This is it, people. This is a step — just one easy step — towards a happier, healthier you. With this article, we’re going to take every sinful, every guilt-inducing, every “oh my god this is sooooo bad for you” food that you love and turn it all into something you can eat guilt-free.
The solution is simple: just stop calling food “bad.” Cut that shit out of your diet instead of carbs. Because how many years has it been since nachos came rolling up on a Ducati in a leather jacket and earned the reputation of being “bad”? When was the last time a chocolate cake committed murder in order to be dubbed as “sinful”? I’m going to make a rough guess here and say probably never. What is actually bad here is our tendency to impose morality onto food — not the bag of chips in your pantry.
With 108 million Americans contributing to the multi-billion dollar diet industry, it’s not even a question that we’re entrenched in a diet culture. In commercials, throughout magazines, and on billboards, we are constantly bombarded by media that glorify thin body types and promote supplements, weight loss programs, and fad diets.
From this messaging, we begin to create an inner dialogue of which foods are “good” and which are “bad.” Then, on nights when we decide to order dessert, we make sure to (often loudly) comment that we’re being sooo bad, so as to imply we don’t usually eat this way. Other times, when we choose to have “just a salad” at a family dinner, we praise ourselves for how good we’re being.
Except, you’re not being good. Or bad. Or really anything at all. Nothing about those kale chips or that molten chocolate lava cake is innately good or bad in the moral sense. But if you want more food-related nihilism, follow @nihilist_arbys. Eating these foods and their imaginary traits will in no way be a reflection of your character. What this type of language does reflect, however, is our culture’s bizarre phobia of fat.
Don’t believe me? Take a moment to think of all of the products that are marketed as “skinny”: lattes, popcorn, alcohol, even water. In these cases, such foods are presented with the message that they’re better and more healthy for you, and thus “skinny” starts to become a synonym for “good.”
We start to believe the message that the only way to be healthy is to be thin, and to be thin means to be on a diet. But I’m here to remind you, bodies can be healthy at any size, and dieting ain’t got nothin’ to do with it. In fact, it’s quite possible to obsess too much about eating healthily — a behavior otherwise known as orthorexia.
For restrictive dieters, the rules of a diet often become internalized and a source of anxiety for fear of breaking them. What doesn’t alleviate this anxiety is exposure to dialogue about how “bad” white bread is or how “guilt-free” those cookies are (which implies that to enjoy the real recipe would be something one should feel shame for).
So when the time comes (and it will, as 95% of diets fail) when the dieter engages in eating “sinful” foods, they’re going to feel like absolute shit about themselves, rather than satiated, because they think that they’re probably going to hell now for consuming it—or worse, get fat.
For some, this cycle of restriction, bingeing, and intense guilt will develop into an eating disorder known as binge-eating disorder (BED). However, even of those people who consider themselves to be “normal” dieters, 35% will develop pathological dieting, and of those people, up to 25% will develop full-syndrome eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorder Association’s fact sheet.
I’m not anti-health food. I’m not advising you to get Chipotle delivered to your door every night and then to wash it down with a cool, refreshing box of Franzia. Life is about balance; approach eating with the goal of wellness, enjoyment, non-judgement, and nourishment in mind.
So yes, be sure to eat your fruits and veggies, drink more water than Snake Juice, and take your vitamins. But also be sure to revel in those warm cookies from Insomnia, find comfort in the shepherd’s pie your mom sent home with you, and scale that mountain of fries you just ordered with your friends after a successful Friday night—because that shit is just good for your soul, and you should feel that with every guilt-free bite you take.