When it comes to food, things aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’, writes Bridie Kersten*.
#Clean eating, #paleo and #Whole30 hashtags are flooding our social media feeds. Celebrities endorse green smoothies and sugar-free treats. Filters make turmeric lattes look more golden and vegan burgers more palatable.
But there is something missing. What is unconsciously happening is that, too easily, foods that do not fit under these categories are being considered the opposite: dirty, unhealthy, empty or dangerous.
A healthy relationship with food is healthier than every superfood combined, as it helps us remember why we eat. Eating for comfort or when we are bored sets us up for bad habits. However, eating to nourish our bodies so we can live with plenty of energy allows us to have a healthy and sustainable relationship with food.
Labelling food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ can stop us from appreciating the value of balance. We feel guilty the moment we have a dessert and food becomes synonymous with calorie counting and losing weight. Consuming only vegetables or just chocolate isn’t good for you, but lots of vegetables and an occasional chocolate helps us remember what is important in our daily meals and what is a treat.
To develop a healthy relationship with food, we need to stop giving ourselves a guilt-trip for what we eat. For example, at Easter, Christmas and birthdays, we tend to enjoy occasional foods more often. Prepare yourself for this, and enjoy every bite. In doing so, you are not allowing yourself to create a negative association with food, you’re actually allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy what you are eating.
When you avoid labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you stop rewarding yourself with ‘sometimes’ foods. Food isn’t a reward—it is a part of our lives and it is up to us to choose what we eat every day, knowing that it’s fine to eat ‘sometimes’ foods sometimes, but on the whole we should choose to nourish our bodies with balanced, whole foods.
Having a healthy relationship with food begins by appreciating what it can do for you—it gives you energy, helps you grow, develop and build immunity. Get to know your food—do you actually know how pineapples are grown or where lentils come from? Did you know that it is actually the nutrients in red/orange vegetables that give them their bright colour? In fact, the dark green colour in spinach and broccoli is basically made from sunshine. This helps us make sense of the fact that fruits and vegetables are better for us than lollies.
Eating clean, being vegan or choosing a paleo lifestyle is not wrong, but can become unhealthy when those labels become more important than nourishing our bodies. So stop punishing yourself for eating food, and instead start to enjoy what each mouthful can give you—energy.
*Bridie Kersten is a registered nutritionist with an interest in holistic and alternative health who blogs at facebook.com/thenutritionistnanny.