One other thought, which has been tumbling around in my mind as I went to create this blog (aside from that of exercise for fun, not weight loss) was the concept of the society imposed morality….of food. “Good” foods (Which have been known to change, by the way; anyone else remember Eggs Are Bad…but now they are Good?) are pushed on us all the time, while “bad” foods are disdained, disparaged, vilified and, on the occasion of their actual consumption, sinfully and guiltily enjoyed. Why is this?
Do plants grow with the conscious realization of the inherent social acceptability? Does a potato cry itself to sleep on its bed of dirt, knowing it is a white food of Starch! and Carbs! and waist-line danger? Do carrots dream of the days when their tiny brethren were considered a “healthy” snack, instead of a tricky treat destined to bulge your belly?
Do beef-cows, raised to the slaughter, somehow know that their meat, if ground up, might be deemed “unhealthy” and sadly munch grass in remorse? Do chickens somehow rejoice and cluck happily, knowing that their breast meat might be the “healthy” hinge upon which some future eater’s entire meal will depend?
The likely answer to these questions (which, unless someone out there is fluent in plant-speak or cow-chat, I would have a tough time getting a truly definite answer for) is: NO! Plants don’t grow up to be Bad or Good. Animals do not mill around with “healthy” or “unhealthy” branded by dna into their fur or feathers. What has created these labels, is us. Everyday we are pumped full of more “science” to back up the claims of what IS good for you…or what ISN’T good for you (and the brain-washing is being forced upon us at younger and younger ages).
There ARE no intrinsically GOOD or BAD foods. There is no one food which, when popped into your mouth and enjoyed, will automatically tip you into the SINFUL side of the life-balancing scale. Nor is there any food which, if eaten if a large enough quantity, will balance out previous SIN foods or even tip you into the VIRTUE side of things. Nothing in this world was CREATED with these labels attached. We, in our society, have created the labels and internalized them so much that we now feel guilty for eating “bad” foods and virtuous for any meal with “good” foods. In the words of a fantastic piece by Marina Wolf:
On the face of it, our code of food morality seems very simple, breaking down into constituent parts–carbohydrates, sugar, salt, cholesterol, fats of various kinds–and supposedly essential truths about them. But nutrition science surges ever onward, constantly releasing new and contradictory studies. Butter was the bad guy up until a couple of months ago, when a new study suggested that the polyunsaturated fats in margarine may heighten the risk for developing breast cancer. Sugar is blamed for murder and premenstrual mayhem; dairy prolongs colds; flour stuffs you up; and cholesterol gets it both ways with its “good” and “bad” varieties.
God forbid you should happen across a food substance that contains more than one of these component evils. Look at what people love to feel bad about: chocolate truffles, ice cream, potato chips, French fries. Several centuries after its inception, Puritanism is still cookin’: if it tastes good, it’s got to be bad.
I say, stop feeling guilty for that bowl of ice cream. Stop feeling like the Virgin Mary for ordering the salad instead of the fish and chips you really wanted. Denying and allowing yourself certain items, based solely on what the media is currently telling you (which changes all the time as new science replaces the old, sometimes with a complete contradiction), is crazy making! The only way in which a food should be deemed good or bad should be in how your body reacts to it*. If you learn to LISTEN to the cues your body provides (our bodies really are amazing creations you know, they TELL us when to eat and what they need), then you will not NEED some artificially created set of guidelines to dictate your menus.
Eat a variety (no one likes a boring menu day after week after year). Eat what you WANT, as much as you need, and listen to your wonderful body. If you find that you crave chips or cake or any other “sinful” food; then eat it! Don’t feel guilty and eat until your body says STOP! If you go too far, you’ll know and won’t do it again because you’ll end up with a body that lets you know, with some pain, what you did wrong. Exactly the same for “good” foods. If you crave that salad because your body is going “Hey! Some leafy greens! I don’t care what else is there on the plate but MAN I need me some leafy greens”. Then eat it. But don’t feel like you’ve overcome some great willpower struggle against good and evil when you do so. Food is meant to be eaten to nourish, to sustain, to enjoy!
Don’t get me wrong, eating more intuitively is difficult. All our lives we’ve been trained to eat what the latest “science” has deemed healthy and valid for consumption. You must “Unlearn what you have learned!” (Thanks Yoda). Yet, if little kids can learn by experience (hmmm if I touch the thorns on this plant, it hurts. Don’t do it again. Check!) why do we, as teens or adults, think we somehow lack the same intuitive ability to trust our environment and our bodies? Treat “good” and “bad” as relative terms. Use them in relation to how your OWN body responds to any particular food. Does Ham make you feel gross? Don’t eat it! Do carrots make you gag? Don’t eat them! Does Chicken make you happy? Eat it! How about that cookie? Does eating it make your body feel better? Then eat it!!! The road to eating “well” is full of many bumps and turns as we learn to feel our way. It is a path that is different for EVERYONE. So grab a fork. Buckle up. Throw those rigid food rules out the window; make your own! And learn to take your own eating path; free from sin or virtue but full of flavor and feeling fantastic; I hereby grant you permission!
*Although if you avoid any particular foods due to manufacturing processes, additives or the farming means used to create them for your own beliefs then yes you could use morality to define foods as “good” or “bad” outside of their relationship to your body’s responses.