So, you’ve had a bad day at work and it’s left you feeling exhausted and really low. On your drive back home, you see a sign for Krispy Kreme and suddenly the thought of sitting curled up on the sofa under a blanket, with your favourite TV series and a couple of doughnuts is the most comforting thought to flood your mind. However, earlier that day you were scrolling through Instagram and saw your favourite celeb talking about their latest diet, how much weight they’ve lost and how great they feel, and that comforting thought of doughnuts gets shattered, leaving you even more miserable than you already were.
Back home, you Google tips on how to lose weight and curb those cravings. Scrolling through pages and pages of the latest diets, fads, exercise plans, diet pills, skinny teas (please for the love of God stay away from those pills and poo teas, PLEASE) and the ‘Top 10 Tips to Lose Weight FOR GOOD’.
You stumble upon something that seems like it might work because it’s labelled as not being a diet, but a lifestyle * hugeee eye roll*. It sounds like it’s achievable because it’s *not* a diet (funny you should think a diet wouldn’t work because *cough cough* diets don’t work). Its core message is to shift your focus on what food actually is – fuel.
This is one of the (many) tips that the diet industry like to shove down our metaphorical throats, to start viewing food asjust fuel. I want to unpack this view in today’s article, looking at why this statement came about, the science behind it and why it’s part of the reason we lose touch with how to eat intuitively.
Seeing food as fuel is something that’s encouraged in order for individuals to only eat when they are hungry in order to keep going, therefore stopping the boredom snacking, comfort eating, and quite frankly the enjoyment that comes with food – but I’ll get on to that later on.
As a scientist myself, I know that theoretically, food is fuel for the body. Food is made up of calories, which are simply a unity of energy (not this demonic number that aims to make you fat as diet culture would have you believe), and you need a certain amount of energy in order for your body to function optimally and maintain homeostasis – basically, in order to stay in a happy state of functioning. Enough calories (read: energy) to keep all the cogs working.
When you move, you expend energy and therefore need more calories in order to keep the cogs moving. So yes, food does equate to food for the body, but we are more than just a body.
We are complex human beings with a mind, feelings, emotions, a soul. Our bodies are simply the vessel that helps carry who we essentially are as a person through life. Food is a necessity to function, there’s no doubt about that, but we can’t detach the fact that we only feed ourselves to feed our bodies.
This view is problematic because it makes people feel guilty if they eat for any other reason than to fuel their bodies; and those that simply eat for fuel? I personally think that they have some underlying issue with food. Food isn’t just fuel.
Food is comforting, it’s enjoyable, it brings people together, it brings back memories.
Food brings a family together over Sunday lunch, it’s something delicious to celebrate your birthday, it’s a sweet treat over a coffee with a friend, it’s ice-cream after a break-up, it’s getting your hands covered in cookie dough whilst you bake your favourite cookies, it’s eating freshly baked crumble that takes you back to your childhood, it’s having peach juice run down your arm, it’s going strawberry picking with your mum, it’s having a warm stew on a cold winter’s day, it’s a chocolate bar on your period. Food should fuel more than just your body – it should fuel your mind, mental health and soul. It should aid in personal growth and memory making.
Blackberry picking (with my hands covered in cuts and dyed purple!) in the autumn brings back so many happy memories of my grandma that passed away; toffee muffins on a Tuesday with my best friend are a staple; my mum’s home-cooking makes me feel warm and comforted; trust ol’ Ben and Jerry’s has helped me through difficult break-ups; baking brownies makes me think of one of my best friends; a warm bowl of soup is like a hug on a cold day; cookie dough with your friends after time apart; adventures around London finding yummy places to eat with your pal.
For so long I fought this idea that food was to be enjoyed, I fought the concept that it doesn’t just have to fuel my body. My eating disorder holds onto that concept, that eating anything when I wasn’t hungry was ‘bad’ because I didn’t need it. But the thing is, you don’t always physically need it. Sometimes you need to feed your mind, and that’s a completely valid reason to eat it. The other day I was fighting the thought that I didn’t ‘need’ to eat a fig (yes, a bloody FIG) because I wasn’t hungry, but they remind me so much of my childhood and my mum – long story short, I said screw youto my ED and ate the fig, and I enjoyed every single mouthful and rejoiced in the memories it brought back.
And you know what… sometimes you want to eat something simply because you fancy it. Sometimes one of those freshly baked cookies you made for work just looks really bloody delicious, and I sure as hell am going to eat it.
Look at them though… do ya blame me?!
Take care ladybugs, and make sure to feed more than just your body x