There is a term flying around out there that I absolutely HATE. I don’t just hate it…I believe it’s dangerous.
Sure, maybe it’s just a word…
But words are powerful. Words bring life or death. Words matter. That’s why I do my best to be very wise with the words I choose to use.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a recipe that a friend posted on Facebook, and for some reason it caught my attention. It wasn’t the food or the recipe itself…it was the title. “Guilt-Free Apple Crisp”
As I read that title, I had a flashback to early 2008. It was so real, I felt like I was reliving it all over again.
I was sitting on the floor of my dorm room closet, leaning against the closed door. My entire body shook violently as hot tears streamed down my face. “What the hell have I done?” I asked myself. “Who have I become?”
I heard my roommate unlock the door and walk into our room. “Please don’t come in. Please don’t come in. Please don’t come in,” I thought to myself. I held my breath as I heard her walk past the closed closet door. She set her bag down, and I listened in silence as she rummaged through her things, praying she wouldn’t come into the closet for any reason. A few minutes later, I heard her shut the door on her way out. I took as deep a breath as I could manage.
It had been 9 days since I’d eaten so much as a stalk of celery. But just 20 minutes earlier, a friend sat with me and watched as I ate an entire apple. It may not seem like much, but it was. “We’re not leaving here until it’s gone,” she told me. I slowly finished the apple, one tiny bite at a time. “This is good,” I tried to convince myself. “I need this. My body needs this. It’s just an apple. This is a good thing.”
I never made eye contact with my friend as I ate, but I could feel her piercing eyes staring at me. Surely she was judging me. Surely she was angry at me. Surely she was giving up on me. And I didn’t blame her.
“I’m going to be late for class,” I told her. “I should go. I’ll be okay, I promise. See ya later.”
I stood up and slowly made my way down the hallway, which seemed never-ending, grasping the wall for support. I finally made it to my dorm room, and I shut and locked the door behind me.
My head was spinning. I couldn’t catch my breath. I saw bright spots flashing across my field of vision. “Dammit! I’ll never make it to the bathroom!” I grabbed a plastic Walmart bag as I stumbled into the closet I shared with my roommate. I collapsed to the floor as I threw up the apple I was just force-fed. I wiped my face with my shaking hands. “This is so stupid,” I thought to myself. I no longer had to shove my fingers down my throat. I had trained my body to know what to do. Food goes in, food comes out. “You’re so disgusting,” I told myself.
The room kept spinning as I started to sit up, placing both hands on the floor to steady myself. I leaned against the closet door and looked up at the clothes hanging above me. “This is what you wanted. You did this to yourself. Are you happy now?”
I had lost over 80 pounds since the beginning of the school year. I was finally making progress toward the body I wanted. I should be happy. I should be ecstatic. But all I felt was empty. Disgusting. Ashamed. Guilty.
There are no guilt-free foods. To be fair, there are no guilty foods, either. Food is food.
Maybe it’s because of my history… Maybe it’s because I am very sensitive to unhealthy mindsets about food… Maybe it’s just the way it is…
Either way, when we see “guilt-free” attached to some foods, it implies there is guilt attached to other foods.
My question is…
How exactly does one determine if there is guilt attached to a certain food item?
The number of calories? Grams of sugar or carbs or fat? If it’s made with coconut flour instead of regular flour? How much you eat of a certain food? Who is with you when you eat that particular food? Is it guilt-free if you eat it on your birthday or a holiday or while standing up? Is it guilt-free if you are sitting in your bedroom alone eating your secret stash of chocolate? Or maybe if you eat it in the car and throw the trash away at a gas station before you go home so nobody finds out? Is it guilt-free if it follows all of your arbitrary food rules?
For years, every food was guilt-free. As long as I was alone when I ate it and I had immediate access to a toilet. The calories didn’t count as long as I could purge them from my system within a set amount of time.
But then the real guilt set in. Turns out, it wasn’t about the food, after all. Food doesn’t bring guilt. Unrealistic expectations, pressure, our own personal demons bring guilt.
Stop letting the world tell you how to feel based on what you eat. I can tell you, even when you eat nothing, you can still be plagued with guilt and shame. It has nothing to do with the food.
Like I said, words are powerful. You will never hear the words “Guilt-Free” anything come out of my mouth. Why? Because I choose not to accept the implied guilt. Food is food.
I will choose to make healthy decisions about what food I put into my body. I will feed my body the food it needs to function. I will enjoy food. I will be wise about food. I will guard my heart, my mind, and my body when it comes to this topic. And I will reject the guilt and shame society tries to place on me.
And I invite you to do the same.