I’m on a bit of a language thing at the moment. (I should add that my language is pretty horrid a lot of the time. Current diabetes burnout combined with general feelings of exhaustion mean the f-bomb gets dropped far more than it should. Our swear jar is so full that it has become our daughter’s private school education fund. But, I digress…..)
Today though, I am writing about how the language of food sends us down a slippery slope of guilt and competitiveness.
We say things such as ‘naughty’, ‘guilty pleasure, ’oh, I shouldn’t’ or ‘I’ve been so good lately’ when talking about food. We say that food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for us.
No, it’s not. Food doesn’t have a moral compass.
Stupid comments like ‘a moment on the lips; a lifetime on the hips’ mean we feel guilty about having a piece of cake or a chocolate bar when we should just enjoy it for what it is – something sweet and delicious!
We start this when talking about the nutrition babies receive (thank goodness the babes in arms are unable to comprehend what we’re saying).’ Breast is best’, we’re told, and nutritionally that may be correct. But the demonisation of formula only makes those unable or not wanting to breastfeed feel they’re failing their babies. Although, that doesn’t last. I went from looks of approval and comments of ‘aren’t you wonderful’ for breastfeeding my daughter. Until she got to 18-months when suddenly I was being asked when I was going to stop.
In recent times, we’ve added ethical eating into the mix so the good/bad extends to more than health. Suddenly, we’re expected to feel guilty if we’re not eating and drinking ethically sourced foods and beverages. Are those apples organic? Is your coffee single origin fair trade?
Today, in The Age there’s an article about clean eating and what using this terminology hints at, saying ‘It implies that anyone who doesn’t eat in the way you deem “clean” is eating “dirty.”’
We detox, inferring that we are full of toxins. We’re not and suggesting that our body is a poisonous, polluted pit of impurities that needs to be exorcised is nothing more than a money making scam at best; a way of making us feel somehow unclean at worst.
Messaging gets confusing – think about how the I Quit Sugar movement has impacted on people with diabetes who already spend a lot of time ‘un-demonising’ sugar. ‘You should do that. It’s good for people with diabetes.’ I’ve been told several times. How? It’s pointless and just like every other diet craze. And mind your own business, by the way.
Reading about food used to be so much fun. The Magic Faraway Tree series included tales of pop biscuits, toffee shocks, lands where lollies grew on trees, and everywhere, oh everywhere, there was warm toast with lashings of butter. There were Mad Hatter Tea Parties, and Harry Potter feasts were full of Pumpkin juice and Butterbeer. Books such as Like Water for Chocolate describe dishes such as ‘quail in rose petal sauce’, and Chocolat sets scenes with ‘The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate’. Food is a celebration and joy and a delight. No one counts calories or promises to ‘be good tomorrow’.
I don’t think that we need to go so far as only using utilitarian words such as ‘fuel’ to describe food. But I do think it’s time we moved away from the judgement and the guilt-inducing rhetoric that accompanies the language of food.
Friday listening and dancing – James Taylor singing ‘How sweet it is to be loved by you’ which is for my beautiful daughter who means I get to celebrate Mothers’ Day on Sunday.