In case you haven’t heard, our bodies are pretty freaking awesome. They protect us from harmful viruses, they carry and grow children, they walk, they talk, they think, they breathe, and they create. So why, if our bodies are so intelligent and capable, do we have a growing problem with eating disorders and poor body-image in our society? Why are we so caught up with this idea of perfection that we have embedded into our minds? Why has looking at ourselves in the mirror become something so negative?
I want to first mention that I am guilty of poor body-image and self-esteem, as well. I am not writing this blog to show that I am any more confident than the rest of you. I have caught myself staring in the mirror poking and pulling with disgust, thinking “if I could just get rid of this I would look so much better.” I have walked by too many mirrors making mental notes about what I could and should change. I have fallen into the trap of beauty companies who prey on the vulnerabilities of young girls to sell their products in an attempt to get rid of stretch marks, acne, loose skin, and more. I have blamed my body for things I have missed out on and opportunities I have lost. The truth is, we have programmed ourselves to define individuals based on how we look rather than how we think, act and love. The question is, can we break up the fight between us and our mirrors once and for all?
How many times have you caught yourself justifying your food choices or committing to working extra hard at the gym to burn off the calories you were about to consume? How many times have you witnessed yourself checking how bad your “bloat” is after a good meal? What about the amount of times you’ve seen an Instagram caption about calories, foods to avoid, or ways to lose weight fast? Without even knowing it, we have made food into an enemy, something we should feel guilty about. Indulging in food should not be called a “guilty pleasure” and creating a health account on Instagram should not be about obsessive dieting and avoiding calories. We need to stop apologizing for eating food. Since when does eating make us less worthy? We have created this idea that anything that’s good in society is not good for us and that is simply not true. Food should be an experience, one that nourishes our bodies and feeds our health in positive ways. Food shouldn’t be used as a reward or punishment but rather as a way of keeping us alive and satisfied.
My Love-Hate Relationship With Food
Food had always been an enemy of mine. To me, food was what made me sick, fat and depressed. Just being around food gave me anxiety. After my diagnosis, when I was told I had to stop eating grains, dairy and soy products, I couldn’t help but think that these foods were my greatest enemy. I mean these foods were what made me sick in the first place, right? When I started working on this post I had a hard time writing about food guilt because there has always been a guilt associated with eating for me. How can I sit here and preach about a healthy relationship with food when I don’t necessarily have one? I am working on my relationship with eating. I am beginning to understand that the enemy is not food, but rather my thoughts about it.
As someone who runs a health-based social media account, I post quite a bit about food. I post about good, nourishing foods and how they feed our bodies, and I post about bad, sugary foods and how they feed disease. It is important to understand that there is nothing wrong with eating healthy, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. I love reading about weight loss journeys, health discoveries and fitness progressions. I don’t mind when people post about what is healthy and what is not. It is no secret that vegetables are the healthier option than cakes, cookies and sweets. What I mean when I say we shouldn’t be feeding into the food-guilt culture, is that we shouldn’t shame ourselves or others for indulging in foods that aren’t necessarily considered healthy. We shouldn’t be commenting on peoples posts telling them they shouldn’t eat this or that. We shouldn’t be hiding in the bathroom eating the last slice of cold pizza at two in the morning so that nobody sees or hears us. The same goes for people who can't or choose not to eat certain foods. You don't need to feel bad or ashamed for avoiding foods that don't make you feel good. I often find myself telling people I am allergic to certain foods because I don't want to be judged for not eating the foods everyone else is eating. Even after all the dietary changes I've made for my health, I find myself feeling guilty for eating organic coconut ice cream, or allergen-free chocolate chips. I am tired of having to justify my food choices to the “food police” on Instagram too. Get off my feed and let me eat my gluten, dairy and soy-free ice cream bar in peace.
A Personal Reflection - Ending The Fight Between Me and My Mirror
I believe that nurturing a healthy relationship between ourselves and our food will help us to create a better relationship with ourselves and our mirrors. This culture that we have created around dieting and food guilt is a dangerous one that leads to anxiety and eating disorders. It teaches the younger generation, our daughters and sons, that to be attractive and wanted we have to eat less, and look better. When we ditch these ideals and expectations we can be at peace with who is looking back at us in the mirror.
Body positivity begins with us changing our mind-set on beauty standards. Our bodies are not meant to be feared, but celebrated. We need to start appreciating the many things our bodies can do instead of focusing on its limitations and flaws. We need to stop letting photo-shopped Instagram pictures influence our behaviour but rather appreciate their beauty and move on. So, let’s make a promise to ourselves that we are no longer going to feel badly about eating. We are not going to let social media dictate how we feel, and we are not going to give in to society’s expectations and critical culture. We are going to eat to nurture ourselves, and we are going to enjoy it. We are going to look at ourselves in the mirror and smile, because we are so lucky to be able to do so. Let's end the fight between us and our mirrors once and for all.
Everything that has happened in your life has led you to this moment. Thank you for reading.