I was planning on posting more recipes and maybe even vlogging a week in food but I wanted to talk about my thoughts on food first. The culture of food and eating has been on my mind a lot and I keep seeing lots of things pop up in my twitter feed too. I think the more people who contribute their voices to the ~fight for all food~ the better. It’s time to stop feeling guilty about food.
Growing up, my meals were balanced and mostly cooked from scratch. I’ve always liked fruit and most veg, I probably ate too many biscuits. I was allowed to eat happy meals but fizzy drinks were never a huge feature at home. Baking and cakes have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I was always a slightly chubby child, but I never really cared. I guess once puberty kicked in and especially once I grew some flesh mounds out of my chest I got a lot more conscious of my body. However I was fairly shy and food was quite a comfort. As I got older and a little more confident in my personality, it felt like my body was something I needed to fix.
I’ve done diets, nothing overly extreme, I’ve never juiced or obsessively calorie counted, but I have excluded certain foods etc and gone to the gym. The only thing I’ve ever done that I thought did me any good was when I went sugar-free for 4 weeks last year but I’ll come to that later on.
I’ve also secretly eaten chocolate in my room when I was trying to be healthy, feeling guilty, not wanting anyone to judge me.
In some of the past years I’ve done a ~healthy~ November, so I don’t put on weight over Christmas. Last year me and my boyfriend were in South America so the usual things that bothered me about my body at that time of the year didn’t. I mean I had thoughts about food, but more about how they actually physically made me feel…or if I was going to get food poisoning from it. I thought about how we could trek for hours on just a cuppa soup and some breakfast bars and it was miserable. I thought about how our enjoyment of food shaped our trip. When we came back the only thing that really bothered me was that I’d probably had a can of coke nearly every day for 11 weeks.
FUCK THE CULTURE OF FOOD SHAME
We are at PEAK ~wellbeing~ and healthy author saturation right now. One glance at amazon’s food book section shows you dozens of options to GLOW, FEEL HEALTHY, BE NOURISHED. At least 95% of these people are no more qualified to tell you how to eat than I am, and I am just a person ranting their opinions on the internet. My only qualification is that I’ve eaten and enjoyed a lot of food. They might believe they are peddling the ultimate in health and wellbeing, but a lot of what they write perpetuates guilt…and some of it is plain false.
I own Madeleine Shaw’s book and I genuinely like a lot of the recipes in it. But her ethos and a lot of what she says is SO DANGEROUS. She talks about empty calories – sorry, what are those? Bullshit, that’s what.
I will put my hands up in the air and say I’ve used this hashtag, I’ve followed this ~ethos~ and I’ve realised the error of my ways. I understand the premise and where it’s trying to come from but at the same time it is SO highly fucked up to think of food as either clean or dirty. Alright I know some of the burgers I’ve eaten are certainly dirty, but only in a highly sexual juices dripping everywhere type of affair. All food is real food. Food does not come in the category clean or dirty and this idea it does contributes to food fear, paranoia, guilt and let’s not forget classism. Nobody should feel fucking bad because they can’t afford to buy medjool dates and nuts to snack on, or corn fed chicken and organic vegetables to have for their tea. Nobody should feel scared or ashamed to eat or enjoy a fat juicy steak or cheese or chocolate.
I enjoy a lot of the food that comes under the banner of ‘clean eating’ but it’s not because they are clean. I don’t tuck in thinking ‘wow yes this courgette is tasting very clean to me, so great’ – I enjoy them because I like the way they taste.
Gluten Free, Sugar Free, No Carbs Before Marbs
There is a huge problem with people pushing their exclusion diet lifestyles. Again it’s just perpetuating this idea that there are dirty foods and it also makes a bit of a joke of the people who genuinely NEED to cut out certain things or go on exclusion diets for health reasons.
Cutting gluten out when you don’t need to isn’t going to make you lose weight.
