• emmanuellegammage

Guilt has no place in the kitchen

I think it's time to have a little chit chat about all things food. Guilt, moral value, healthy and clean eating etc - all of those concepts that need to be straightened out. My thoughts and relationship with food is one of peace and enjoyment, but that wasn't always the case. Food used to consume my life, in the most detrimental way. I was stuck between a constant flux of feeling guilty about what I just ate and desperate for my next meal. I'm sure we can all think of examples in a flash of diet culture and messages that promote weight loss and food guilt. It's not just those of us who suffer with eating disorders, we are all subject to these messages, but we have the power and the knowledge to reject them.

"Unlike what ED teaches us, food does not have a moral value like good or bad. In other words, your worth as a person does not depend on whether or not you eat a so-called bad food. Food should not be labelled good or bad, safe or unsafe, healthy or unhealthy. Food is just food".

Food is just food. It took me a long time to grasp this idea. I was so caught up in the idea of good and bad, healthy and unhealthy and I believed that eating bad and unhealthy food would make me gain weight and dirty my mind. When I look back, it makes total sense that I would form an eating disorder because of the messages I was consuming daily. I now have the power to see through these messages and I'm less frequently bombarded with them because I don't look for them or associate with things that link to diet culture. But back then, I wanted to lose weight and everything I saw online somehow linked to that because my brain was always thinking about it.

I did not enjoy eating. I ate because I had to, to keep living, but I tried to consume as little as possible. Any food to me, even the 'healthy' stuff, was still food and therefore should be avoided at all costs. I allowed myself the bare minimum. I didn't particularly like the taste of what I was eating but I tried to convince myself and everyone around me that I did. I feared food. I feared putting on weight. I was desperate to become the teeniest tiniest version of myself. I was scared of every mouthful, even salad leaves. It's hard to explain the paradox going on in your brain at the time: despite fearing food - I craved it. I was constantly thinking about food whilst trying to avoid it. I would dream of all my favourite food that I never allowed myself to eat as a kind of sick fantasy.

My relationship began to heal in recovery but there was a lot of negative energy to get through. I still associated food with good and bad. I was still scared to gain weight. I couldn't see past the point of food as moral value. I thought that if I ate say, chocolate or pizza, then I wouldn't become the best version of myself. There's this dominant narrative in our world that tells us being skinny will bring happiness into our lives. How can we depend on something so trivial as our weight to bring us happiness when there is SO much joy to be found right on our doorstep? No food is inherently bad or unhealthy. Sure, the science behind it shows that some options are more nourishing than others - but that doesn't mean that we should only eat those foods. It's all about balance - choosing foods that we enjoy, nourish our insides and taste good.

The word calorie has become a dirty word, something that we fear if it's over a certain number. But remember, a calorie simply tells us how much energy is in a food. It tells us nothing about its nutrient value. Take avocado's for instance, they're high in calories but people consider them to be one of the healthiest foods you can spread on toast or blend in your smoothie. Calories have no moral value. They do not give us any information about how 'healthy' or 'nourishing' a food is. I would always choose the option with the least number of calories in it - but was that always the best option for my body's happiness?

I used to believe that you couldn't be body positive whilst eating 'healthy' and exercising, because that's not what body positivity is about. I still stand by that, but my opinions have altered slightly. I think it depends on your reasoning. Choosing foods to lose weight versus choosing foods because they taste nice, they're highly nourishing and full of energy is different. But it can be extremely hard to differentiate between the two and we can often get caught up between them both, and that's not your fault! It's easy to think about what certain foods will do to your body but I challenge you to think about how foods will make you feel rather than how they will make your body look. We should choose to eat a meal that will give you energy, make your insides glow and fill you up with nutrients because it is good for your body, period. But we shouldn't make that decision just to make us feel more worthy, happier and in love with our bodies. Not only that, we shouldn't then ban chocolate from the household because it has less nutrients in it - sometimes we need that sugar and we need those kinds of nutrients. It's ok to choose the more nourishing option and you don't have to feel guilty for adhering to diet culture because of it. Choosing nourishing food doesn't have to be revolutionary - food is food.

Food is fuel for our body, to keep it moving, thinking, dancing, adventuring, educating, loving! When we choose a food, we do not make a moral judgement about ourselves. Feeling guilty for eating 'bad' food is unhealthy for your mind too! We could spend that sacred time enjoying our food or how about this, not thinking about it at all and instead laugh with our loved ones or plan fun adventures?! We eat because we love our bodies, not to punish our body.

Ask yourself, why do we feel guilty? Who decided that certain foods were good or bad? The million-pound diet culture industry decided that. Are we seriously gonna continue to buy into this industry that feeds us nothing but lies for their own gain? I hope this blog post gives you a little food for thought...

No one should feel guilty for eating. If you find yourself in a negative relationship with food - thinking of food purely in terms of good or bad, then you need to start nurturing that relationship. I think it's super important to take 5 minutes out of your day to feel in touch with your body and mind. Breathe, meditate and work out whether your body is happy, whether it needs some love, if you're anxious or stressed etc. This is your reminder that it's ok to choose foods that make your stomach happy and it's ok to choose foods that might be less nourishing. It's all about harmony and balance. Which is WHY we need to get in touch with our body and stop thinking about food in such restricting terms - make your own rules!


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