Open Letter to Society
I am so grateful for so many things that you have brought me: A beautiful constitution, music to match my mood/emotions, parks to enjoy with my children, freedom of worship (shout out to 12Stone!), public education, and Nordstrom Rack, to name a few! America is a beautiful country that thrives because of its opportunity and its possibility, but I have a bone to pick with you…
On a beautiful Friday afternoon, after a long week of work, I picked up my 3 and 5 year-old and we headed to the ice cream shop in town to enjoy a topping-filled bowl of goodness. While in line for the crushed Oreos (my personal favorite), we ran into a perfect stranger who was also treating her family to the same cold treat. We said hello, exchanged a smile, and the next words that came out of her mouth were, “I ate a salad for lunch; I am ruining it with this [ice cream] right here!” Her words hit me like a knife to my heart. That may sound dramatic, but I want to explain all my emotions behind this brief interaction so maybe I can help others understand the weight of this statement. The woman meant no harm, and she went on filling her bowl with toppings, and she most likely didn’t even realize what she had said, but the conversation stuck with me and my family far past it being thrown out there. Society has conditioned us to believe that we have to justify ourselves with food, our bodies, and exercise ALL THE TIME, and I want to tell you why this, in my opinion, is wrong.
So bear with me… I know that my opinions are not always popular, but I am also a product of the American Culture and strong parents who have taught me that I am allowed to stand up for what I believe, so here it goes:
1. There are no good foods and bad food; we need to drop the labels!
Anyone who has taken 9th grade biology, 9th grade health, or -even better- seen a nutritionist can tell you that all food on the Earth has a value and purpose in the body. When eaten in moderation and balance, all foods can be enjoyed and beneficial to both the physical and mental health of our bodies. Another fact, media and social diet trends can sway public perception of food and totally manipulate the health benefits and biological factors related to these forms of nourishment. For example, have you ever been encouraged to go on a “carb free” diet? If you have tried this, I bet you were tired, foggy brained and down -right irritable… ever wonder why? According to an article the San Francisco Gate, “The role of carbohydrates is to provide energy, as they are the body's main source of fuel, needed for physical activity, brain function and operation of the organs. All the cells and tissues in your body need carbs, and they are also important for intestinal health and waste elimination.” Diets that eliminate foods or food groups from your consumption can be more harmful than helpful, can lead to mental and physical distress, and are highly unsustainable for long periods of time due to all the above factors. Moderation and balance are healthy alternatives to elimination. Ice cream is not a bad food- it is just food. Yes, it is best to eat it in moderation, but there is nothing wrong with enjoying a cup/cone every now and again!
2. We don’t need to justify ourselves when it comes to exercise and nutrition
When the lady voluntarily offered me up the information of what she ate for lunch as I was pouring on my Oreo topping, my first thought was did I say something or make a face to make her feel obligated to justify her choice of afternoon snack? I did a self-check, and no… no I did not. I was too busy helping 3-year-old Anna Blue not spill all the gummy bears she was helping herself to! Next, I thought, is she blind? Why is she feeling self-conscious around me? After all, I am here getting ice cream, too! It is not like I am at the salad bar and she is at the dessert table; my bowl is heaping just like hers! And then, lastly, I felt sad for her and all people who have been conditioned to feel shame in what they eat. Society, media, and people in general justify, judge, and scrutinize what we eat all the time. There are so many trends, ads, infomercials, commercials, plans, books, you name it, that tell us we are only good enough if __________ (there are too many ifs to list! I’ll let you fill in the blank on what society has told you personally). We have been told “you are what you eat” and since there good and bad labels placed on foods, in turn, the poor woman felt shame because she was eating ice cream which society has deemed as bad. It is just as bad when someone tells you how much they worked out, ran, cross-fitted, boot camped, or whatever to earn the food they are eating. I am all for healthy lifestyles and exercise, but I am sorry… since when did we have to earn the right to eat? Who put that label on food? And why the heck have we kept it for so long? Our bodies need oxygen to breathe, yet I don’t apologize or justify the need to take a breath every 2 seconds! “I worked really hard at teaching those 9th graders how to properly write a narrative essay today, I deserve this breath. ***Deep breath in***” It is ridiculous, when you think about it. To the woman, all women, all men, and all humans beings for that matter- you don’t ever have to justify your food intake or exercise regime to anyone. You do you, Boo. Just do you.
3. Little ears hear everything
Okay- the mama bear is going to come out, so just hold on tight while I try to rein my category 5-tornado-self down to light breeze… to the Lady at the ice cream shop- my kids, who are 3 and 5 and at a formidable age both mentally and physically, just heard you label the beautiful ice cream treat that we are taking time out of our busy life to enjoy as a family outing as bad. When she walked away, my son asked me why ice cream was so bad for you, and I had to stop and explain to him ALL that I already expressed above, and I could see his little brow furrow as he walked his bowl over to the table to sit down and eat. Now, I am not going to pretend I knew exactly what he was thinking, but I have been that kid, that adult, who heard someone make a food comment and then subconsciously placed the same shame onto myself and/or on what I was eating. I own my part in being sensitive to food and body scrutiny, but let’s face it- I am not the only one! The world is sensitive to it; that is why the market is so big for diets, diet foods, and exercise. Again, I am all about healthy and balanced lifestyles. I fully support all food and exercise in moderation, but we have to stop feeding shame and guilt onto the people of our society when connected with our bodies and food. The fact is, there is no miracle mold that each person fits into for health. Education on healthy lifestyles is a must, but side comments, judgment, and disgrace should not be thrown at one’s self or onto others by perfect strangers in line at the local restaurant. My kids and I deserve to eat ice cream without shame and guilt.
I am going to wrap up with this- food does not define me. My exercise routine does not define me. My body does not define me; you know what does? My heart defines me. My character defines me. My ability to love, connect, and feel defines me. So to the lady in the ice cream shop, regardless of what society has told you, your worth is not connected in any way shape or form to that ice cream you are consuming. I hope one day you can understand that. And society- wise up. We are more than what we eat.