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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Day Four. Food is NOT a Moral Issue

February 29, 2012

This post is a part of a weeklong series dedicated to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. If you have any requests, comments, or questions, don’t hesitate to let me know on here! Again, I reserve the right to publish anything that isn’t perfect.

Today I would like to talk about an idea that I think is important to everyone. This post isn’t just for those with eating disorders or those just curious about eating disorders, or those just wanting to help a friend. It’s for all of us who eat (which is pretty much the majority of us…just saying).

Here’s the premise: Food is not (or SHOULD NOT be) a moral issue.

Let me explain.

How many times have you heard someone say “Oh, I really shouldn’t eat that slice of cake…it’s so bad.” Or, “I’ve been really bad today. Tomorrow I should only eat good foods.” Or, “This is so bad for me, but it tastes so good!”

What is the common thread in all of these comments? That every single food is placed in a category of either “good” or “bad,” which automatically makes food and food choices moral issues. In addition, categorizing food into good and bad categories often makes people categorize themselves, or other people, into those good or bad categories.

Generally, in our society, people associate certain foods with thinness and certain foods with fatness. Sure, there may be a correlation between certain foods and body weight, but in reality (and anyone who has ever taken a research methods class knows this) correlation DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION. People are fat and thin for a billion different reasons, and I talk about that in other posts. But the reason I am giving you this example is that because certain foods are correlated to certain body shapes, and because foods somehow fit into categories of “good” and “bad,” WHOLE PEOPLE are getting thrown into good and bad categories, based on nothing but food.


Did you get that? I don’t know if you ever think of yourself as a bad person because you ate two Reeses candy bars. Or if you think you are a good person because you eat nothing but carrot sticks. But somehow I think the general culture tells us that this is how we should we should think about the relationship between food and ourselves. Let’s be honest: the billions of dollars diet companies make are based on this relationship.

But here’s the problem. Or I suppose, here’s the question. How the fuck did food become frought with morality? How did a simple thing (by which we need to survive) become something so cerebral, so conflicting, even sometimes so heart-wrenching and terrifying?

All of you: food is just food. Reese’s, muffins, carrots, pizza, salads, eggs, milk, candy, coffee creamer…it’s all just fucking food my friends. Don’t worry so much.

(I do understand that there’s some messed up shit going on with our agri-business today, and that there are hormones in food, and that our meat is weird or whatever. But that’s for major activists in that field, and what big corporations do to our food DOES NOT define your morality. So if you want to make the vegan/vegetarian/environmentally friendly argument, be my guest. I’m just not talking about that here.)

As a closing note, I’d like to paraphrase one of my favorite authors (since I don’t have her book on me, I can’t quote it, but it’s from Geneen Roth’s When Food Is Love). When you eat an entire frozen pizza, it doesn’t mean that your mom was right about you, or that you’ll never be normal, or that you are a bad person. All it means is that you ate a frozen pizza. That’s it, the end.

Love love love.

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