Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.
How many times have you heard someone say they can’t eat something because they’re on a diet and it’s ‘bad for them’? It’s so sad. This way of thinking has been around for a long time but I think it’s getting more pronounced, especially with the appearance of ‘clean’ eating. What a nasty term that is – but more about that in another blog post! The reality is that there really is no bad food, unless you have an allergy or intolerance. Even then the food isn’t ‘bad’, it’s just not something your body could tolerate so you can’t really eat it. Other than that everything can be enjoyed. Every food has a place in your diet.
Let’s talk about cake. Why shouldn’t you have a slice of birthday cake if everyone else is celebrating? Does it make you happy to avoid it when everyone else is having a slice? No, probably not. Will that slice of cake do a whole heap of damage to your body, your weight, or your mental health? No, it will not. The ingredients of a cake are usually based around flour, eggs, butter, sugar, some flavourings, and then the glorious filling. Oh my life, how I love cake!! Are those ingredients bad? No. Are they each full of nutrients and energy that the body can use? Yes. Do they suddenly become ‘bad’ when combined and baked? No!
Not convinced yet? Ok, let’s break some of the ingredients down to explain it. Flour is a source of protein, vitamins, fibre, and carbohydrates, all necessary for your body to function well. Eggs are a wonderful source of protein, fats, B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. Butter is a great source of vitamins A along with vitamins E, B12 and K. Also, calcium, phosphorus, and other B vitamins, and some fatty acids that have been shown to benefit health.
‘But sugar is soooooo bad for you!’ Nope, wrong. Table sugar is actually a great source of energy. Our body’s primary energy source is glucose. Sugar is a disaccharide made up of only fructose and glucose, so it doesn’t take an awful lot for the body to break it down into its constituent parts and get that quick energy burst it might be looking for.
Sugar really is about as close as you can get to providing fuel for your body. Do I need to go on? Probably not. I’ve made my point. It’s been long engrained in us that cake is ‘bad’, but actually you can now see that there are some great things to come out of that lovely slice of victoria sponge. (Here’s a recipe by the way, just in case you’re now motivated to make one!)
Just in case I haven’t sold you on this yet, let’s do another. How about ice cream? If you have a craving for ice cream on a hot day will it make you happy to not have one? No of course it won’t. Will having an ice cream create lasting problems for your body, cause massive weight gains, or negatively affect your mental health? No, of course not. What will actually happen is you will deprive yourself and trigger a fixation on ice cream. It will be all you think about for a while. Nothing will quite hit the spot. Maybe you’ll eat a stack of other foods to try to curb that craving, or maybe later you’ll eat several ice creams, or a big tub of it. That’s because that’s what restriction does. This is the binge-restrict cycle. If you actually let yourself go and have that ice cream what will happen? You’ll eat ice cream, you’ll feel refreshed from the heat, you’ll have some pleasure in your day, you won’t spend the rest of the day wishing you’d had one, and guess what – you won’t have suddenly expanded your waist line (not that that would be a problem anyway).
What if you released your restriction and have a slice of cake, or a second if you fancy it? Having an ice cream, and maybe another one later if you want it. That’s all ok.
The problems only arise when our diet is made up largely of these items and you have too few nutrient dense foods in your diet. Then there is likely to be a negative impact on health and wellbeing, and not because the one food is ‘bad’ but because our bodies need the things you’re not giving it enough of.
In actual fact, the restriction you are putting on yourself will have a more negative impact than good. Saying no and being so strict makes you feel bad, makes you sad, and ultimately leads to later binges of the restricted items.
So here is the message for a healthy, happy relationship with food – eat it. If you stop restricting and start allowing yourself to eat anything you want you will almost certainly find that after a while those foods actually don’t hold that much power over you. The drive to eat them won’t be so loud because you’ve given yourself permission to eat it. You’ll have them when you want them, and other times you’ll have other, more nutritious foods. If you feel like you’re needing some more of the nutritious stuff then have it, but you don’t need to remove the other stuff in order to do that. You can have both! Your body knows what it’s doing, and once this becomes a way of life you will instinctively know what you need from your food, and you’ll realise that your overall balance of nutrients over time is perfectly fine.
Be kind to yourself, enjoy eating. There is no need for guilt. Know that every food has a value, and if you shake off those food rules you can love food so much more.
Please note: This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet.
References and Links:
The restrict-binge cycle: https://eatingdisordersolutions.com/danger-the-restrict-then-binge-cycle/