The 'Good', The 'Bad' & The Ugly of Diet Culture Language

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

There's a lot to think about and consider when it comes to health, fitness and well-being. Everyday we're faced with a hundred choices, guidelines, 'rules' etc and we're left to just sift through it and try and make sense of it!

A lot of these choices we can use our own common sense for and filter through the BS to find the truth but sometimes we can be poorly led by influencers and creators down a long and winding round to an unhealthy mindset.

A little story about something which actually inspired this post; yesterday I purchased a bundle of eBooks online which was being touted by a few health and fitness influencers, you could get 90 books for the price of 2 or 3 - what a deal! The content of these books which were written by influencers (most of whom are no different to you and I and no more qualified to make claims about food/diets) and were based on subjects such as food and recipes, a vegan/plant-based diet, sustainable fashion and minimal living to name a few.

As soon as I began to flick through the eBooks I slowly became disappointed with the content. As the books are written by creators and individuals there was a lof of personal information, views and opinions rather than science or facts to back up any claims made about fitness, food and a healthy lifestyle. 

That's why i wanted to highlight some of these concerns in the hope that together we can begin to decipher the many, many messages and posts that we come across on a daily basis and how we can all make small changes in the way we talk about food to benefit ourselves and those around us. 

Food can be an emotional trigger for a lot of people, in particular those who have experienced eating disorders and disordered eating patterns or habits and with words flying around like 'clean', 'detox', 'good', 'bad' and 'cheat' it can be very confusing and misleading to know what we should and shouldn't be putting in our bodies. 

The end goal for all of us - regardless of how we get there - is to have a healthy relationship with food but I appreciate that's easier said than done and for a lot of people that's a long journey which can take a lot of hard work. One small way we can begin this healthier relationship with food is to see it for what it is; nourishment for our bodies and yes, that means all food, not just a salad or a celery juice drink in the morning. 

What about cheat meals and good vs bad foods?

So you get up each morning, you have maybe a bowl of porridge oats with some honey and fruit for breakfast, you have chicken and couscous and some roasted veg for lunch and then hey, it's Friday night so you order a takeaway pizza for dinner. Some would call this a 'cheat meal' but erm...who or what are you cheating on exactly and what makes the pizza you had 'bad' versus the chicken and couscous for lunch that you might label as 'good'? Nothing makes it good or bad except us and our language, not doctors, not nutritionists and not dieticians (not the good ones anyway!)

Ditch the 'detox diet' ASAP!

Another gem that the internet has created and one which cropped up in the eBook bundle I purchased yesterday was 'detox' your body with food and drink. Firstly, let's get our science hats on, we have two A* organs that do this for us, they're called our kidneys and liver. They don't work part time and they certainly don't accept bribes in the form of celery juice or lemon water to wake them up in the morning or make them work any faster. They work consistently 24/7 and eating a healthy, balanced diet can of course keep them in tip top shape but you definitely don't need to have a lemon slice in hot water every morning to wake up your system, just enjoy it if you think it tastes yummy and makes you feel good!

Clean eating is just eating unless your food needs washing first...
Another term that 'diet culture' has created is 'clean eating'. I have been 100% guilty of using this term (along with a lot of the others at some point in time too) but what does it even mean? It translates loosely to eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods but that's just what we should be aiming for anyway. It doesn't need to be labelled as 'clean' eating as that would suggest anytime we have a slice of cake or pizza it's 'dirty' eating? Unless our vegetables and leaves need a quick spritz under the tap before we use them or you drop your sandwich on the floor then there's no such thing as clean or dirty food. 

The Final Takeaway...
One way we can start to steer away from using these 'diet culture' buzzwords is to look at food in a slightly different way and then just put our blinkers on to block out all of the bull that the internet and television can throw at us. Educate yourself a little, it's invaluable to know more about the science behind food and it suddenly becomes less scary. 
There's no clean, good or bad when you realise what our food is made of. Every item of food includes a nutrient for us that we need in one way, shape or form. Whether that be a donut that contains sugar and fat or an apple which contains essential fibre and vitamins; our bodies need sugar, fat, fibre and vitamins in addition to many other nutrients and vitamins to thrive and work at it's best. The truth is we just need a little more of some things than others so a healthy, balanced diet is the way forward. 

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