Hannah Durbin

Food is Neutral - Let's Keep It That Way

Hannah Durbin
Food is Neutral - Let's Keep It That Way

Stop giving food so much power.

Let's start with one simple question - and I challenge you to just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind as soon as you hear it.

What's your favorite food?

When you are asked to identify and describe your favorite foods, what factors into that decision? Taste? A special memory? The way that food makes you feel? Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, society's labels have skewed our perceptions of the food we inherently enjoy because of the pressure we feel to eat the "right" way. It is no longer about the enjoyment or pleasure that certain foods bring us, but now our focus is rather on making sure to only eat the "good" and never touch the "bad." Rather than blurting out HOMEMADE MACARONI AND CHEESE, we now pause to filter our response to be "a kale salad with fresh berries and grilled chicken" just in case anyone was around to listen or place judgement on our answer. But guess what? There's no question that the comforting taste of homemade macaroni and cheese overrules a kale salad almost every time. Let's be honest.

The problem with these labels is that they encourage us to moralize our food choices. Similarly to how I could categorize an A+ on my midterm as "good" versus an F on my midterm as "bad", we are now doing this with food based on its macro-nutrient and caloric composition. In simpler terms, we've been told that carrot sticks are the A+ on an exam, and the brownie is a big fat F. And even worse, if I dare eat that toxic brownie, I have also failed. 

Let me share something with you - I eat my fair share of peanut butter swirl ice cream, chocolate cake, and homemade brownies. Buttery pancakes are one of my all-time favorite foods. I would even sell my left leg for a handful of my mom's famous chocolate chip cookies. Does that make you think any less of me? Have you lost any respect for me as a person?

Food is inherently neutral. Consider a sharp knife. While one person may see this knife as a dangerous weapon that should be feared, another may see it as a simple kitchen tool used for preparing meals. The knife itself is neutral - but we attach a moral value to it based on what we perceive its effects to be. 

The moment we label something as "bad", we begin to fear it. It begins to take up more space in our minds, giving it life and power. It abandons its neutrality and starts possessing moral implications. If we eat something "bad", we are also "bad." This not only results in obvious blows to our self-image, but also leads to compensation. We have to be "good" tomorrow in order to make up for being "bad" today. Do you see how unhealthy that roller coaster so quickly becomes?

The takeaway I am hoping you get from this post is that dropping these labels allows us to own responsibility. We no longer let others decide what we want, but rather make those decisions for ourselves based on cravings, hunger cues, and self-care. You are in control of your food choices, and these choices are not linked to your moral value or human character. How you fuel yourself is nothing more than a strategy for keeping yourself alive, so how dare we place judgment on something so vital to our survival?

Stop giving food so much power. There's so much more to life.