One day, Joe was at a restaurant with some friends. Since Joe is Paleo (not celiac, just paleo) he requests a gluten free menu and orders a steak, steamed broccoli and a shot of tequila for good measure. Yeah, this Paleo life was good. The waitress brought out the drinks and (cue horror movie sound effects) then she set down a basket full of warm, gluten filled BREAD – yeah, there was nothing remotely Paleo about what was going in that basket. Joe was horrified, but his friends seemed okay with it. They passed the basket around, all taking a piece and there was one slice left. All eyes were on Joe, and everyone insisted that that slice of bread had his name on it. He was being peer-pressured. On the inside he was a mess, but he took the bread out of the basket (yes, he actually touched it and he didn’t die…), he buttered it and… he took a bite. It was delicious, but everything in Joe was telling him how awful it was for him and how weak he was for caving. His mind raced with thoughts of – holy shit I haven’t eaten bread in like six months and I just took a bite and I liked it and this is wrong… (there is no punctuation in that sentence on purpose – deal with it, his thoughts were racing and so is my sentence…) Beads of sweat were forming on his temples, he couldn’t see straight and he wasn’t even cognizant of the people around him. He was trapped in his thoughts of having eaten BREAD and he was terrified -paralyzed with the fear about what had just happened. He is now 100% certain that he would leave the restaurant with one less ab in his six-pack and a terminal case of leaky gut. Needless to say, Joe did not enjoy any part of his evening post- bread. He was convinced that he had failed and that he was an awful person because of it. Joe spent the entire weekend thinking about, feeling bad about, and being angry at that piece of bread. He decided that never would he ever do that again. Bread was, is, and always will be evil and scary. The End.
Food (any and every food – not just bread) – it’s just, well, food. It doesn’t have an agenda. It’s not out to get you. It can’t make you eat it or attack you (seriously, have you ever been violated by a steak? And steaks are like the fiercest food out there – so I rest my case.). Food is not inherently evil or something to be afraid of – it’s just FOOD. For all of you out there trying to argue with me about how sugar is evil, gluten is evil, processed food is evil, etc., I want you to think about the validity of those statements. What have any of those foods or food components, by their own will, done to you? Sure, we all know that there are some foods that are better for our bodies than others and that some people’s bodies don’t tolerate certain foods – but ultimately it is not because the food is evil or something we need to be afraid of or blame. It’s not the food that’s ‘bad’ – it can’t be – it’s like saying a rock is evil because you tripped over it. Sure, the rock was in the way, but it wasn’t plotting to make you face plant and you’re likely not going to go around being afraid of every single rock you encounter because of one isolated incident. Much the same, bread is not plotting to give you leaky gut, nor is sugar on a mission to give you Diabetes; so why and how did we become so afraid of food?
The idea that food or certain foods can be, or are ‘bad’ and should be feared comes from the thoughts we create and have in our heads. Food is something that we’ve been conditioned to fear. Media headlines, ‘experts’, our friends and family – all telling us which diet to follow, which foods and/or nutrients we need to be eating and which ones we need to avoid at all costs. The ‘bad list is ever changing – fat, carbs, sugar, gluten, dairy, soy … – it’s confusing and almost impossible to keep up with. There are so many rules, so many ‘bad’ things – it’s overwhelming and it’s scary. We give food power that it doesn’t have and this is not okay.
This is not me telling you to forget everything you’ve learned about good nutrition and exist solely on soda, donuts, French fries and pizza – BUT if your quality of life is suffering because of food ‘rules’ and/or fear, then it’s time to step back and evaluate WHY you are doing what you’re doing.
Let’s take a little test. (It’s not hard – you won’t need to Google any of the answers…)
Answer the following questions honestly:
Do you avoid going to parties or events that you know will have food that doesn’t fit your rules or safe list?
Do you bring your own food everywhere, even if you don’t have a serious health condition that warrants it? (Note: Lack of 6-pack abs is not a serious health condition…)
Does the thought of food make you nervous? Are you constantly worried about if you’re going to get hungry, or if you ate too much – or not enough, or if maybe that salad you ordered had a wayward cheese shred in it?
Do you turndown invitations and/or stay home because it will interfere with your food and/or exercise routine/schedule?
Do you feel guilty or shameful if you eat something that doesn’t fit your plan or if you have carbs on a day you didn’t work out?
Do you surround yourself with people that are just as caught up in food (or exercise) as you are so that you can feel ‘normal’?
Do all of your hobbies and/or extracurricular activities in one way, shape or form involve exercise, food/diet or research about any of these topics?
I’m not sure how you answered those questions, but if yes was a common theme for you – there’s a whole lot of life that you’re missing out on. It is when we stop being afraid, when we let go and listen to our bodies, when we realize that food is nothing more than food and that missing a workout is not the end of the world – that we actually find out who we really are and start living.
Food isn’t evil or something to be afraid of – looking back on your life and realizing that you missed the good stuff – that’s scary.