TODAY I ATE A CUPCAKE
When did food take on personas, personalities and traits? When did we decide to label some things as ‘good’, some things as ‘bad’, some things as ‘treats’?
Today, for the first time in a long time, I had a cupcake as a snack. It wasn’t a special occasion, it wasn’t eaten out at a cafe, it wasn’t something I planned or accounted for in advance. It wasn’t compensated for at the gym, by skipping/reducing the size of a meal; it wasn’t justified for or made ‘worth it’ in my mind to ease any uncomfortable or anxious thoughts.
And honestly, a few months, even a few weeks ago, this wouldn’t have been the case.
I have been a victim of the ‘diet’/‘health’/‘fitness’ industries toxic content that has brainwashed our society. I never questioned the information it gave me. For most, this information is almost second nature, common knowledge. For example; an apple is a ‘healthy’ snack. Cake, on the other hand, is an ‘unhealthy’ snack.
But where does this label, this definition of health come from?
Scientifically speaking, of course, some foods are more nutrient dense than others. Some provide specific vitamins, some specific proteins, and some are a more simple form of energy.
In response to this fact, yes, an apple contains more vitamins than a piece of cake. The forms of sugar in each react in the body and bloodstream differently, one is more processed and made up of more ingredients so will be digested differently in the gut.
But both are a source of energy. A source of fuel. One may satisfy you more than the other. One might leave you hungry. One might be enjoyed more, and make you happy.
Labelling foods has taken on a new level; one that is laced with judgement and criticism. Not only is there ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’, but we also have ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘clean’ and ‘junk’.
With these words and thought processes stimulated from them, more and more people’s relationship towards food is one that has become entangled with feelings of guilt and fear, one that is confusing and anxiety provoking and way more complex than it should ever be.
When I find myself sucked into these labels, my mind whirling with worries and confusions about what is good or healthy for me, I like to remind myself about what ‘health’ really means.
Yes, it can mean vitamins and minerals, nutrients and proteins; fresh, colourful, vibrant whole foods. But health, to me, also means food neutrality. Appreciating that different foods might serve you in different ways. That there is food for the body but also food for the mind.
I have come to believe that avoiding food groups, aside from genuine allergy or ethical reasons is not healthy, and is not nourishing.
To me, having a healthy diet doesn’t mean cutting out things, like oil or sugar or salt. It doesn’t mean ‘detoxing’ from the weekend or from a period of ‘indulgence’ or from eating out at a restaurant. it doesn’t mean turning down a piece of birthday cake or a meal out with friends because you’re afraid on how it’ll affect you or by putting something that isn’t clean and pure into your body - whether that be disguised by your fitness ‘progress’ or another excuse.
It doesn’t mean letting yourself eat something ‘unhealthy’ but beating yourself up about it afterwards, calling yourself fat or saying that you have no willpower. it doesn’t mean going to the gym the next day or skipping a meal to make up for it, or compensating in any other way. it doesn’t mean juice cleanses or low carb or low fat fad diets.
Having a healthy diet means BALANCE. it means listening to your body and eating what you crave. it means nutrient dense foods sometimes and less nutrient dense other times.
In my eyes, putting labels onto food is a reflection of the judgement and criticism we feel inside towards ourselves. Eating one thing and avoiding another is a way for our minds to seek validation and comfort, a way to source a feeling of achievement, that we’re doing something right. It’s another way to seek perfectionism in our lives and avoid (usually imagined) judgement from others, because sadly, in our society, body image, diet and fitness is something that can place people on a pedestal, in a place of idolisation and envy.
The more we try to categorise the external by placing boxes and labels on to things, the more we begin to not only lose innate intuitive processes such as eating and hunger, but also become lost within ourselves. Actions that were once second nature begins to take up so much thought and mind space, deducting time and energy that could be used for so much more, in more positive, constructive and beneficial ways.
Finding a balance is by no means easy. And sadly for most, eating intuitively, without the knowledge of food labels or supposed nutrition ‘facts’ or macros or calories is something that doesn’t come to us straight away. But mindset, perception and thought processes are all something which over time can be shifted, can be changed.
It all starts from a place of brutal honesty, which sometimes means proving things to yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Questioning your likes and dislikes, questioning whether things come from a place of preference or if you’re simply trying to mask guilt or fear. A pact to yourself to listen to your body, and honour what it tells you. A promise to try to remove your preconceived beliefs and ideals, to view things neutrally, with equality. An attempt to remove the control, the anxiety, the rationale, and approach things with calm, with gratitude, with peace.
Focusing on the moment and the experience, and less on the outcome and the future.
Today I’ve eaten my fruit and vegetables, my beans and greens and grains and seeds.
But today, that cupcake was truly the most ‘healthy’ food I could have ever eaten.