Dear Health Advocate:
Dear health advocate; I know what it’s like to want everyone to be healthy and well. It’s something I work towards with myself and my clients every day. What I am asking you today is to please stop scaring people into health or weight loss. There are enough anxieties in the world today, we don’t need to make each other fearful of the very thing we need to sustain us – food. It seems the health and diet industry always needs a scapegoat as a way of explaining why so many people are unwell. Thanks to the internet we have access to hundreds of different headlines that further perpetrate this idea of “good” and “bad” foods. It’s so much easier to point the finger at one food, or even entire food groups than to look at the bigger picture. While I scroll through my Facebook timeline today, I see dozens of these types of headlines, from well meaning individuals. Headlines such as as “fat is not the devil after all”, “the frightening epidemic – no doubt caused by fructose”. Then there’s “wheat free”, “gluten free” “fat free” "egg free” and "guilt free". There are -personalised algorithms to find out what diet is right for you, talk of how the processed food companies are lying to you. Sugar is poison, Eating carbs will make you fat, and getting rid of fructose will make you thin. Not only that but ditching certain foods will prevent neuropsychiatric, gastrointestinal, endocrine circulatory skeletal issues not to mention cancer. Even your thoughts can change your metabolism. I understand, really I do. You want to educate mostly and in some cases, maybe make some money. Your intention is to simply state the “facts” so that you can help people – but I see it now as something different – Intentional or not and I believe that this perpetration of fear is doing more harm than good. I see it every day. People are scared. They’re confused, they’re anxious – they are so terrified that they might gain weight by eating a few carbs that Christmas dinner at a family members’ house that the very thought is filling the bit of their stomach with dread (which will no doubt kill valuable micro-flora). These messages may not be intended to be harmful but they continue to perpetrate a feeling of fear- that fear that if they don’t do what you’re telling them to do they will suffer the consequences. I’m not saying that there are not foods out there that make us feel awful and are more plastic than nutritious – but I feel and know in my heart that the fear being perpetrated by the media, the weight loss industry and yes, even some of the health and food bloggers is doing more harm than good. Even I am guilty of doing so in the past. I preached about the good and bad just as much as the others - but I believe, like most things, we evolve if we allow ourselves to. We’re looking for the holy grail to health, the secret to everlasting weight loss, the answer to our prayers. Truth is, we’re all different, that's something I've always said. What works for some won’t work for everyone. So is it a lost cause? I don't’ believe so, what I believe is that we need to get off the diets, see through the hype and fear mongering and just stop. Eat the foods that not only satisfy you but makes you feel great. The food that allows you to play with your children and get out of bed grateful to start the day. Food that allows you to do the exercise that you love as a form of pleasure and not punishment. Most importantly, the ability to enjoy the cake without the guilt – if it makes you feel great- and as you eat every bite – say thank you and savour it. You know what these foods are - deep down you do - but it's the mass chaos that is the internet that is causing us to second guess our inherent intuition. So – I ask you – please stop with the scare tactics. Please stop threatening us with poor health or weight gain. Stop telling us which foods are good and bad. Which foods are clean, which foods will shorten my lifespan or increase it. Stop telling us how much I should or shouldn’t eat. Please, stop bombarding us with labels like “guilt free" and programs that will allow us to pay you to be deprived. Instead inspire us, motivate us and teach us through kindness and sincerity. Remind us we are unique, and beautiful in our own way. Remind us that the number on the scale does nothing but weigh our self esteem. Remind us that food should taste great and satisfy us. Inspire us to enjoy our foods and slow down. To truly savour it. Ultimately – we are the best judge of what makes us feel amazing, we are on our own journeys and we are all in different places. It's time to make peace with not only our plates but our bodies as well.