"Uhh, but isn't ________ bad for you? I want to like eat things like ________ that are really healthy and good for me..."
The first blank typically includes things like...
Pizza, cookies, cake, eggs, butter, "regular" pasta, donuts, etc.
The second blank often includes things like...
Kale, quinoa, avocado, gluten free, eggs, organic, grass fed, clean, etc.
Did you also notice that the words "good" and "bad" were used to describe food. I often wonder about using these words, which describe a sense of morality or control, when discussing food.
I mean, think about it.
A good person is caring, nice, compassionate, and giving. A bad person is selfish, mean, and cruel.
A good investment gives you money in return, a bad investment loses you money.
In the Bible, God called creation "good" and satan is often describe with negative words that are synonyms of "bad."
This is a lot of pressure to place on food choices in our culture. And, even more concerning, it is a lot of pressure to place upon our daughters and sons. I think our culture reacted against the high rates of obesity in our country and has over focused on food.
We have kinda freaked out. I think we've thrown the baby out with the bath water.
Many people suffering from eating disorders follow internal or external food rules. The good - bad language is very harmful and confusing to them. They desperately want to be "good" so they struggle with the idea of eating foods on the "bad" list.
Ok, so now to something a bit controversial.
What if food... is food... is food?
For someone in recovery, I wonder if the best thing we can say is that...
It... is... ok.
Food is meant to be enjoyed, not counted and ruled morally good or bad. So what is the fruit of acceptance of all food as food?
Flexibility in food choices, self-worth not being tied to food choices, and meals about enjoyment and social engagement vs over focus on food details.
What is the fruit of the good-bad food paradigm
Highly selective food preferences/ choices, self-worth connected to food choices, hyper focus on food content during meals.
To take it a step further, the good-bad paradigm also, in my eyes, makes a person feel like they could fall off the straight and narrow path at any moment with a "bad" food choice. I'm not sure how helpful this is for individuals recovery from eating disorders. Over focus on health (and exercise for that matter) can become a new obsessive lifestyle that simply replaces the eating disorder.
I would prefer to encourage freedom and the idea that a variety of choices are totally "ok" and that all food is food. It may be scary at first, but the sense of freedom that comes over time makes life about (wait for it...) living life! It isn't about a lifelong commitment to making daily decisions to make "good choices" but rather to just live the life you dreamed of living.
I'm sure I've oversimplified pieces of this, but this has been a discussion I have been encountering recently and wanted to put something down on paper for engage :) Thank you for letting me a bit more raw than most posts. Happy to hear any thoughts you have!
The purpose of this blog entry is to share eating disorder recovery related ideas and does not represent professional medical of psychological advice from Mike Thomas or Recovery Spark. For professional advice, please connect with the professional eating disorder specialist that you work with.