Sugar free is an interesting one. I noticed Davina McCall had released a sugar free book but then I read her view not that was ‘refined sugar’ and ‘processed foods’. Right. DATES and MAPLE SYRUP are still sugar. I appreciate that they are naturally occurring sugars, but sugar still has the same impact on your blood sugar levels whether it comes from a pack of medjool dates or a packet of caster sugar so if you’re diabetic, it’s still dangerous for you. You can not ‘have as much of it as you want’ (as said by the Hemsley sisters) because…it’s still fucking sugar?!
If for health reasons you are trying to eat less sugar (especially if this reason is it’s impact on your blood sugar levels) please just make sure you are getting your information from doctors and not Davina or Deliciously Ella or whomever else is telling you to put a cup of dates in your food. Their advice can be helpful but always always remember these people are not qualified to tell you how to eat for your health.
Personally for me, I did try cut out refined sugars for 4 weeks last year as I was struggling with energy levels dipping at 3pm and needing chocolate DAILY to get me through which wasn’t great for me physically or mentally. I’m an all or nothing kinda girl, I have to go cold turkey because I’ve never been the type to have a square of chocolate then put the bar away so I had to do it this way. I’ll be honest my body did feel pretty good after the 4 weeks, I had more energy BUT for me I fucking missed cake and that’s where I’ll go onto what wellness means to me.
WHERE I AM NOW WITH FOOD
I have wasted too much of my life upset about my body. I have given my boyfriend too much grief over daring to touch my stomach in a cuddle. I’ve denied myself happiness by not wearing the things I’ve wanted to wear, by going on diets then making myself feel guilty when I eat chocolate.
IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO BALANCE YOUR PHYSICAL AND YOUR MENTAL WELLBEING.
You deserve the nourishment of your food.
You deserve to enjoy the food that you are eating.
That goes for if you’re eating things that are disgusting but think are good for you – hey spirulina and kale, I’m looking at you and I wish I stopped trying to enjoy you sooner!
It also goes for denying yourself the things you DO enjoy because of guilt. You don’t need to earn a slice of cake.
The only person who knows what is good for you and your body is you. If you have a medical problem that affects the food you need to eat or not eat, a qualified doctor can help there too. Do not take the advice of celebrities, Sainsbury’s heiresses and people who refer to stock as ‘bone broth’ as gospel. Make sure advice you follow is science-based…and I don’t mean pseudoscience, I mean facts-based science.
Personally for me, I have IBS and for me I am aware of the effects of various foods on my body and how I feel. I know I can’t eat lentils because they make me uncomfortable and overly gassy and too much bread will bloat me. I also know I need to work on my chronic reliance on sugar because ultimately science does say too much sugar (and salt which I am also guilty of) can have a negative impact on your health. As long as I can balance that with the enjoyment I get from chocolate then I am happy. I enjoy vegetables. I enjoy a buttery bowl of pasta. I really like cooking and using spices. I still have the tiny body-hating voice in my head but I don’t want that to rule my joy anymore. I also want to be vocal and unashamed about my love of food, whether it’s a green smoothie or fudge cake.
Fitness is important to me because I want to be strong. Now when I go to the gym I get a kick out of being able to do more reps or a higher weight. I’m not going to let myself worry about if it is or isn’t making changes to my body. I just want to be able to trek because I enjoy being outdoors.
Obviously, everything in moderation – but if that ice cream makes you feel good, then it is doing good – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Feed yourself with love, love the food you eat and look after yourself!
If you’d like to read more from people who are smarter, better at writing and probably know more about science than me, please check out The Angry Chef blog. I was inspired to write this post after reading Ruby Tandoh’s post The Unhealthy Truth Behind ‘Wellness’ and ‘Clean Eating’. I recommend following Ruby on twitter for plenty of positive food thoughts, her tweets really gave my brain the final kick it needed to stop guilting itself and I cannot fangirl for her hard enough.