January is known for being a month of restriction, where countless swathes of the population join gyms and cut out sweets.
Now I’m all for a healthier society, and anyone who’s met me knows I’m pro – resolution making.
But there seems to have been a shift in the way we talk about food and dieting which is unhelpful at best and actively damaging at worst.
I’m talking about ‘sinful’ food – burgers advertised as ‘filthy’ and ‘dirty’, the unthinking equating of a moral judgement with food high in fat, sugar, or both.
Certain types of food are undoubtedly unhealhy, especially eaten regularly (constantly) or in place of a balanced way of eating.
Yet are they intrinsically bad? I fail to see how a doughnut can be evil. This anthropomorphism provides us with a subject to blame for our lapses in good intentions and grand plans to only eat salad for the month of January. We give up our self control in the face of a wicked temptress – a handy excuse, perhaps, for why we can’t say no.
But it doesn’t make the food less appetising – in fact denying yourself something can make you want it more (try not thinking of a penguin, now I’ve mentioned one).
It also allows people to use food as a reward – which might be okay for training dogs, but can create longstanding patterns of behaviour around emotional eating. Food can certainly be emotive, but I don’t want to depend on sugar or calories when I’m stressed.
Giving unhealthy food special significance makes it difficult to treat it neutrally. It’s how we eat that should be changed if we want to eat better; demonising our own delicious creations makes no sense.
So don’t blame the doughnuts.