Why food guilt is damaging our health

Tonights post is actually a piece of writing I wrote just over a year ago now. I was lucky enough to have this piece published online by an Accredited Practising Dietitian, however I thought it only made sense to share it with you all on here as well.

In todays society we are constantly bombarded with the “do’s and do not’s” of nutrition, the “good foods” and the “bad foods”, the “clean eating approaches” and the “guilt-free foods.” Society makes us feel that there are foods that will make us “fat”, and foods that will negatively impact health. However, as a nutrition student, I have come to realize that this guilt approach towards food is unlikely to help us achieve good health. Instead, food shaming is putting our mental health at risk, it impacts the way we view ourselves and it just doesn’t work.

Lately, I have felt that food shaming has been shoved in my face everywhere I look. It is confusing, even as a nutrition student, to process all this information about the foods that should supposedly never be eaten, and foods that have magical powers and help us to lose weight. Not only that, but then having to evaluate the information and form a sound opinion about it can be even harder.For example, media constantly tells us that fat and carbohydrates are bad, even now we are being told that some dairy foods and even some fruits are bad for us, where does it end!

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I believe that the first step to achieving better health is to listen to our bodies and develop a healthy attitude towards our food choices. Having toast for breakfast or a slice of cake at a birthday party is not a terrible thing. Food should be enjoyable, however I find so many people around me feeling ashamed and disappointed when they are hungry for an afternoon snack, as though their bodies have defeated them. It shocks me! I believe that food is a celebration of culture and tradition. Food brings people together and most importantly; we actually need food to survive. Carbohydrates are essential for the body; they are our main fuel for the brain and keep us functioning and alert. Fat is also vital for our body, and we would die without it.

Instead of following a “diet” where you have “cheat meals”, count kilojoules and restrict snacking between meals, why not try to adopt a healthy, balanced dietary approach, where we listen to our bodies needs. For me, eating fresh fruits and vegetables makes me feel energised and keeps me full, however eating sugary processed foods makes me feel sluggish. Of course, it can be hard to recognise and thus respond to our bodies needs and that’s understandable. If that is the case, when eating different foods from each food group, pay particular attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Be aware and notice what choices we are making. Also, don’t ignore your hunger cues as your body is trying to tell you it needs fuel to function.

Also, It is important to be realistic with your food choices. Don’t give up the foods you love, enjoy them keeping in mind what role they have in your balanced diet. I know that some foods are higher in fat, whilst others are higher in fibre. However, I understand that all nutrients have a purpose in our bodies.

I sometimes eat potato chips or have chocolate when I want it, and I don’t hate myself because of it. Instead I am reasonable with my food choices, as chocolate makes me feel happy, whilst being mindful of its place and role within my diet.

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So, Instead of feeling ashamed about your dinner choice last night, start developing positive connotations towards foods. Keep in mind that moderation and balance is key. Don’t let bread make you feel guilty, because a slice of toast in the morning isn’t bad for you, but is full of carbohydrates that have a purpose in your body. Let food excite you, try new things and play with new ingredients. Your body and your mind will thank you for it! Plus lets be real, who wants to live life cutting out a whole lot of foods if we don’t have to!

If you want to learn more about mindful eating, a non-diet approach and body positivity, a Dietitian is the perfect health professional to see!

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