A doctor once told a heart patient, “If it tastes good, spit it out.” It’s called food guilt. The doctor seemed to be saying that food that’s good for you can’t taste good. How can we expect people to eat healthy if it becomes drudgery? Torture is not the way to lose weight and improve your life.
But even if you eat healthily, there are people who still look down on you for not eating healthy enough. Have you ever been accosted by a vegan for having a cheeseburger? Organic food purists look aghast if you serve them grocery store strawberries.
Food should not be a measurement of our character. Amy Spencer, writing on Health.com, hit the nail on the head when she noted that eating has become a moral judgment.
“Chomp on carrot sticks and you’re a ‘saint,’ devour Death by Chocolate for dessert and you’re a ‘sinner.’ Raw food is ‘cleansing’ and conventionally grown berries are ‘dirty.’ If you have a not-so-healthy meal when you’re trying to lose weight, you ‘cheated.’ And, of course, we all have our ‘guilty pleasures’ — food so forbidden we’re wracked with regret for eating it (butter on your movie popcorn, anyone?).“
Spencer goes on to note that now that more organic and locally grown food is on the market, that judgment of what is healthy eating is even worse. As I noted, putting too much pressure on ourselves, making eating torture instead of pleasure only gives you a better excuse to eat crappy junk.
“The more judgmental we are about every bite, the less delicious it all tastes. And let’s face it: Overthinking every single thing we put in our mouths can make us obsessive, leading to cravings and bingeing — the farthest thing from the ‘good’ we set out for in the first place!”
That’s why I was so aggravated by that doctor’s comments. The idea that good-tasting food is always bad for you is just plain wrong. While my life might be longer, it certainly would seem even longer than that if all I had to eat was bad tasting, bland and boring.
Spencer says we need to get over our guilt about food. That doesn’t mean we can eat whatever we like and damn the consequences. We have to live in that heart disease-ridden body. We have to swallow those high blood pressure pills or endure those injections of insulin. But we have to do what we can to be healthy and not let others dictate what that means. Spencer relates this story:
“We served up what I thought was a healthy meal of grilled chicken and vegetables.
“‘Mmm, delicious,’ my friend said. ‘Where’d you get the squash?’
“‘The grocery store,’ I replied.
“‘I’m so bad like that sometimes, too,’ she confided. ‘There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be getting everything at the farmers’ market.’
“I nodded, but inside I was seething. The meal was fresh, nutrient-rich, and with a little smoke from that grill, pretty dang tasty. How could this delicious food make me feel like a failure? I like to avoid hormones and pesticides as much as anyone else, but sometimes there is a good reason I can’t make it to the farmers’ market.”
One of my heroes, Ben Franklin, said it best in his Poor Richard’s Almanac, “all things in moderation.” Balance is the key to living better. Health and nutrition are sometimes about more than just what we eat.