Guess what? Food is neither “good” nor “bad”, never “naughty”, though often “nice”! Certainly what we eat has varying nutritional values. The way food caninteract with our body is sometimes beneficial or harmful. But the vital part of the equation is how our body’s reacts to these substances, not about anthropomorphising the food itself.
Food, language and emotions
Let’s face, deep down we all want to be “bad”. Naughty girls and boys have more fun. It’s a drag to be a paragon of virtue. When we are offered that one drink or biscuit too many, we aren’t thinking, “I’m going to feel awful tomorrow”, no – we ‘re getting a kick out of doing something that we know will not benefit us. In that moment the impulse is to be wild, free and hang the consequences. Be “bad” in other words.
“Naughty” is another adjective that gets over used by adults describing their behaviour. Calling something, or our actions, good, bad or naughty – is not only counterproductive in a therapeutic sense but it encourages us to infantilise ourselves. When we revert to a childlike mentality we no longer have to take responsible for our actions.
Being an adult can be a drag sometimes!
Our relationship with food
The way we talk about what we eat says more about our emotional relationship with food, than what we are actually consuming. When we say we’ve had a “bad” dinner or been “naughty” for eating chocolate for breakfast, the self-deprecation has a tendency to discourage us from taking responsibility for our choices.
Language is a very powerful mirror. It gives away clues to our self-esteem but equally it provides a tool to improve our health.
Food is neutral; it is only our mind that assigns it an emotion. While food can be broken down into available energy, nutrients and other constituents, there is no ultimate scale of virtue. At any one time a piece of cake can be a source of celebration, a tool we use beat ourselves up, a reward or even, in the case of a diabetic, a potential lifesaver or killer. In each instance, it is the same slice of cake. It’s only the dynamic in which we engage it, and the condition of the individual body that receives it, that gives the food a value.
Nurturing a non-judgemental relationship with food
The first step to reclaiming the neutrality of food is to be aware of the words we use to describe the way we eat. Even if we don’t always say them out loud there may reoccurring themes in our internal dialogues.
For one day, note down some of the words you use around food and see if any themes emerge. Once we become aware of a pattern, we have the power to change it. By shifting the emotion away from the food itself and claiming it as our own, we can choose whether that way of thinking serves a useful purpose.
This process takes the power away from the food and gives it back to ourselves to enable us to make more informed choices.
Struggling with your relationship with food? Book a naturopathic consultation with Gill or seek the help of a clinical psychologist.