Why Language Matters

Clean Eating: There is no actual definition of clean eating; it implies that other food are dirty. The gurus of clean eating have managed to make bland, bare food appear more moral, but the use of “clean” to describe some foods is problematic and judgmental. Also, what is the opposite of clean? Dirty? So, if you aren’t eating clean, are you eating dirty or unclean? While this seems innocent, it may actually establish feelings of superiority when eating “clean” and then subsequent guilt from not eating clean food. It also has a role in the rise of the eating disorder known as orthorexia.

Good” Food “Bad” Food: Foods don’t have a moral value, you are not a good or bad person for eating any type or amount of food. Food is neutral. No one food is morally superior. Putting foods into categories of good and bad might make sense in your brain but it may also complicate your relationship with food. Fearing foods, feeling stressed about eating them, and/or compensating in any way are not healthful behaviours, and these often come up when you label foods as such.

“Treat” Yourself: Food isn’t a reward. This normally comes from labelling a food off- limits or only allowing a food at specific events or circumstances, which can make you feel restricted and increase your likeliness to have a complicated relationship with food.

“Earned” It: There is nothing anyone needs to do to ‘earn’ food. We need food in enough variety and quantity to survive. Compensating with certain behaviours (eating or exercising) to feel you’ve earned food is damaging and unhealthful. This is a kind of pre-atonement, suggesting that you must punish yourself with exercise to justify enjoying food—not because it’s delicious or your body is craving its nutrients, but because you earned it.

“Diet Start Tomorrow:” This encourages the binge-restrict cycle; it’s often used as a joke but has very real effects on your food behaviours. It promotes a ‘last supper’ followed by restriction which inevitably leads to feeling out of control around foods and continued diet cycling.

“Guilt Free:” Guilt is not an ingredient, all foods are guilt free. This is a marketing tactic that negatively impacts your behaviour and feelings around foods. Food should not be guilt-provoking. If you eat something and feel guilty for doing so, then there may be some unexplored food rules that need addressing. Remember that health is not only about what you eat, it should also meet your emotional, social and mental needs.

Adapted From: Brenna O'Malley, Registered Dietitian: Virtual Non-Diet Dietitian & Intuitive Eating Online. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://thewellful.com/

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