Food Guilt in the Age of Nutrition Wars and Global Warming

Girl eating green apple while looking out window into sunshine.

Once upon a time, a war began between people and the food they consumed.

The war was fuelled by both good and evil: On the one side, a force telling us being healthy meant eating the “right foods,” and on the other, a force telling us that being attractive meant condemning the “wrong foods.”

As the war waged on, the lines between good foods and bad foods blurred. One day, you’d see headlines about the dangers of seemingly natural foods like eggs, milk, meat, or gluten, and the next day like clockwork, you’d see convincing contradictions that made you feel like a fool.

You’d be told fat is bad, and then you’d be told low-fat labels were equivalent to high-sugar chemical sh*t storms. Silly you.

You’d be told to avoid junk food only to find “healthy” junk food options filling the store shelves at unprecedented rates.

You’d be told to eat more fruits and veggies and then you’d be told all those pesticides were certainly going to give you cancer.

You’d be told the best diet for a long-life was vegan, keto, paleo, raw, and then you’d be told you were crazy for believing so.

In my lifetime alone, it has became increasingly difficult to wade through the nutritional war ground and eat anything with confidence. This has led to a sad divide between people and their bodies and has sparked a multi-billion dollar industry of nutritionists, diet experts, and “gurus” who sell a sense of surety in insecure times.

And now, those confusing food goals we were struggling with before have been met by yet another layer of complexity: climate change.

For anyone paying attention, the same kind of war has begun between good and evil but this time, literally nothing is off limits. What the nutrition wars would deem as superfoods are now served with a side of guilt as we begin to understand how our insatiable need for healthy food is destroying foreign communities and entire ecosystems and directly contributing to the exacerbation of climate change.

In 2019, truly no food is off limits. We can now feel terrible about every single thing we eat from avocados to quinoa to fish and beyond. The lines have been blurred to a level where it’s getting increasingly difficult to continue caring. After all, if you’re going to feel a sense of guilt over eating anything, why bother with food goals at all?

Why food goals are still important

Food goals are still important because at their core they encourage us to eat with intention. In today’s fast-paced convenience culture, eating with intention is one of the most difficult things we do. Most of us are bombarded by billboards blasting fast food ads in our faces and unforgiving schedules that make cooking at home a much-missed luxury. It can be really challenging to make it a priority to truly nourish our bodies and lower our environmental impact—and this kind of cycle leads to detrimental feelings of food guilt.

Pair that with all the marketing misinformation and you’ve got a recipe for complacency. But if you can learn to quiet the noise from advertising dollars telling you what foods to eat, you can restore a sense of trust in your own intuition.

I mean, most of us know what we should eat based upon what makes us feel good, and no, not the “good” like the “that was so good but I’ll pay for it later” kind of good. I’m talking about the kind of good feeling that gives you energy and boosts your mood for longer than your meal lasts. I’m talking about the kind of good feeling that comes from making the best choice for the environment and animals that you can, given the options available to you.

Let’s keep in mind that right now, with the broken food system we have, it’s not possible to be perfect. Let’s take a sec to repeat that here because we all need to hear it and feel it: it is not possible to be perfect. The “best” means the least evil of all the options and the spectrum is always swinging.

What to do with food guilt

Toss it in the compost. Seriously. Get rid of it. Food guilt doesn’t do anyone any good and it doesn’t help the environment or its animals, either. In fact, food guilt is more likely to make you do silly things like put strict restrictions in place that consume you and lead you to “cheat.”

There is no such thing as cheating in the context of living a healthy and ecoconscious lifestyle. This is not a diet. It’s a way of looking at the world and understanding the complexities at play by continuously learning and doing new things.

If you’re doing your best to nourish your body and do the least harm to the planet as possible within your own unique situation, kudos to you. You’re doing far more than most and you certainly don’t deserve to feel bad about not doing better.

This is a process and while the pressure is on as we watch the around us change, we need to remember that moving forward means leaving food guilt behind.

Cover image credit: Unsplash


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