If you’ve caught wind of diet culture’s rhetoric lately (and let’s be honest — if you consume any form of media, it’s hard not to), you have likely noticed increasing pressure to eat in a regimented, restrictive way. While no diet-peddling business will come right out and say it — remember, they’re profiting off of our insecurities — the language all sounds pretty similar. Many gyms and traditional workout entities shame us into eating only for fitness “gains” (or is it “gainz”?). Wellness bloggers tell us we can have all of our favorite treats — as long as they aren’t made with anything processed, refined, containing fat, dairy, or gluten.
We’re told that, above all, we should eat only foods that serve to make our bodies fit a very narrowly-defined beauty ideal. We’re told to suppress cravings or desires for any food that does not meet these restrictive parameters. We’re told that eating is a shameful act, and that if we take pleasure in it, we’re probably doing something wrong.
Umm… we’re calling B.S.
There are SO many legitimate reasons to eat food, starting and ending with “because you want to.” But as a quick reminder, let’s break down 5 reasons that have nothing to do with shrinking or changing the size of your body.
You’re Craving It
You are allowed to eat for pleasure. You are allowed to eat dessert, or a second helping, or a snack, or second snack just because it sounds good and you want to. Of course, if food is your only navigational tool, we encourage you to consider what other activities and actions might feel good.
But let us be explicit: You are allowed to eat carbs, treats, and whatever else you darn well please. You are allowed to do this whether or not you moved your body with dynamic exercise. You are allowed to do this whether or not it contributes to diet culture’s aesthetic standards. You are allowed to eat for pleasure.
It’s Part of a Social Engagement
Food is often a part (if not the center!) of many social gatherings. From brunches with friends to date nights to family suppers, we use food as a way to connect with others and share common experiences. This is a good thing. The act of sharing food feels inherently good; it is a way to create or deepen bonds with the people in our lives. Can you give yourself permission to eat and enjoy the food at your next gathering? Can you let the food enhance, not detract from or stress the environment?
To Learn About Other Cultures and Traditions
One of the fastest ways to get out of a dinner rut is to try a dish from another culture. Whether you’re cooking vada at home or ordering out for pho, eating food from other culinary traditions expands your knowledge and enhances your palate. Can you allow yourself to explore a new food with curiosity and intrigue, without worrying about macronutrients, calories, or any other stories and rules you may have around mealtimes?
Your Body or Emotional Self Needs It for Repair and Recovery
For those in recovery from disordered eating or an eating disorder, a little mindfulness is required in choosing meals and snacks. Many in recovery find themselves in hypo-metabolic or catabolic states (you can learn more about those terms here). In these instances, it’s especially important to eat a variety of foods that help rebuild muscle and tissue stores. It’s equally important to eat a variety of satiating foods to nourish your emotional wellbeing!
You Have a Body, Period
Not every meal can be a culinary ecstasy (alas…) In fact, more often than not we eat for function rather than fashion. Fact of the matter is: You need to eat. Multiple times a day. Preferably a variety of foods and flavors. This may seem like a tall order in a world that’s obsessed with obsessing about food, but just for today… can we try not to overthink it?