Food Neutrality: It's Not Like You Robbed a Bank
By: Abby Emmert & Gabby Morreale
Let’s talk about the fact that diet culture gives food morals. Yeah, you heard that right. Like the morals that we grow up developing and are different from person to person, apparently food has those. Or at least were told food does. At some point, some foods were declared “bad” while others were “good”. This language quickly turned into reflections of ourselves. Raise your hand if you have ever said something along the lines of, “I was really bad last week,” or, “I’m trying to be good.” Bad as in...what? Robbed a bank? Or ate some hot cheetos? There’s definitely a difference. But we find it hard to declare this difference when we believe what diet culture says.
One of the hardest concepts to learn when you're recovering from an eating disorder, or just trying to fix your relationship with food, is that FOOD. IS. NEUTRAL. What this means is that food does not deserve labels. It does not have morals. It does not decide what kind of person you were yesterday or who you will be today. It does not have the power that we often give to it. And it does not dictate your worth.
Let me give you some scenarios that may help paint the picture of what we're saying here. When you go to the store and you walk to the ice cream section and you see the difference between a low-calorie dessert or a good ole’ tub of Ben and Jerry’s, you might find yourself leaning towards the low-calorie dessert because that feels “good” compared to the larger calorie container of B&J. This is how diet culture has trained you to see that some options are good while others are bad. This is an example of companies that profit off of diet culture selling you their product off the basis of fear for their competitors. Don’t let them trick you.
Another example would be going to Chick-fil-A on a Thursday for dinner because, let’s be honest, it was a long week and Super-women deserves a break from making dinner. After finishing your dinner, you find yourself at the fridge a little while after looking for a snack or something sweet. You have yourself some little dessert to finish off the night, maybe a glass of wine, and then you find yourself on the couch wondering why you went through the drive-thru instead of just making a “healthy” dinner at home. The shame creeps in, and when your friend calls to go out Friday for dinner, you decline because you are trying to be “good” now that you feel guilty for yesterday. This is also how diet culture has trained you that being “good” is a way of life, a lifestyle, a choice, and it can make up for being “bad” at other times. It's the magical diet culture calculator that taught you how to make up for what you’ve done, or save up for what you will do later. As if our bodies worked that way….
If you find yourself in this cycle, with similar thoughts and feelings around food, maybe in exact or similar situations as the ones mentioned above, you're not alone. In fact, you're just abiding by what you were told. You're great at following directions! LOL But on a serious note, you deserve better. You deserve to allow food to be absolutely neutral. The fried chicken sandwich and fries don’t make you fat or make you “bad” the same way a salad and green juice don’t immediately make you skinny or “good”. When we release the morals we constructed around food, we let in the space to make our OWN damn decisions!! We create the space when all are welcome; food, people, anything. We create the space that WE know what is best for our bodies. Instead of giving morals to your food, what about giving all of that power to ourselves to decide what WE think is best? Also we know this is hard but we can tell you first hand by letting food just be food it's so freeing. As you go into this weekend try and practice letting yourself eat without the morality or the guilt. Also be mindful what messages are you taking in as a consumer and are you letting them dictate how you feel about food and what you tell yourself after you’ve eaten? Let us know we want to hear from you and if you're struggling please don't hesitate to reach out. We get it … We've been there and we promise it's so much better letting food just be food.