A big part of the recovery community is the notion that food is not good or bad. When you have an eating disorder, it can be easy to start labeling foods as “clean,” “good,” or “safe,” and labeling other foods (normally the most enjoyable ones!!!!) “bad,” or “unhealthy.”
But here’s the thing: food is just food. It’s not good, bad, healthy, unhealthy, clean, safe, scary, you name it. Food is fuel that we need in order to live, and labeling it the varying names we’ve come up with doesn’t help us, especially in recovery.
If you’ve ever looked at a meal plan, you’ll be able to recognize that foods/diets (***I use this term to mean what we regularly put in our bodies, according to Merriam-Webster as habitual nourishment) all consist of the same things. Grains, fats, proteins, dairy, fruits/veggies, and some varying groups.
When you recognize the necessity of these food groups, labeling foods as good/bad gets harder. Take, for example, pizza. It’s got your grain (the dough/crust), your fruit/veggie (the sauce), it has dairy/fats (the cheese), and it can have some fats/proteins if you have toppings.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, let’s take salad, for example. If you have a salad (veggie) with dressing (fats) , some chicken on top (protein), and maybe some croutons or a roll on the side, you’re getting the same food groups.
Somehow, though, these two meals, which are inherently the same have been labeled as good or bad. How can two things that are ridiculously similar be labeled as opposites? How does pizza vary from a well-made, hearty salad with a roll on the side? It doesn’t.
Labeling our foods are sneaky behaviors of eating disorders to restrict what we eat. However, I believe that if you focus on the make-up of your food, it becomes harder and harder to label foods. If you compare what might have been a “bad” food for you with a “good” food, you might see that these two foods have more similarities than you thought.
And that’s the whole point: food is food. All foods are made from the same exact food groups. An oreo had some carbs and it has some fats. Pair it with a glass of milk and you’ve got your dairy (or your protein). That’s the same exact make up as a nutrigrain bar.
I understand that it can be hard to reason with your eating disorder when it comes to the rules it sets for you, but realizing the logic behind nutrition (and the lack of logic behind your eating disorder) can help.
I’m also a firm believer in the notion that diets (read: meaning fad diets that aim at weigh loss) that eliminate certain food groups are the MOST RIDICULOUS THING TO EVER BE CREATED. I’m not saying that I’ve never fallen pray to these strange food rules that diet culture perpetuates, but once I’ve taken closer looks at diet culture, it becomes more clear how silly they all are.
The most common type of elimination diet is a carb elimination diet. While I once might have thought restricting carbs would help someone lose weight, now when I hear about these diets, I realize that this person is restricting one of (if not the most) important food groups. Carbs give us energy to work, play, and do everything in between.
Fad diets like the paleo diet or the whole30 diet are money making ploys promising to “change your life,” or help you “find the healthier you.” In reality, these fad diets will leave you hungry, tired, unsatisfied because you’re not eating any fun foods, and obsessed over food and your body MORE than you already were.
Fun food (noun): any and all foods that you enjoy eating and look forward to eating.
As far as I’m concerned, the only way to “change your life” and “find the healthier you” is to dig a little deeper and let go of your food/body obsessions. Most people use food/body obsessions (whether it’s eating disorders, chronic dieting, or disordered eating) as a distraction from the real problems in their lives.
Dieting/food rules are not made for recovery. In fact, they’re a part of disordered eating. If you’re in recovery from any type of disordered eating or chronic dieting, any use of food rules or strict food group eliminations is a behavior, unless it’s for medical purposes. Part of recovery is accepting your body and finding other ways to feel good about yourself and to manage stress.