Do you get sucked in by food-shaming trends?

Bowl of pasta (spaghetti style noodles) with pesto and cherry tomatoes.

Lately I’ve been super aware of the way moralizing about foods always involves food-shaming. When some foods are vilified and others are “good,” there is an implicit suggestion that enjoying the “bad” foods is a shameful thing.

I call bullshit on that idea. We here at Fit Is a Feminist Issue are tolerant of lots of things, but food and body shaming are not among them. We know for a fact that food isn’t good or evil.

Yes it’s a good idea to cover your bases with a variety of foods from different nutritional groups like protein, carbs and whole grains. But that’s no reason to demonize sugar or wheat or anything that isn’t organic, or even food with preservatives.

By all means listen to your body and pay attention to what foods might not agree with you. I can’t digest garlic except in small amounts. I don’t think that makes it evil. But it does mean I need to be aware of when it’s in foods and avoid things that are very garlicky. I do get sugar crashes if I eat too many desserts or candies, but again that doesn’t mean sugar is bad. It just means I don’t do well if I make it the main ingredient of every meal! But that’s just conventional wisdom–you know: variety, moderation, balance.

So what are the food trends that are getting under my skin these days because they usually tilt towards fanaticism? The usual suspects: paleo, ketogenic (I don’t know what that is but I did it years ago and dropped a ton of weight that I gained all and more back), low fat, low carb, high fat, gluten free (unless you’re celiac), sugar free, all natural, organic whole foods only, clean eating, anything that claims to be a “detox,” anything based on powdered meal replacements, and anything that says I can’t have bread. Oh, and anything that says I have to put my food in specially portioned different coloured containers. And definitely anything that is based on special products or info that is only available through multi-level marketing.

We are headed into the time of year when these things get offered as magic cures to make our bodies and our lives better! If you have to tie yourself to the mast like Odysseus to avoid the call of these Sirens, do it. They do not serve us well.

So that’s what to avoid. What to do? I know it’s boring but sensible eating means a variety of foods in amounts that satisfy you. Variety, balance, moderation. Throw in regular activity doing things you like to do and adequate sleep and you are on the right track. With all the messaging encouraging extremism it’s tough to do. But developing healthy habits that you can stick with and don’t leave you feeling deprived is a tried and true approach. It may not have the allure of a magical solution. But do we really still believe that the magic solution is out there?

6 thoughts on “Do you get sucked in by food-shaming trends?

  1. It’s a horrible time of year for this. Even I feel surrounded by it and my social media is pretty well curated. But usually reasonable friends start to share some pretty questionable stuff. New year’s resolutions loom large! Anyway thanks for some quiet calm words of wisdom.

    1. Any time! We need to keep the counter narrative going strong. I hear you about reasonable people suddenly getting caught up in the crap! Ugh.

  2. I don’t think that one can go wrong with Michael Pollans advice ( also my mother’s for my entire life though differently phrased). Eat food, mostly vegetables.

  3. Thanks for this, Tracy! A timely reminder, as Sam says. And Ann is so right to remind us of that great quotation, which I love!

    One of my friends shared with me the other day that she’s recently been to a naturopath to help with problems unrelated to weight/dieting/etc. It’s all about better health for her, as she struggles with some stuff that the medical establishment has not helped enough with. She and her naturopath did some work with her symptoms, her nutrition, and her overall needs, and isolated some foods that might be causing problems for her. She is now abstaining from dairy, and has noticed a significant improvement in some of her symptoms.

    This is the ONE situation in which the idea that foods might not be “good” for us makes sense to me: when, with a professional expert we trust, we determine that our bodies do not react well to particular foodstuffs. But even then, it’s not that the food is good or bad; it’s that we, physiologically, have a reaction to it that causes us problems, and then need to treat it accordingly. As with allergies, or similar – it’s about making safe choices around certain foods for each of ourselves, armed with knowledge about that food in relation to our individual bodies.

    So my advice to anyone tempted by the generic and alarmist good/bad practices or food-shaming articles is this: if you are struggling with something in your body that causes you pain or stress, seek out a reliable professional near you to help. Often, these are not medical doctors, but naturopathic folks who have been extremely well trained (and accredited) in non-western traditions. (If you aren’t sure, do a bit of research into the school your chosen professional attended.) They can really help – and they tend to have extremely sensible, and very body-positive, attitudes to food overall.

  4. No. I no longer listen to the trends. I read them and filter everything through lab results and the meal plan my registered dietitian has given the thumbs up.

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