have been that person that did not eat bread or dessert at a networking dinner because I thought “I am a personal trainer and they might think less of me.” Instead of showing people we can live strong and healthy lives and also eat reasonably and enjoyably, I was perpetuating the idea that restrictive eating and excluding certain foods permanently is good health.
I thought, due to my upbringing, that I would have to completely divorce bread and pasta when I turned 35 (4 years ago). In truth, there is room for all foods to exist, provided it aligns with what you like to eat.
Unfortunately, this is what “diet culture” does. It forces you to chase an aesthetic you may or may never get to all in the name of calorie deficits, detoxes and bringing your own food to a gathering because you “cannot” have what is being served (yep, been there).
Is this what life is about? Constantly worrying about and controlling food intake?
For me to sit here and blindly say “eat healthy” is not taking into account:
- Your food history
- Your family culture as it relates to food (I.e. if there are some foods that society deems as “unhealthy” and it’s a part of your family’s heritage)
- If you have had a negative relationship with food
- How your upbringing has impacted the way you view food
- Your accessibility to food
The county I live in is 25% food desert. 6.2% of Americans don’t have access to a decent supermarket, and I am sure many more don’t have a safe or supportive place to exercise.
I don’t believe that it’s as easy as saying “eat healthy” or even “lose weight.” If it is psychological, then the client or patient needs to be referred out to someone who can help them unpack those feelings. If their gut health relates to hormones or is causing inflammation, what they need is to see a dietitian, or other specialist, to get to the root cause.
In short, I am not saying eat everything all the time. You want to feel satisfied after eating, but also in control of your food choices. We should leave room for guilt-free indulgences, but also make sure your food doesn’t make you feel discomforted or sluggish.
I would love to hear your thoughts around food and if anything in this post resonated with you. Feel free to click here to drop me a line if you feel inspired to share.