We do not use “this is a good/bad food” here.

I’ll admit it, I was super pessimistic and anxious going into today. I was 110% certain I would be writing a post that pretty much said the opposite of this, but here we are instead.

I’ll have more on my experience in clinical this semester soon, but I’ll explain a little context for now. We are back, for the next 6 weeks, in the same community I was at for half of fall semester last year. It’s truly been incredible so far. One of the many projects we’re working on involves a teaching program for nutrition. It was developed to be used at different faith-based settings like one in our neighborhood. All I knew heading into today was that we were going to help teach these people about healthier eating and spending patterns. I think I probably took in a big gulp of air at that point and didn’t release that tension until the last three minutes of training today.

I was so very stressed about the program because I have seen how diet culture leeches into any and every single health-based program I can think of. I remember watching as (unknowingly) a classmate ended up teaching on something that sounded like it came from a dieting 101 class. I’ve seen materials for children more focused on saying what you should and shouldn’t eat or how bad fat is rather than promoting a picture of trying to choose more nutritious foods. I could go on, but essentially I just assumed I would be semi-forced to follow a curriculum that I cannot fully support.

I waiting for any of many disappointing phrases all session, until this one made me smile: “we do not use language like ‘this is a good/bad food’ here.” I could have hugged her, I swear. She went on to explain that the goal is to encourage nutritious choices, such as whole grains, but to avoid language that insinuates it is bad if you eat xyz. They don’t believe that causing people to feel guilty about their food choices is a good tactic (ESPECIALLY in our mostly low-income/homeless population). I could not agree more, and I am excited to reach these people in a way that can teach nutrition without it sounding like a guide for weight loss.

I often struggle deeply with believing that I am bad for what I do or do not eat. The ED thoughts scream if I even think about enjoying something that’s off limits. While this is not a “practice what I preach” scenario yet, I am grateful that I can promote a healthy relationship with food to some of the most vulnerable in our community. Maybe along the way I can re-learn a little, too!

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