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Food Is Not the Enemy

Note: Last fall when I went to see Alton Brown perform, he shared five things that he felt confident saying about food. It got me thinking about what I might say about food, and I came up with my own list, although it’s quite different than his. This is one of my items.

What if food isn’t the enemy?

Depending on the person, this may sound like a radical question or an inane one. Radical because so often we’re told about all the ways in which food is evil and toxic, inane because we need to eat to live.

For me, this idea felt quite radical in my younger years, when clearly anything fatty or sugary – or worse, both – was sinful and bad. After all, those were the foods that called to me, that I had no willpower around, that sabotaged me just when I thought I was doing well and attacked my stomach and thighs.

Eventually, though, I came to realize something: thinking of food this way gave it an immense amount of power over me. It controlled my mood, even my behavior, making me feel embarrassed and ashamed and guilty.

That’s when I decided I needed to call a truce and redefine my relationship to food. Instead of thinking of it as something attacking me, I began to recognize it for what it was: nothing more or less than food, with no hidden agenda. The classification of the food as good or bad was not inherent to the food itself, only to the people judging it. And I didn’t want to be one of those people anymore. I wanted to get away from judgment and guilt and shame.

In the process, I discovered that too much of certain foods didn’t sit well with me. That didn’t mean I needed to cut them out altogether, only limit them, especially because the amount I could eat waxed and waned. Why not enjoy them when I could, in just the right amount, rather than fear even catching sight of them?

It took me a long time to learn this, and for those who still struggle with food, thinking of it in a new way may help bring peace to your relationship.

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