Have you ever sat down to enjoy a meal with family or friends, only to have someone at the table start to talk about how guilty or indulgent the meal your sharing is? Have you ever said or heard someone at the table say “I shouldn’t be eating this but…” or “after this, I’m going to eat clean all week” or made some other comment about how unhealthy that meal is?
Have you ever noticed how much those types of comments ruin the experience of the meal?
For example, I share along with most millennials a deep love of brunch. Yep, a long, lazy meal full of delicious foods that I don’t eat very often. I love brunch mostly because I get to share it with people I love, or share it with new friends I’m only just meeting.
A few years ago, while I was studying to become a Holistic Health Coach, I was enjoying brunch with some friends. That particular occasion, I was really looking forward to eating pancakes. Lemon pancakes specifically. Lemon pancakes that I’ve actually only ever had a handful of times because I don’t actually go to brunch very often, and I went to the restaurant that served these said lemon pancakes even less (I have since moved away and can no longer eat these particular lemon pancakes…sigh). And while I love healthy food, green smoothies, and kale salad, I also love the occasional lemon pancake. Lemon pancakes filled with no organic ingredients and topped with a delicious combination of buttery, sugary, lemony, lemon drizzle. There are no health benefits to these lemon pancakes, other than they are super delicious and are made even better in the company of good friends.
So, while out with a group of friends, I ordered my beloved lemon pancakes. To which, someone in my party commented, “aren’t you supposed to be the healthy one in this group?” or something along those lines. Which then ruined my whole experience of the meal, because though I laughed off the comment, I didn’t shake off the shame and guilt-which carried through the meal.
And while I’m not saying that lemon pancakes are healthy in any way shape or form, I also don’t think eating the occasional lemon pancake is unhealthy either.
What I do think is unhealthy? Drifting through life in a constant state of shame from food, and pushing that same shame onto those around you. It’s okay if you have an allergy, or if you feel better eating a certain way. You do you. However, there is never any reason to spread that same shame onto those around you. And, if you have a hard time eating certain things because you worry about being shamed, remember that stress is probably worse for you than eating and enjoying a certain food. Especially long term stress, like when you constantly talk about how unhealthy everything around you is.
If you, like me, struggle with food shame I like to think about this quote from Katie Dalebout, “Stress and deprivation are worse for you than gluten, dairy, and sugar combined.”
The point is, we have to change the way we talk about wellness. Shame and guilt are really just a way to stress ourselves, and those around us out even more. And I think we all have enough stress in our lives. Enjoying food is part of being healthy, even if it is that occasional indulgent treat. Food is around to connect us to the people and the world around us, and it’s okay to enjoy it.