“Oh! Well then I shouldn’t tell you what I had for dinner last night!”
Is a response I often get when people find out what I do for a living and it always makes me a tiny bit sad and just a smidge self-conscious. Why? Because it shows that people worry that I am going to judge them for their food choices. It betrays the shame people feel about what they are eating. It is yet another reminder that in our culture food and morality sometimes go hand-in-hand. More and more the message seems to be: if you aren’t eating “healthy,” then there is something wrong with you—if you still eat sugar, drink soda, have chips, buy fast food, or depend on processed foods, you are poisoning yourself and anyone else you might be feeding.
The more that I work as a health and cooking coach, the more I believe that this sort of thinking about food and eating is more damaging than eating any of those “bad” foods.
When I first started trying to change my own diet to eat healthier I was completely overwhelmed by all of the messages I was getting: don’t eat wheat; sugar is poison; don’t eat dairy; only eat organic; include x, y, and z superfoods in your daily diet; drink one glass of red wine a day; never drink wine; drink 1 cup of coffee a day; coffee will destroy your adrenal gland and you’ll never have energy again, etc. It got to a point where I would go food shopping and feel paralyzed, even in a health food store!
And then I realized it was too much. I was reverting back to my days of disordered eating. I had lost touch with why I had gone into this work I the first place—that I wanted to share my passion for food and show people how accessible and life changing simple cooking can truly be. So I made a conscious decision to let go. Yes, I was going to continue to find fun ways to make my diet healthier. Yes, I was going to include more fruits and vegetables. Yes, I was going to cook mostly from whole ingredients. But I was not going to deprive myself (or my family) of foods that we truly enjoyed and I was not going to feel guilt when it came to food. In other words, I found a balance….