For as long as I can remember and up until the moment in the fall of 2022 that I began supporting a loved one through an eating disorder, I did not have breakfast or consume any calories before noon. I did not consume any sugar at all. No desserts, sodas, candy. I did not eat bread or bread-like products. I feared grains, even whole grains. I tried to “eat the rainbow”, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, eat “real, nutrient-dense food” that supposedly sustained my ancestors before there was such a thing as junk food. Although there is nothing whatsoever inherently wrong with any of this, when an eating disorder metasticized in my family, I began to examine it. I realized, for one thing, that I had very little to show for any of this other than an irrational fear of food that would be considered “unhealthy” and a predisoposition toward the notion that most people are unable or unwilling to control their apetites. I was so very wrong. I do not blame myself for helping to cause an eating disorder in my family, but I do recognize the influence of my thoughts and actions around food. I was so very wrong.
The biggest lesson that all of us in my family are learning together is that food is food, period. All foods are neutral. ALL. Kale is not better than Velveeta. A bowl of cereal is just as worthy as avocado toast. I used to think that the worst food on earth was a donut. I do not think this any more. Neither do I think that a donut is the best food on earth. A donut is exactly as good as a bowl of oatmeal, a goat-cheese omelette, an apple turnover, and an intermittantly fasted empty breakfast plate. All. Foods. Are. Neutral.
I’ll say this now and probably again. This is not to advocate an all-treat diet or to ignore nutritional demands. This is to say that restricting oneself in the name of “being good” or “eating clean” can be dangerous and is not necessary and likely damaging. There is an exact relationship between a restricted food and a future unignorable craving. And there is an exact relationship between a craving that was given in to and a feeling of failure, helplessness, inadequate will-power. An inevitable conclusion: I’ll be better next time. Be better next time?
In 2023 at the age of 57 (soon to be 58) I still want to be strong and fit. I want to be healthy and I don’t want a lot of body fat. I am still working out and am as excited about it as I’ve ever been. But I am no longer thinking about “dieting” or “losing the gut” or “gaining a six pack” or of all the “good things” I’ll eat and “bad things” I won’t. As well as I possibly can, I plan to eat when hungry, stop when satisfied, and consume what I feel I need, even if that’s a Twinkie.
Not doing this has gotten me exactly nowhere closer to the body composition I thought I needed but has given me a permanent sense of mild failure and a pile of guilt that is damaging and completely unnecessary. No more of this.
8 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolution 2023: Food Is Food. Period.”
You are 100% right on this! I recently listened to a Dr Layne Norton interview on the Huberman podcast. Wow! What an eye opener. That podcast sent me in a 180 and has totally changed my point of view. I’m so much happier now.
I would highly recommend giving it a listen.
Steve – great to hear someone in the fitness world talk clearly about this. So many of us in fitness – and I include myself – have mixed up the pursuit of health, with the pursuit of some physical ideal, with morality. It’s damaging for all of us
Yup, mixed up is a good way to put it. Part of the problem for me is that most of the content has a body image message and it’s hard to escape it. Very hard to escape it indeed. Thanks for your comment.
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Thanks for the comment and the recommendation. I will check it out. It’s good to be free of the burden of worrying about this.
Spot on, Steve.
Thank you, Helmut!