Food: Good vs Evil
Recently, in response to a comment I made about the calories in fruit juice, a new client said to me that fruit juice is “evil.” I am a philosopher at heart. So “evil” means something quite severe to me. Hitler and Stalin were evil. Fruit juice, not so much.
I checked back with my client. No, she didn’t mean it was literally evil. Just that it’s as bad as a can of Coke. Still pretty bad, if not downright evil. Other anti-juice people will jump in to clarify further I’m sure once they read this. Juice is really, really bad FOR you. Or is it?
The whole thing brings me back to the idea of moderation. We can live life by strict rules and have all sorts of forbidden foods on a black list if we like. But forbidden foods are, for many of us, more attractive for being forbidden.
I know that when I finally truly legalized all foods, french fries, which I’d considered my favorite food for all of my life, suddenly lost their appeal. They’re okay, and I do enjoy them from time to time. But are they my favorite foods? No. If I had a choice of giving up fries for the rest of my life or giving up pineapple for the rest of my life, I’d give up the fries. And not because they’re “bad” or even “bad for me,” but because I simply love a good fresh pineapple.
The food police are those people who like to jump in and tell you about the evil foods that are bad for you and that you should avoid. I’m not interested in what they have to say. I am extremely well informed about nutrition and used to be able to rhyme off all sorts of fun facts about countless foods. I wrote them down every day and kept meticulous count. I avoided fruit juice and all caloric drinks so as not to waste the stingily parceled out grams of this or that. Like so many people, I felt so incredibly virtuous when I stuck with it, often for months and even years at a time.
I convinced myself, as I have heard so many others do, that I just loved this way of eating. It was so great! And I was so good! Meanwhile, I felt deprived, especially around celebrations and special occasions, which are enhanced by taking a meal together. I had my false sense of virtue, but it wasn’t much fun.
I have also witnessed the effect of “virtuous” eating on others who were not so virtuous but who thought they should be. People would apologize for themselves for eating. “I shouldn’t be having this, but…” That is always a preamble to the next day’s self-flagellation, “I was so bad at my daughter’s wedding yesterday.” Or this one, “I’ll just take a sliver.” When I was a young adult, my mother and I polished off close to whole banana loaf over the course of an evening by taking little slivers. Even today I look back and think I should have just cut off a good sized slice, slathered it with butter, sat down with it, and enjoyed it. Instead, I sneaked into the kitchen a few times and shaved off inadequate pieces that left me wanting more.
When we moralize foods into good, bad, evil even, we deny ourselves permission and set ourselves up not just as failures, but as moral failures.
If the foods that made people feel so bad weren’t forbidden or “sinful” in the first place, they’d be less attractive and people would be less likely to eat more of them than is comfortable. One of my favorite things to do with new clients who uncontrollably crave things like chocolate or chips is give them PERMISSION to have a serving every day for a week (gasp!) Usually by the end of the week they forget to eat it. Weird huh?
Are there any foods that, for health reasons, we simply should not eat EVER, that even in tiny amounts are “evil”? Of course, some people are allergic to things that will kill them if they eat them. And as for vegans I am keenly aware of their social, moral and political reasons for avoiding certain foods.
But those foods aside, I’m not sure if there are any foods that should never, ever, under any circumstances, be eaten because of our health. And if there are, fruit juice is not among them.