This is in quotes because it's directly taken from If Not Dieting, Then What, but I think it's such an important statement to make, so I thought I'd expand it into a blog.
I don't think a lot of us realise the power of the words we use. I know I don't, but I think I'm starting to. In the course of my re-reading Dr Kausman's book, I've been trying to absorb the book's most important messages, and I feel this is one of THE most important ones for all of us to take on board, especially women.
Have you ever been at a barbecue and observed what happens when men and women are around food? This might be a gross generalisation, but humour me for a sec! I'm particularly talking about when the desserts are brought out here. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it usually goes down something like this. The men, it's quite a simple process with them. Whether they're a normal weight or overweight or whatever, they will either eat some, or they won't. I don't know that I've ever seen them discuss the matter in any detail whatsoever. The women - oh, boy, that's another story. We seem to go into an orgy, almost, of self-punishment, excuse-making, guilt-tripping, the whole nine yards. And the words bandied about the most will be "good" and "bad". For example, "I'm going to have some cheesecake. I'm being so BAD!" Or, "No, I won't have any. I'm on a diet and I'm trying to be GOOD!" Then, the ones who are being "good" will probably be praised by others for their "willpower", while the ones who are being "bad" will most likely, underneath it all, be feeling quite guilty that they have succumbed and are so "weak".
So this is where the "food is morally neutral" bit comes in. As far as Dr Kausman is concerned, and I agree with him, food is meant to be enjoyed within reason and in moderation. There is nothing inherently MORALLY bad about chocolate, cake, chips, whatever. Of course there are foods which nourish our bodies better. Of course there are foods which are much less calorie-dense and therefore more satisfying in the longer term. But if we make a sensible, reasoned, rational choice to have a small piece of cake at a party, for instance, we need to let go of this idea that we are being BAD. We're not. We're enjoying a "sometimes food". How on earth can anyone feel good about themselves if their whole life is a constant I'm being good/I'm being bad struggle over something as natural as eating?
Now, let's go back to our barbecue, to the so-called virtuous types who have held firm and refused all desserts because they are being "good". How are they feeling? I think some really do feel strong, maybe a little holier-than-thou or superior because of their display of willpower and control. But I think far more likely, some of them would love to have tried a little piece of dessert. I know - I've BEEN one of these people! They have such an all or nothing mentality that their eating tends to be either 100% healthy or near enough to 100% unhealthy. And sometimes the reason they are being so "good" is to achieve a short-term weight loss goal such as being a size 10 for their wedding, or looking good at a school reunion. The unfortunate part of those types of goals is that they have nothing to do with long-term sustainability or health. I've seen it happen so many times. The reunion/wedding is over and the person promptly piles on the kilos because finally they don't have to be "good". I submit to you that if during their journey they'd occasionally decided to have a tiny bit of cake now and then, it would have made little difference to their ultimate goal weight but, more importantly, it wouldn't have led to the post-diet binge/gain cycle.
I'm not sure if I'm explained this well, but the bottom line is I feel so strongly we need to lose this punitive attitude to eating and food. I know with me, it's so strongly tied in with my emotional eating issues and I'm tired of it. I want it to stop. And I know I'm not the only one.
So I have a challenge for anyone who reads this - think about whether you want food to be a horrible, scary enemy always out to get you by tempting you with its "badness", or whether you want it to be something that both nourishes your body AND the inner child who still might occasionally want to have their cake and eat it too.
Peace out. xoxo :)