1. It is not poison. It won’t infect your life, won’t make you any less of a human being for eating it, and has no bearing on who you are as a person. There are foods that are more healthy and less healthy, but choosing a cookie when you want an apple has no bearing on you as a human being.
2. It is not a measure of yourself as a human being. There is no glory in depriving ourselves. We think there is sometimes, but we end up just looking like that sad shell of a person in the corner, agonizing over every last morsel. And it’s not fun to be that person. It’s cold and lonely and scary, and whatever self-worth we define to our food is fleeting. It lasts only so long as that one meal, and we’re left constantly hungry for something that isn’t food.
3. It is not a measure of your strength. Ordering a salad when you want a burger is silly. Eat a burger if you want a burger. Eat a salad if you want a salad. Life is too short to deprive ourselves.
4. It is not a measure of how loving you are…
5. …or how great you are at your job…
6. …or of how nice you are…
7. …or of how you treat other people. Food is just food, and while that is glorious, giving it more powers than it deserves is just a waste of energy. We bond over food, we make memories over meals and parties and holiday feasts, but we make those memories with other people. Food is just the facilitator. Food will never not be food.
8. It is not a significant other. I’ve shared many a bed with a package of Oreos, but food won’t hug you back.
9. Or your demise. Or the end of the world. Or why the zombies will go for you first in the apocalypse. It may feel sometimes like the world is ending because you somehow didn’t hit a set number of arbitrary goals you’ve set for yourself. But those goals are just that: arbitrary. And there is always tomorrow. Sometimes your goals take time. Sometimes you need to take a little longer. Berating yourself for making a mistake—especially if it’s not really a mistake at all—will only hold you back in the long run.
10. It is not CELL-U-GRO! Now with 10 times the cellulite power in half the time! Your body stores excess calories the way it stores excess calories, and no one magic food will change that. Your body’s natural state is that of balance, of homeostasis. And it will try to stay there as much as possible, no matter how “badly” you eat for one day.
11. It is not reason to force yourself to run 6 miles a day. Run if you want to, but run because you love to run. Run because it frees something in your heart and your mind and gives you clarity and makes your lungs work and your legs sore. Run because it makes you feel free. Find a workout you love, but don’t punish yourself with that workout.
12. Or something you have to earn by running 6 miles a day. You want to know how you earn food? You breathe. You live. You deserve calories just by virtue of the fact that you exist. Not for any other reason.
13. It is not a proper way to forget about a bad day. It’s so easy to wallow in your problems, to drown your fears and sorrows and anger in something deep fried and greasy, but deep down, the bad day will still be there. Food can’t erase it. And if you have a complicated problem with food as it is, you will never really be able to forget. You’ll only add to your problems. It’s better to channel those emotions through something else, and if you want to eat the burger because you want a burger, so be it.
14. It is not a good reason to make your good mood a crappy mood. You and you alone decide to let food impact your mood. If you think you should have made a better decision, then make a better decision at your next meal. What happened happened. You can’t change it. Don’t punish yourself for the past. Just take steps towards what you want in the future.
15. It is not the whole reason why your body is what it is and does what it does. Food is not to blame for your thighs, or your lack of a thigh gap, or the reason why you can’t see your collar bones or fit into a size 2. Food isn’t to blame for your lack of breasts, your lack of an ass, or why you don’t have a six-pack. If it was the only factor, everyone who ate well would look exactly the same. You can be healthy and a size 10. You can be healthy and a size 4. And you can eat fries and have a butt, and eat carrot sticks and not be lithe and petite. Your genes play a huge role in how you look, too. Taking all of your frustration with your body out on food just because it’s the variable you can manipulate is unhealthy.
16. It is not the problem. It took me years to realize that my rabid attempt to control my food wasn’t the issue, and that there were things I was masking with my eating disorder. It took even longer to finally sift through those issues, and all the while, I kept trying to return to that blame, to pointing my finger at food and saying that if I had a normal relationship with food, the rest of my life wouldn’t have unraveled. But your life will become unhinged long before you begin to show symptoms. And it will be scary to get to the root of the issue, and it will sound trite to try to come to terms with the fact that something else is the problem, but it’s true.
17. It is not the answer to your problems. It never was. It never could be. The answer to your problems lies within yourself.