Why We Should Stop Associating Food with Morality

Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of videos by Abbey Sharp, a YouTuber who is a registered dietician. What I like about Abbey’s YouTube content is that it focuses on reviewing other content creators and their popular diet videos, like the classic ‘What I Eat in a Day’ content. I feel like the reasons for her channel’s popularity is because of both her professional commentary and her positive views on health, weight and food. Abbey’s videos always focus on the science behind nutrition. For example, she discusses how meals shown in ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos could be changed for optimal nutritional value, rather than focusing on things like calories. In fact, Abbey says that she doesn’t promote things like calorie counting because of how damaging it can be for people’s mental well-being. 

    As someone who has struggled with calorie counting, Abbey’s content has really resonated with me. I watch a lot of her videos because of how open-minded she is and the positive way she speaks about food and eating. One of the things she talks about in many of her videos is how we should not associate morality with food. This association starts giving people the idea that certain foods are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is something I had personally never really thought about. After I heard her talk about it, however, I realized how common it is to associate certain foods with a bad label. For example, she talks about how she doesn’t like it when people call certain items ‘clean’ or ‘cheat’ foods. The problem with using these moralizing words for food is that they can make people feel guilty about their meal choices, especially if they are not the healthiest. When people make these ‘bad’ choices, they tend to feel obligated to do something differently the next day to make up for these decisions (for example, eating less). These moralizing thoughts about food can lead to a cycle of negative feelings about food, despite the fact that we rely on our meals for fuel! Convincing ourselves that we are ‘bad’ and need to be punished with extra time in the gym just for eating a couple extra cookies is not okay. 

woman eating Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

    I’ve now realized how common this is, especially in women and younger girls. We are constantly exposed to celebrities with certain bodies who rave about their ‘clean’ diet, and we are told that we must meet these unrealistic expectations if we want to feel worthy. Because of this, it is so easy to feel like you are bad for eating things that aren’t up to this insane standard. I’m not saying it’s not important to eat healthy, nutritious foods. However, I think it’s time that we start to cut ourselves a little slack by letting go of moralizing food choices. We are not ‘bad’ for eating French fries one day and we are not ‘good’ for eating a salad the next. No matter what we eat, food is the fuel our bodies need to live. I think if we started treating food this way, it would create a much healthier mindset about eating. This is something I still have to remind myself of every single day, but it feels better to know that I am just as great when I eat those extra cookies as I am when I eat a salad.