Changing How We Think and Talk About Food


We have such strict narratives about food. There is good, there is bad. There is healthy, there is unhealthy. Allowed, not allowed. Clean, dirty. Fattening, bad for the waistline, cheat meals. This is how we talk about food. The question is why?

Food isn’t good or bad; it doesn’t have a moral compass. There are foods that are good for your body and foods that are good for your soul — you need both. You need nutrients and vitamins from your fruits and veggies and chia seeds but you also need pizza and cake. You can have it all. Who’s to say you can’t be healthy and still eat pasta? What makes dessert the enemy?

It doesn’t have to be. For me, before anorexia, there was orthorexia. It’s a form of disordered eating focused on “clean” eating. Does that mean washing your vegetables really well or something? The idea of clean eating is about not eating processed foods. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, if that makes you happy, then 100% do it. Do what’s good for you body and for you mind and soul. If you’re like me and eating clean stresses you out, makes you feel like food is scary, or makes you feel like a bad person for eating a cookie, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Health includes your mind; that’s why it’s called mental health. Food is not the enemy. It’s a source of life.

What makes a food good or bad? All foods are good foods, but if we’re really keen on grouping them, instead of good or bad consider: good for body or good for mind.

Broccoli, quinoa, carrots, chicken, apples, grapes, oats —  these are good for your body.

Cake, cookies, muffins, pizza, fries — these are good for your mind. You can eat all these things in moderation. Sure, you probably shouldn’t eat fries for every meal of every day, but who’s to say you can’t eat them whenever the mood strikes? Food shouldn’t be restrictive or disciplined to the point where you feel anxious because of it. Both groups of food have their place in your diet.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Each time I would try to restrict myself by not eating sugar, not eating wheat, not eating dairy, whatever, I would feel panicked and stressed. I would worry I was headed back to anorexia, and the thing is, the second I started restricting my foods, all of the eating disorder patterns flooded right back in. The voice in the back of my head was back instantly. Then I would fight it, do the opposite, and binge on chips and cookies and pop. Then I would panic about eating those foods, and the cycle would start again.

When I started eating foods when I wanted to, not when my eating disorder said I had to, I felt so relieved. It means I can eat cake at my cousin’s birthday and the world won’t end. I can go on to eat “normally” the next day. I can eat my veggies when I’m craving them and have good fruit, nuts, seeds, and grains. I can — and frequently do —  also stop for fries when a craving strikes me. It is balanced.

Food also isn’t something you have to earn. It’s a right. It’s a necessity. You don’t have to go to the gym to deserve a cookie. You can have a cookie, then sit right down on the couch. You don’t have to make up for it by eating less for the next few days. You don’t have to work for it. Work out because you enjoy it, not because you have to after what you ate. You don’t have to punish yourself for “cheating.”

Food doesn’t scare me anymore. It used to. It used to scare me more than absolutely anything on this planet. Without my ED I can see food for what it is. Food isn’t evil or bad or fattening or terrifying. Food is just food. It has no power over you. Frame your thinking differently. Don’t let the narrative of good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, clean and dirty, run your life. Don’t let food take away your happiness, don’t let food make you feel like you’re missing out. Enjoy it, savor it. The same goes for life. Taste the cake, eat the pizza, take the cookie. It will not hurt you, I promise. Have your carrots and quinoa and chicken, too. Have it all.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by iulianvalentin

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Eating Disorders

girl reading a women's magazine

Coping With Societal Beauty Standards in Eating Disorder Recovery

Our culture revolves around looks. Magazines are plastered with those caught-off-guard pictures of celebs with harsh captions about their weight. TV commercials are all about the newest diet fad. Instagram is full of “fitness promoters” who boost detox teas and diets. New Years rolls around with promises of magically losing 10 pounds and finally fitting [...]
woman in the dark looking at fire

An Apology to Myself in Recovery From Anorexia

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder or self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741. Kinleigh, It’s been clear to me for quite some time that I’ve owed you an apology. Firstly, I want to apologize for putting off writing [...]
Watercolor sketch of a beautiful woman face and roses

Thank You to the Eating Disorder Treatment Center That Saved My Life

Editor’s Note: The treatment center name has been changed to protect the identities of those involved.  I am not who you would expect. I graduated from college with honors. I moved across the country to follow my dreams. I sang and danced and loved life. I was represented by respected talent agencies. I smiled, always. [...]
woman holding sign about loving your body

Goodbye, Eating Disorder

Dear Ed, This is goodbye. I’m done with you. For so long, you consumed me. My life revolved around restricting, calorie counting, purging, isolating, working out, perfectionism, body checking, cutting, suicide letters, and hating every inch of myself. I was in so much pain and my life felt so shattered that the only thing I [...]