I cannot remember the last time when I was not aware of my body and the food that I was supposed (or not supposed) to eat. After talking about this hyper-awareness with others, I realized that this was and is far from an individual issue. Almost every person I know has some type of unhealthy relationship with food. For me, these relationships have a lot to do with how diet culture has seeped throughout our society—whether that be through the influence of popular culture and media, from family and friends, or general education. It is my hope that this article sheds a bit of light on how harmful our culture's thought-process and mentality regarding food is and, hopefully, changes a bit of the narrative.

Counting Calories Religiously is Unproductive and Anxiety-Inducing 

Okay, so maybe mainstream society has come a pretty long way from the 1200 calorie diets it used to promote; however, the phrase "calories in, calories out" is still pervasive throughout the diet industry. Calorie tracking apps are all the rage, and even though a lot of "health gurus" are telling us that we can, in fact, eat more food, many still recommend tracking calories and macros. While I'm glad that I am suddenly allowed to eat more food, the truth is, you shouldn't need permission to eat until you feel satiated or full. Moreover, tracking your food intake can become an unhealthy obsession, causing you to starve yourself after a "cheat day" or berate yourself for eating an extra 100 calories. The quantity of food that you eat is nobody's business, and how much energy your body needs varies based on a multitude of factors. No one's body requires exactly 1500 calories a day. I highly encourage you to research intuitive eating. Learning to understand my hunger cues and the importance of satisfying them has been difficult after years of listening to apps or magazine articles that have tried to dictate or influence how much food I consume. While calorie counting is definitely difficult to overcome, allowing yourself to eat until satisfaction could lead to fewer binges and a less stressful relationship with food. 

You Can Enjoy the Foods that Make Life Worth Living

One of the best quotes I've ever heard is from Waitress the Musical (if you know me, you would not be surprised by this Broadway reference): "My mama used to say you can live to be a 100 if you give up all the things that make you wanna live to be a 100." I think it's really important to figure out which foods make you want to live to be 100. There are definitely some not-so-healthy foods that I never really think about eating. Rarely do I crave certain candies, chips, soda, or cake. That being said, I could not live without other foods that have traditionally been deemed unhealthy like chocolate, banana bread, bread, or pasta. I eat these foods, especially chocolate, on the regular. If your life is going to be miserable without potato chips or cupcakes, eat them when you crave them, love every last bite, and move on with your day. Don't let diet culture tell you otherwise. Allowing the fear of sugar, fat, or calories to override the pure enjoyment of eating your favorite meal or baked good makes life much more punishing than it should ever be. 

It's Easier to Enjoy the Time you Spend with People you Love

Let's be real, a lot of social outings revolve around eating, which can be relatively stress-inducing for anyone who experiences challenges with their relationship with food. For someone struggling with their body image, something as simple as eating chocolate cake on your birthday can be a pretty demanding task. I know it's not as simple as me just saying, "Let it go, eat that cake, and everything will be okay." Nevertheless, looking back, I regret every moment I allowed diet culture and my fear of certain foods to ruin what could have been an amazing memory. Whether that be a Sunday stack of pancakes with your family, a date-night with your partner, or a night in with your best friends, some things are simply more important than the food that you eat. 

Remember, When it Comes to Food and Health, Most People have no Clue What they are Talking About

Yes, there are definitely people who have a lot of information about nutrition, but when it comes down to how to eat, the only voices you should be listening to are those of your doctor, registered dietitians, and your own bodies. That model or YouTuber telling you that you have to try food combining, a high carb diet, or a high-fat diet really has no clue how to interpret scientific papers (and probably hasn't even read any). There are so many fad diets that have wriggled their way into our culture, but time and again, they have been proven to fail. When it comes to the food on your plate, listen to your doctor or hire a registered dietician if need be, but, mainly, listen to your incredibly smart body and all of the hunger, fullness, and craving cues that come with it.  

There are a multitude of reason that I am against the customs our society has fostered when it comes to how we eat. These are just a few. The idea that in order to be healthy we must significantly cut down on calories, consume vast amounts of protein, or constantly eat "clean"' is extremely destructive. When we peddle this rhetoric, we create a culture of restriction, void of enjoyment and full of pressure to look and be a certain way.