Enjoy Your Life...Without the Guilt!
Have you ever seen an advertisement for things like diet shakes, pills, drinks, wraps etc. that says "enjoy your favorite foods without the guilt!"
How about those infographics that go around every holiday season showing a list of favorite yummy treats and the amount of a certain exercise it takes to "earn" them or burn them off?
Have you seen photos floating around demonizing a specific viral treat, making sure you know just how bad it is for you? (so guilty of that, by the way...sorry Starbucks Unicorn Frappe)
If you're anything like me,and I suspect you are, all of this doesn't cause you to think critically about choices nor does it inspire you to put good stuff in your body for the joy of it. It only causes you to still consume whatever thing they're telling you not to, except now you feel really shitty about it! (sorry mom for the language)
Where did we get the idea that food inherently carries with it a moral compass? Now, this is not to say that food produced with unsustainable or cruel practices isn't to be avoided, that's a topic for another day. I'm talking about the way we view and interact with food as it affects our bodies. We try and be "good" by sticking to food we know is acceptable, while denying ourselves any bit of food that's just straight yummy. For the average person, this may not cause much harm, aside from fleeting feelings of guilt and frustration. Coming from a background of disordered eating however, this attitude is insidious at best. Once you begin to sort food by "good" and "bad" you can easily fall into a pattern of disordered thinking around food, feeling for example, as though you need to starve yourself to "make up" for indulging in a bad food, you need to purge it out, or you need to excessively exercise to "make up" for it. These behaviors can quickly snowball into an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food that will take years to heal.
Food is fuel. End of the day, plain and simple, that's all it is. Much like your car, there is fuel that helps the car run better an fuel that hinders it. There is food that will help your body run more efficiently, with smooth digestion and energy-giving properties, and there is food that will make you feel sluggish and tired, taking a long time to digest and leaving behind gunk. Guess what though, that food isn't evil. It may not be the most helpful choice, but it's not wrong, and often, it's exactly what you need.
A much healthier, easier, and more fulfilling approach is what I call the 80/20 rule. 80% of your choices are ideally those foods that make you feel excellent; giving you a burst of energy when you eat them, causing your digestion to run smoothly, your head to feel clear and you to feel satisfied and nourished. It's important to nourish your earthy vehicle well, it's the only way for your soul to travel around this earth. It's important to take care of yourself intentionally and flood your bod with nutrients it needs to function well. It's important as well to find out what that looks like for your individual self. I can spend hours and hours giving you basic nutrition information, but it's going to vary for each person! Some people do very well with high amounts of protein and fats, and lower carbs, some people need carbs to speak in full sentences ( me!) and would be depriving their body of needed nutrients if they were to go low carb. No plan is 100% foolproof, don't be afraid to tinker with your choices till you find what works best!
The other 20% of your intake is the fun stuff. The ice cream eaten right out of the container with a girlfriend that's hurting and needs you. The birthday cake shared with close friends as you celebrate a milestone on this earth. The 2 am slice of pizza while you snort laugh with your husband, feeling so luck to have found such a great human to walk through life with. The Popsicle juice running down your chin on a hot day at the pool with your kids. These things aren't just food, they are experiences - and they are a vital part of being human! When you chalk that stuff up to bad food and you spend the next however long beating yourself up about it, you lose the beauty of the experience. I can nearly 100% guarantee you won't get to the end of your life regretting the 5 lbs. from too much fun as much as you would regret missing the fun. If you would, let's talk about your relationship with food, because I do not want you to feel that way. Life is to be enjoyed and experienced and shared, life is not a formula of calories in vs. calories out.
So, enjoy your life. Enjoy fueling yourself to feel your best and enjoy those times where food is an experience to be shared with others. Please, for the love of yourself and your journey here on earth, do it without the guilt.