After reading an article interviewing food writer and finalist of TV series Great British Bake-off, Ruby Tandoh, I couldn’t help but share my thoughts and feelings towards her views on clean eating and the wellness movement.
Ruby, who won a place on Bake-off, left university to pursue food writing, has now written her first cookbook and is advocating against the clean-eating and wellness movement. Having suffered from anorexia and bulimia throughout her teenage years and into college, she explains that she was “completely anxious about food and was never able to sit down and enjoy a meal”. Her focus is now on the enjoyment of food, rather than being obsessive over eating healthy.
Coming from someone who has also struggled with bulimia for several years, I can completely sympathize when Ruby discusses extremes in eating clean instead of just sitting down to enjoy a meal, but where I disagree is that she equates the enjoyment or pleasure of a meal to foods that are complete junk for our bodies when she says she’d rather eat a McDonalds double cheeseburger and fries than have anything on a fancy menu. She says “it’s delicious cheap food and obviously you can’t eat it every day, but it’d be a miserable life if we always denied ourselves”.
The issue I have with Ruby’s stance is that she goes from one extreme to the other while bashing the wellness industry disproportionately. The notion that eating McDonalds is “good” food is nonsensical to say the very least. Cheap, yes, but not good. A food may be stimulating to your taste buds because of the ratio of sugar, fat and salt it contains, but the effects of that food on the body are by no means “good”.
There is nothing wrong with eating a cheeseburger and fries, and I support her position in that we need to enjoy the food we eat, but why is it that junk foods are the foods she’s insisting are the only enjoyable kinds of food. What about a good quality homemade burger and fries you’ve made yourself? What about eating at an establishment that has a higher standard for the ingredients they use and the ethics they stand for? Why do we have to go from one extreme that says we need to be obsessive about eating healthy food to the other extreme that says the only enjoyable foods are the foods that are damaging to our bodies?
As an Eating Psychology Coach, I advocate health in every area: body, mind and spirit. How can we claim to be healthy if we only eat or do things because we feel good when we do them but by doing those things we end up hurting our physical bodies? Conversely, how can we claim to be healthy if we eat clean foods but criticize and judge our bodies all day long? True health comes from every area being engaged and focused on, not just one.
Like I said, I can totally sympathize with Ruby coming from a similar eating history, but the fact of the matter is that not everyone has struggled with an eating disorder, and most people don’t have the tendency to go extreme with healthy eating, most people tend to lean the other direction. Ruby talks about moderation with fast food, but for most people, their reality is that they consume fast/junk food on a daily basis, not on occasion. Obesity continues to climb and society continues to struggle more and more with unwanted health conditions. People are over fed, undernourished and chronically sick from lifestyle related diseases that can be prevented through the foods we choose to eat, as well as the way we eat those foods.
Ruby also touches on something very interesting that should be noted when she talks about the social division between healthy eaters and non-healthy eaters. She talks about the judgment we impose on people who feed their kids “KFC and fizzy drinks” and only offer them alternatives like coconut oil, coconut flour or other costly health foods that the majority of families can’t afford. I think this is a brilliant observation and should seriously be taken into consideration. We need to seriously consider how we use food to standardize ourselves in society, but realize that low income families/individuals are the very people who are struggling the most with chronic illness.
People who live in poverty don’t have the money to eat properly so they consume junk food or fast food that costs them next to nothing financially, but costs them dearly health wise. Basically saying to leave these people alone and let them be happy with their KFC and fizzy drinks is facilitating the problem, not helping it. Instead of promoting the consumption of foods that are undeniably dangerous to people’s health, why not instigate a movement of more governmental support for low income families and individuals to help them eat healthier?
Again, I feel our default is to go from one extreme to the other. No one is asking anyone to spend their life savings on coconut oil and medjool dates, healthy eaters and writers are simply giving alternatives to people who want to keep their bodies healthy and free from disease. Is that such a crime?
I know what going from one extreme to the next is like, and I know that there needs to be a balance between enjoying what we eat, but making sure what we eat is aiding in the sustainability of our bodies. Enjoying your food is an integral part of nutrition and true enjoyment comes from not only the tastes you get from food, but the intention and quality of the food you’re consuming.
I personally feel better about what I’m eating if I know that it’s not full of toxins or synthetic chemicals that are going to hurt my body, call me crazy, but that’s enjoyable for me. I don’t enjoy feeling lethargic after eating food-like products that tantalize my senses but do nothing for my body, I’d rather eat foods that I’ve prepared with my own hands, that didn’t cost me a fortune, but I know where they come from. I feed myself healthy foods because I appreciate the body I’ve been given and want to keep it healthy for a long time.
To suggest that the wellness industry is self-righteous is unfair. We need to adopt a different view on food and health that incorporates the pleasure of eating along with eating foods that build the body up. It’s not the wellness industry that necessarily needs to change, it’s our mindsets.
An obsession with body image or the fixation on “good” and “bad” foods should never be our focus, I agree with what Ruby touches on, but the other extreme is that we just stop caring all together, which isn’t right either. I have written countless articles that talk about the importance of enjoying our food, not terming food as “good” or “bad”, and the dangers of dieting so I can see where Ruby is coming from and I commend her efforts in overcoming her disorder and the message she’s trying to convey to people. What I believe she’s saying is “don’t get caught up in the obsession on eating certain foods that claim to be healthy and miss out on all the enjoyment you could have in giving yourself the freedom to eat what you love”. The mindset we need to change though is that we love rubbish food. Processed food is like cigarettes, you only think you enjoy it because you’re addicted. Once you begin to eat real food consistently, anything fake will become unsatisfying.
I choose to eat clean, healthy, sustainably grown food. I personally follow a vegetarian diet, eat loads of carbs and make sure I enjoy what I eat at every meal. I don’t substitute pasta for zucchini, but the pasta I buy is good quality pasta, not Kraft Dinner. I’m not going to lower my standards just because the food industry tells me a certain product will make me happy. I personally don’t derive happiness from a McDonalds cheeseburger, I’m happy when I feel healthy and full of energy, which is something fast food doesn’t give me.
Read Ruby's article and let me know what you think. Do you believe the wellness movement is negative or positive? Don't forget to fill out the form below and subscribe to my blog (no junk mail)!