I just made the biggest mistake of my entire career.
Last night I was helping the local chapter of Girl Guides get their Fitness badge. I covered everything they needed to know and made the evening fun, interactive, and very educational (I’m a geek like that). I taught them how to warm up before and after exercise, why exercise is important, and how to properly do different exercises. I shared with them the importance of caring for their bodies, and informed them that they were strong, beautiful, and healthy. And then, regretfully, I made a seemingly well intentioned, but terrible mistake.
I talked about nutrition. I shared with them the importance of eating healthy, and why it’s important we fuel our bodies well. We discussed proper nutrition, as they shouted out answers to my questions:
“what are the best foods to eat before and after exercise?”
“What are the bad foods that you shouldn’t eat?”
I now wear the guilt of this, and am determined to do better. As adults, particularly females, our minds are pliable and easily deceived. Somewhere along the line, as we age and begin to learn the differences between ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods we start to associate ourselves with them. Eating good food means we are good. Eating bad food means we are bad; as if somehow what is being broken down in our stomach is being digested within our minds.
Before we know it, we’ve cast labels upon ourselves; categorizing ourselves as good, or bad. Subconsciously we are good when we eat good, and we are bad when we eat bad. The result of this is deep and utterly painful shame. Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. Suddenly, somehow, eating, an essential mechanism for survival has become a toxic poison to our minds.
Shame is hard to overcome, and it’s even harder to recognize. It resides in the deepest places of our being, telling ourselves that we are not worthy enough. That because of the choices we make, from something as innocent as the foods we eat, we do not deserve to be happy or successful. It whispers lies that we will never look the way we want to, that everyone is as unhappy with us as we are with ourselves, and that we will never be enough.
This is not okay.
Labelling foods as good, or bad, is not okay. We need to teach our children that they are strong, beautiful, and healthy. We need to teach them that food is an energy source, and the importance and the opportunity that we have to be able to fuel our bodies with foods that nourish and build our bodies. We need to teach them that certain foods are better fuel than others, and because of that, we should eat these more often. We need to teach our children to recognize how good they feel when they fuel with good choices; to celebrate their energy, their health, and their effort in nurturing their bodies. We need to teach our children self love, self care, and healthy identifies in themselves, including the foods they eat.
The problem is, we need to teach ourselves this first. We need to see the choices we make, and the words we use as powerful weapons that have a powerful impact. We need to stop the all or nothing mentality, the good or bad habits; the ‘I’ll start again on Monday, then I’ll be good’, “I’ve been so bad this week!’ We need to stop identifying ourselves by our behaviours and actions, and start making choices that nourish us physically and mentally. Choices that teach us that we are beautiful, that we are strong, and that we are healthy. Not solely by the foods we put into our bodies, but by what we allow into our minds.