In the middle of February, it may be too late to write about resolutions and changing perceptions. But let’s roll with it. What I have to get out is something I believe is important.
“I shouldn’t have eaten that. But it’s ok. I’ll just work it off later”.
“I had an intense gym session so of course I can have some “naughty” foods”
“New year no carbs resolution is going great. But I feel so exhausted all the time”
Believe it or not, these are comments I’ve heard from one day at the head office of the company I work for. Three different elevator journeys let me hear three different and concerning thoughts being voiced. All these thoughts display the unhealthy relationship society has manifested about food, exercise and self worth.
A harmless night in front of the television brings with it an onslaught of advertisements that are unhealthy, unmotivating and make anyone – even the most fit person – feel guilty. Australians spent in excess of AUD$64 million on weight loss services in 2017 alone. Services like Jenny Craig, Lite’N’Easy, and most recently, a service that replaces meals with liquid, very low calorie substitutes.
The scariest thing about these ads is just how dead every sales person looks. Beyond their Lululemon sponsored, Nike wearing physiques, there is no life or liveliness. They look fit, but they scream starvation. They may look great, but the layers of makeup, contouring and airbrushing don’t hide desire for a normal meal.
Yasmin Noone reported that by the time a woman hits 45, she will have embarked and failed 61 types of diets. Science has repeatedly proved that dieting does not work. Often those who diet and fling back and forth between idealised images of themselves on diets ranging from keto to Atkins gain back even more weight when they stop.
What’s even more concerning is our attitude to food. And I admit, I’m in this boat as well. Reservations about food? I have them. Having a naughty and healthy foods list? I had one, and am actively seeking to change how I view diet. And let me tell you, it’s an ugly battle. It’s an uphill struggle full of tears, doubts, wanting to change but inevitably celebrating small successes.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year, it’s that a small slice of cake won’t mess you up. Enjoying yourself won’t do any damage. Letting a body corporate take advantage of our weakness and feed on our self consciousness is wrong. Smart advertising online has made it such that you doing an innocent google search about a food product will immediately spring ads about weightloss, meal replacement and the “right food”.
There’s nothing called the “right” food. Yes, we must be mindful to not overindulge because that is ultimately detrimental, but anything in moderation is fine. What has helped change my perception is looking at how my grandparents and parents were raised, and mirroring their diets.
My parents had a diet rich in whole grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy and plant based proteins. The highest quality oil and ghee were used for cooking, and food generally was home made. Biscuits and sweets existed in the house, and fat free wasn’t a concept ever associated with until my parents moved out of India, and came to the West.
So, as a vegetarian, why shouldn’t I mirror their diet? Simple, home cooked meals for most of the week. Treats and meals out when warranted. A focus on whole foods, pure substances and none of this fat free, low carb, low sugar bullshit.
We indulge in a culture where every year, the ideal body type changes. We’ve moved from absolute stick thin women, to women having chunky thighs, and mermaid bodies within the span of three years. What sort of message does this send easily influenced young women?
Instead pf patronising each other, and thinking our self worth is driven by abs, skinny tones, flatness and definition; why can’t we choose self love, and a healthy acceptance with food as a new years resolution? Foods aren’t bad or good. We should nourish, love and value our bodies, and provide them with the foods they call for. If that’s chocolate, then so be it. Let’s support each other and build each other up by promoting how healthy and happy we all are. Body hate, body dysphoria and self consciousness isn’t easy to let go of I know that first hand.
Setting small milestones has been one of the best ways of breaking down this challenge. My self worth isn’t driven by exercise or rewarding myself because I exercised. Instead, I’m learning that eating a slice of orange and poppyseed cake should come with the thoughts of how the cake is making me feel, Satiated. Comforted. Happy. That’s where my focus should be.
If there’s one thing I’ve already learnt from having to overcome a food related challenge, it’s that I feel so much better not thinking about the food I’m eating, and rather about accepting the fact that I’m a unique, badass young woman who is destined for greatness. And if my physique doesn’t hold up, that destination for greatness isn’t going to hold up either.