I must admit, this entire post was inspired by this podcast. If you haven’t heard of Rebel Eater’s Club, it’s an in-depth look at how diet culture came about, including weight-based discrimination. This post really isn’t about the systemic issues of diet culture that cause body shaming (that may come later) but, really about how to get down to the nitty gritty (sometimes dirty) ways to eat and why we eat.

Yes, of course, we eat because we need to. We eat because we’re hungry. But we also eat because we’re bored, tired, stressed, happy, angry. We also eat to fuel our performance. We eat because of cultures and celebrations. The quantities of what we eat is largely based on all of those factors too, along with our biology! Many of us, especially this time of year, are interested in analyzing the quantities of our food. Is it too much? Is it too little? We also worry about the quality. Is it “good” or “bad”? Hint: no food is good or bad. As good-intentioned as this self-analyzation may be, we can unknowingly be developing poor food relationships and worse, relationships with ourselves.

While I’m not denying that we should respect and understand that food science, balanced meals, portions relative to our goals, and nutrient-dense options all serve their purpose, I want to suggest that we don’t forget that food does (and should) also bring us joy. Food reminds us of many happy times, places, and people. If we deprive ourselves of that food, we deprive ourselves of those memories. One of those memories (and trust me, there are many) for me is the fatty, greasy, indulgently delicious, carne asada with oven-fresh tortillas from my Oma. Now, I do not have this food every day or even once a month. I’m lucky if I have it once a year! But, when I do, you better believe my hands and face get dirty. Like, nasty dirty. I’m embracing all of the flavors and letting them run down me like the memories across my mind. I embrace, and then I move on.

So, maybe your food memory is pizza, chocolate cake, cookies, or mashed potatoes. But I hope that when you do eat that food, you’re not afraid to get a little messy and you feel no guilt in enjoying that special moment.

I’ll leave you with this powerful quote from the episode regarding how much we value food science:

“respect what science can do for us, but also that valuing of science only being important insofar as it allows us to advance justice, or advance, love and advance dignity”