Let me set the scene: You unpack your lunch and sit down to a big salad of fresh greens. You’re looking forward to it, it’s going to be delicious, and you’re really hungry. As you fork your first bite, a coworker or a stranger walks by. She sees your salad and pauses, turning toward you to wistfully utter the most annoying words known to Sarah-kind:
Wow! Look at that salad. You’re being so good.
In my experience, it’s mostly women who judge themselves according to their food. You’re rolling along, minding your own business, and then someone eats a brownie. Within moments, you hear heavy sighs and: I’ve been so bad today, or, my most hated of all: I wish I could be good like you — I ate so much!
Am I crazy, or does that bug you, too?
Food doesn’t make someone good or bad. Food is food. Food is fuel.
Breaking moral laws makes you bad. Being cruel or rude or otherwise unfit for human company makes you bad.
So consider this the official public service announcement: Perfectly normal (aka not-bad) people eat things that aren’t super-healthy sometimes! And if you do it a lot, it will catch up with you and you will feel sick. At no point in this process does the unhealthy food make you bad. As if you’ve misbehaved or somehow damaged your integrity as a human being by eating a hamburger. Saying things like that makes a person feel judged, silly, or just plain like a child who is sneaking around.
And what’s more, there’s no black and white definition of food that’s good and bad. There are disgustingly unhealthy salads out there. There are super healthy hamburgers. And regardless of which one you eat, it shouldn’t affect your body image or self image.
The Paleo View podcast has a great way of dividing foods between healthy and unhealthy without assigning personal judgement (and which doesn’t activate my pet peeve): clean. Sarah talks frequently about how she feels when she’s eating very clean, and I’ve since decided that I’ll talk about it that way, too. Join me?