Food Glorious Food: The good, the bad, the disordered.

Foods are often separated into two categories: healthy and unhealthy or good and bad. The idea that something has either a positive or negative effect on our body is engrained in individuals through what is now called a ‘diet culture’. Though many more diets and ‘healthy’ alternatives are available, the obesity rates have increased.

In order to minimise the rise in obese and overweight children the Australian Government have implemented a number of systems to target ‘bad’ foods. From the ‘flash light system’ to ‘healthy school canteens’, my own childhood primary school, King Park Public, had integrated these systems into their canteen.

Image from http://www.eatmorebefit.com/2015/10/19/good-food-vs-bad-food/

As someone who still battles with an eating disorder, this makes me question the impact that grouping foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ may have on children. And what benefits can demonizing certain foods have on children and their relationship with food in the long run?

Dieting Culture 🍉🍍🍌🍓🍋

Atkins, vegan, paleo, gluten free, sugar free, raw till 4. These are some of many diets that have gained, or re-established, their popularity through the Western worlds ‘dieting culture’.

What is a dieting culture? Basically it is when attempting to lose weight, or changing your body, through diet and exercise is considered to be the norm. You are applauded for your efforts and praised for your results.

Problems with this? 🤷🏻‍🤔

Problem A:
Weight loss infomercials, wellness cookbooks, low calorie alternatives and the ‘GET YOUR SUMMER BODY: JOIN NOW’ gym ads I see are constantly feeding (pun intended) into this message that no, we are not happy.

Not yet anyway.

Because when happiness is right around the corner, why would we stop running to get there?

When in doubt, sweat it out!

Problem B:
Are we chasing immortality? The more supplements we buy, the less saturated fats we eat, the more steps our Fitbit tells us we’ve taken — the longer we live, right? Well that is what you would hope for. We might live a little longer, that doesn’t mean we will live forever or even live better.

People willingly, happily, hand over their freedom in exchange for the bondage of a diet that forbids their most cherished foods, all for the promise of relief from choice.” — Michelle Allison

Yet we still keep getting bigger! 🐳

Ironically, despite how much we see on social media and news sites about health, fitness and wellness, Acai bowls and superfoods there is still an increasing number obese and overweight adults and children.

These statistics have resulted in the Government implementing certain plans to assist schools and parents in reducing these numbers. Though I applaud their efforts, they still fall short.

Take the ‘traffic light system’ for example, using green, amber and red to sorts certain food into these colours. Green meaning it is ok to go ahead. Amber is to choose carefully or slow down and red limit or stop.

Problems with this?

The system attempts to inform and educate parents and children on what is appropriate to have daily as oppose to what should be consumed in moderation. This has its benefits, however, may set kids up for an eating disorder or disordered behaviours; that is where the problem comes in.

Problem A:
Calories. Calories. Calories .
Kilojoules. Kilojoules. Kilojoules.

When looking into what distinguishes a green food from a red or an amber a factor is the kilojoule (or calorie) content.

“Green = Low in energy (kilojoules)”
“Amber = Lead you to take in too much energy (kilojoules)”
“Red = High in energy (kilojoules)

Translation:

Less calories = 👍🏼
More calories = 👎🏼

And while I understand it is more complex than this, it is important to remember that it is children who are taught these behaviours. Children do not think about these things in a complex way, nor should they have to.

Problem B:
Green/Red & Good/Bad

Teaching children to categorise food, separate them and add labels such as ‘ok/not ok’, ‘healthy/unhealthy’, ‘green/red’ can send them down a black and white rabbit hole.

‘Green and red’ becomes synonymous with ‘good and bad’.

Take it from someone who has struggle with an eating disorder for over three years, someone who has put their food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ groups and as a result of eating a ‘bad’ food has felt like a ‘bad’ person.

These are the same behaviours that will follow them around for the rest of their lives. Because isn’t that the entire point of this government implemented system? To teach kids habits they will adopt into their adulthood.

Banning the bad 🍕🌭🍔🍫🍭🍩

I live about thirty seconds from my childhood primary school, King Park Public. Once in a while I like to visit their website and see what is happening and what changes have been made.

Having once had the ‘traffic light system’, King Park has now introduced the ‘Healthy School Canteens’. Rather than the three colour grouping, they have cut it down to two; every day and occasional. These changes include removing ‘unhealthy’ foods and replacing them with alternatives. But they are not applicable to just my primary; all public schools will undergo these adjustments over a three-year period.

Including the 3.5/5 rating. 
Unless it makes the 3.5 mark on the health star rating … say goodbye.

  • Ice cream, potato products, sweets, certain meat products, slushies

Essentially all of the fun stuff.

Guilty Nostalgia 😕

My favourite thing about primary school were the mini meat pies. You could get one of those handsome devils for 50c each and I use to get my $2 worth every lunch time. But knowing that children won’t have little things like that grinds my gears. Pies also make the ‘occasional’ food list.

As dramatic as it sounds, it is almost like someone is pointing back to my childhood and saying ‘no, that was wrong’.

My childhood was probably the time my relationship with food was its healthiest. I never worried about ‘good’ or ‘bad’; I could just eat. Now, at twenty-two, I can barely get through a greek salad.

Let them be kids, let them enjoy.

We set children up for this diet obsessed culture, demonising foods and guilt ourselves when we have something ‘bad’.

This isn’t a life but unfortunately it is the norm of today’s society.