It may not be obvious right away, but when you take the time to stop and listen, you’ll begin to hear all of the biases and judgments about food that are typical to our culture.
Take a few seconds to think about the things you hear frequently when it comes to food.
Go ahead. I’ll wait here.
If you’re living in the same culture I am, you may have thought of these phrases:
I’m trying to be good today.
Those cookies are evil.
Today is my cheat day.
Those chips are dangerous.
Good. Evil. Cheating. Dangerous? Is this food (that amazing, yummy stuff we all need to survive) we’re talking about or an exorcism?
Though COVID has been devastating, some people may have felt relieved to have a break from the catastrophizing, exorcismy food talk that pervades work birthday parties or family gatherings. If you’re one of those people, there’s good reason: the way we've been socialized to talk about food is toxic.
Our attitudes about bodies map onto how we think - and talk - about food (and vice versa). Let’s examine some of those attitudes.
Currently, our cultural relationship to food is characterized by:
Binaries: Food is either “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “junk”
Restriction: Believing that eating less food is positive
Anxiety: Fear that the “wrong” relationship will make you fat (and in our culture that is considered the same as being ill)
Shoulds/Moralizing: Attitudes that people “should” only eat certain things or that hunger "should" be the only reason someone eats
Utility: Food is simply “fuel,” and eating is similar to filling up a car with gas
Our culture's food-negative attitudes map onto how we see bodies as well. Our fear of food is highly connected to being seen as a bad person, but more than that it's connected to the fear of becoming the “wrong” size and the fear of experiencing fatphobia.
Let’s imagine what’s possible instead!
What if these were the new rules of food?
No more binaries: All food is good food
Fullness is awesome: Filling your belly is positive and healthy
Joy and connection are key: We eat because it feels food and we eat to connect to ourselves and others
Self-trust is king: Trusting our desire for food without judgment
No more shoulds: Recognizing humans eats for hundreds of reasons - all of them valid.
Understanding food is way, way more than simply fuel: Food is about comfort, family, identity, cultural affirmation and memory
What if there were no wrong food - or bodies? What if we trusted ourselves - and others?
This week, try noticing how you and others talk about food. Take a moment to reflect on the impact, and ask yourself: is this changing how our culture thinks about food and bodies? Remember: you don’t necessarily have to intervene in negative food talk if that doesn’t feel safe. Just opting out of it yourself is enough.
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