Farwell to nutrition month: food is not your foe

Food, our ever-present companion through the journey of life. For some, a pleasing partner, for too many others, a daunting adversary. Meals become battles, navigating a grocery store or a menu is akin to dancing through a mine field, the act of eating becomes a pass/fail test reflective of one’s character.  Is my food safe? Is my food addictive? Did my food cause my health condition? Is my food poisoning my children? Can I still be healthy if I haven’t been eating “superfoods”? Will I die without cold-pressed juice and maca powder? Most us endure this endless stream of doubt, turning our most primal urge to an oppressive and inescapable stressor.

Just as food is not your friend, food is not your enemy. Severe allergies and life-threatening conditions aside, food remains a neutral presence. Foods vary widely in their nutritional quality, but this does not make them inherently good or bad. It is our society and beliefs that bestow judgement on what, how, and when we eat. Food safety standards have increased dramatically over the last century. Food additives are rigorously tested before approval. It is always possible that some or many of these substances may turn out to be hazardous, but that is probably not likely. No, our battles against food stem from something deeper and meals have become the scapegoat.

We feel incapable of resisting food; most Canadians are surrounded by food at every turn. We feel we cannot make healthful choices; food policies or lack thereof encourage over production of highly processed and lower nutritional quality foods, as well as rampant marketing of these products. We feel we are harming those who depend on us for nourishment; we are bombarded by sensationalist, fear-mongering, and all-too-often untrue claims by less-than-qualified sources regarding the effects of food ingredients. We feel our diets cannot be healthy without expensive and “exotic” ingredients; the snake oil salesman has both the disease and the cure. We feel our food choices have given us imperfect bodies and made us unhappy; our society demonizes large bodies, unfairly equates less nutritious foods with large bodies, and adds guilt and shame to the consumption of these foods.

Food is nourishment. How we feel about food has more to do with the society and food environment that we’ve built. and those are cases for another day.

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