For as long as I can remember, the media has obsessed over what it calls "healthy" food. The ongoing battle has seen recent debates over whether foods such as coconut oil are actually any better for you than you regular vegetable oils, with prominent news and media sites publishing both sides of the argument. But this fixation with "busting food myths" just drives us towards harmful and unhealthy misconceptions about certain foods.

tea
Weichen Yan

A year ago, I was stuck in the middle of eating turmoil. I was dangerously ill with an eating disorder and eating out was something that terrified me. Half of me wanted to flick a switch and suddenly become a health goddess; half of me wanted to eat as little as I could possibly get away with. 

On a quest to find out how I could sneakily minimise calories while ordering food in a restaurant, I stumbled across advice from a nutritionist that managed to both drill through the negativity in my head and stick: don't limit — add instead (this was not the exact article that I read a year ago, but it follows a similar premise). 

avocado, brunch, avocado toast, fries, sandwich, Lunch, overhead, Meal, vegetable, salad, tomato, sauce, meat, pasta
Denise Uy

This seemed to make sense. Instead of avoiding fats and sugars and honing in on decreasing calories, the nutritionist suggested adding vitamins and nutrients and boosting the benefits of the food. By doing this, you focus on the healthy, rather than the unhealthy.

And this is where the media representation becomes severely flawed. How often do you see an article branding a certain food as "unhealthy"? How often do dietitians claim that to be healthy, you must not touch certain foods?

This is heightened further by the rise of the clean eating trend (which, I myself, am guilty of following) where "cheat days" are incorporated into routine as though food is something to feel guilty about eating.  

waffle, ice cream, ice, cream, wafer, chocolate
Rica Beltran

As someone who is recovering from an eating disorder, I take issue with these obsessions. The very definition of my eating disorder means that moderation is something that I struggle with — and something that I strive to achieve. Fads that encourage cutting entire food groups from your diet can only be harmful — and in fact, I believe that the internet's take on "healthy" and "unhealthy" actually hindered my own recovery. 

The media's obsession with "exposing" these so-called health foods and ultimately branding them as "unhealthy" scares the population away from eating them and forgets the main component in a healthy diet: eating everything in moderation. By pushing people away from certain groups and mis-educating them, the media draws them towards more dangerous areas of eating: eating disorders.

As an eighteen-year-old trapped in a routine of regular therapy, the more articles I read about carbs being "bad" or the trend of completely avoiding sugar, the more obsessed I became with not touching these foods. But if you live like that, very soon, almost every single food group becomes eliminated from your diet: "dairy contains too many fats"; "fats are bad for you"; "protein will make you gain weight"; "carbs make you fat". Even fruits and certain vegetables become tainted in the wrong light. The rumours take over your life — and indeed they did for me — they drove me to a phase where I refused to eat anything but soup, terrified that any other kind of food would make me blow up like a balloon and become obese overnight.

apple, juice, sweet, pasture
Santina Renzi

It is a widely accepted fact that all food groups are important in some way or other and I believe that if the media focused on the benefits of certain foods rather than hammering in the possible negatives then perhaps we might find ourselves in the middle of a generation flourishing in health and thriving off good, enjoyable food. If we stop shaming foods and associating fuel with guilt then perhaps we will start eating more mindfully without even trying to. 

Perhaps we will stop driving people like me towards eating disorders.

So, dear internet, I will continue to eat my virgin coconut oil as I please, focusing not on the saturated fats that it contains, but rather on the nutrients that I am filling my body with.