Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.
Maybe, but they sure can be annoying sometimes. I don’t usually write and complain but I felt that I needed to get a few things off my chest so I can move on. Words are powerful, and I do believe some of these terms are at best, misleading and at worst harmful. So, what are they?
Guilt Free: I see it everywhere, and it drove me so crazy I wrote about it in length a little while ago. By writing on your social media posts / packaging that something is 'guilt free', are you insinuating that if I ate it’s non-healthy counterpart that I should feel guilty about it? Hell no! No food should make you, or I feel guilty. No one food is good or bad, and no one food has moral value. It’s the dose that matters. Any food, overeaten, may have negative outcomes. Even kale can cause you issues if you over did it. So, stop telling me how I should feel about food and let me just enjoy it.
Refined Sugar Free:
Ok, what does this even mean?? I know what they are insinuating, that the sweetener used in their product or recipe isn’t refined or heavily processed. I’ve seen this term used to describe raw sugar, cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, rice syrup and everything in between. Guess what? They are all sugar and they are all refined to some extent. Sugar is sugar and most of it comes from the same plant whether it’s the white stuff or raw. The biggest difference is the price tag. Maple syrup is far from the sap that came from the tree and rice syrup? Do you think they squeezed the sweetness from a rice plant and bottled it? It’s all refined, it’s all sugar and so if you want to have sugar have it (nothing wrong with that) but get off the sweetness high cloud and simply enjoy the one that you like best. Laura Thomas wrote about this beautifully here.
So much 'wrong'. You’ve probably read about it before but again, like ‘guilt free’ it seems to insinuate that if you’re not eating ‘clean’ foods you’re a dirty dirty girl (or boy). You should be ashamed of these toxic, fat promoting, cancer causing foods that are riddled with filth (I kid). Again, it’s the dose that’s the issue and yes, there are foods that are more nutritious and I help people find ways to include more of them in their diets but to draw a line between ‘clean’ and ‘not clean’ foods you’re engaging in black and white thinking about food which can lead to disordered eating, weight cycling and all around feeling miserable the moment we eat something ‘unclean’.
Don't get me wrong, I don’t think this is a term that is harmful but I do believe it can be misleading and maybe because I’m a recovering vegetarian (I eat meat now) I find it a bit vague. I understand ‘vegan’ and I understand ‘vegetarian’ but why do they get to claim the term ‘plant based’. Any diet can be plant based – as is mine – but some people choose to garnish some of their meals with good quality animal products and that’s no less plant based than someone who supplements with soy or lentils. Both these diets are plant based. Perhaps they are referring to the protein itself being plant based? You can see how it can be misconstrued. Both can be wonderfully healthy (and both may not be) and both are a personal choice.
There’s a few reasons why I don’t like labels when it comes to a way of eating. For one, it sets us up for that black and white thinking around food. It symbolises rules and dieting behaviour. If you’re Keto for example, you don’t eat "XYZ", same goes for paleo (or any other diet out there). Why can’t we just call the Keto muffins muffins? Or the paleo pancakes pancakes? Surely one can read the ingredients and see if it fits in with their way of eating? Naming it as such simply draws attention to a diet and strict diets are more often short term leading to increased weight gain once we 'go off the plan'. This weight cycling is the cause of many health concerns as opposed to finding a balanced way of eating that we can adhere to long-term.
So, I’m done. Apologies for the rant, I feel now like I can move on with things. Ha. I hope that I haven’t created a monster but I hope that now you can see through some misleading terms that can lead everything from disordered eating to an empty wallet if you’re not careful.
Words are just words, it's true. If you understand their context they are simply that but if you get caught up into the hype of things, it sure is hard coming back down.