Last week I sat in a lecture listening to a professor/RD talk about snacking while watching television. She innocently mentioned that she and her husband ate an entire bag of chips, so they “had to walk it all off afterwards.” “Thank goodness we got rid of those calories!” she joked. I looked around as other students smiled and laughed with her. I sat motionless. Yet my mind was on fire.
How could an experienced professional in my field make such a comment with no regard to the true implications of her words? She, just like so many other people who surround me, implied that food is bad and must be fought off. It must be exercised off. It must be earned.
Why should we have to earn our food? Do we make our pets earn their food or exercise to “make up” for the calories they eat? Would we tell our best friend that she could only eat a cupcake if she had eaten less than X number of calories so far that day? Would I dare enter a hospital room to see a patient and tell him that he needed to get out of bed and take some laps around the hospital to “burn off” his lunch? We have somehow morphed into a culture where food is simply a privilege. Food is not a necessity.
This food-shaming, exercise-praising culture we now live in is slowly destroying us from the inside out. When we force ourselves to “earn” food, we are simultaneously forcing our lungs, hearts, brains, muscles, and all other organs to “earn” food. They work for us 24-7 in order to keep us alive and able to do all of the things we do in a single day. So why would we punish them by only giving them food (read: energy/ATP) when we feel that it’s justifiable – when it’s on our terms?
We deserve food at all times. Not when it’s convenient. Not when we decide we’ve exercised enough that day. Not after we’ve fasted. Not until our stomachs are growling so loudly it is no longer bearable. Not when we feel that we earn it. Our bodies require energy at all times. It is our job to provide it consistently and regularly in a way that is comfortable, positive, and enjoyable.
I’m sorry if your body’s physiological demands don’t fit into your perfectly planned schedule, weight control regime, or mental rules. I know, I’ve been there. But you really only have one job – and that’s keeping yourself alive and functioning. We go to the doctor’s office when our bodies aren’t functioning properly. We go to physical therapy when our bodies are bent out of shape. We spend hours researching our issues online in desperate hopes of finding treatments. Staying alive and functioning is everyone’s main priority, yet we never seem to start by treating our bodies properly. So let’s start by feeding our bodies appropriately, staying well nourished and hydrated all day long, and exercising when it feels convenient and enjoyable. Let’s ease our minds of the constant counting, calculating, and contemplating. Let’s learn to eat regardless of our plans or agendas. Let’s learn to eat regardless of what or when we last ate or will eat. Let’s learn to eat without boundaries, binding conditions, or terms. Let’s learn to eat regardless of whether or not we “earned it.” Believe me, you’ve “earned it.”