Whenever I meet someone new and they ask me what I do for a living, the first thing they usually say is something along the lines of, “oh don’t look at what I’m eating.” For the record, I’m not. Or, they’ll ask me about some specific food or exercise like, “what do you think about avocados?” For the record, I think they’re delicious.
While I don’t go around judging people’s food choices, I am extremely tuned into how people talk about food. After the food-filled holiday weekend I couldn’t help but hear everyone talking about how “they can’t imagine eating again” or they “need to start a diet ASAP” or they need to workout extra the following week to “make up for all of the food they ate.” I even attended a barre class Saturday morning near my parents house where the instructor decided to title the class: Muffin-Top Massacre; a blatant declaration of war on our bodies.
I bought into this way of thinking for a long time. I present, the commandments of the diet mentality:
food is bad
eat less, not more
practice self control
weight gain is bad
weight loss is good
fullness is bad
hunger is good
I was taught that being full was not something you wanted to feel, that we should avoid weight gain at all costs, and food (the substance that caused you to feel full and gain weight) should be eaten with caution, and intake should be carefully controlled. Naturally, this leads to feelings of shame and guilt when in the presence of food or when the number on the scale is higher than expected.
And while there is no shortage of information out there on how certain foods can affect the physiological processes in your body, we tend to discount the effects that words and emotions have on our mental and physical state. When every message boils down to food, weight gain, and fullness are “bad”, how do we stand a chance at both physiological and mental health? How can we use our words to create a healthier habits in our lives and in the lives of others?