I’d forgotten that these lines of mine

weren’t meant for the repeat:

erase and redraw.

Though your gaze traced the outline of something more suited to conform.

The shapes and colours I’ll move through linger

for you no more.

Clean. Dirty. Naughty. Cheat. All words which have found their way into our vocabulary about food. I often find myself making a pact that I will go to the gym before I’ve even bitten into a burger or tasted a bar of chocolate. As if physical exercise could wash away the ‘dirt’ of food.

That’s part of the problem we face. Morality and food, punishment and exercise have become so inseparable that seem to lost sight of one important fact: both are fun, both are okay. Perhaps it might seem trivial but the language we use about food will affect our relationship with it. Menus filled with ‘dirty’ burgers and fries set them apart from the more virtuous salad section. The same is true of exercise. I recently saw a pair of workout leggings with ‘no days off’ emblazoned on them.

Not one day off?

Our obsession with food and exercise shows no signs of stopping. There are currently 1.6 million people in the UK living with an eating disorder and the majority of those are in the 14-25 age group (figures from Beat and MIND). In my previous blog post I talked about the body positivity movement and advances it was making in changing these unsettling statistics.

My own experience has varied over the years. At its lowest point I would eat a meal-deal a day, not being able to face the thought of eating more. At others, I’d be gyming intensively five days a week and eating only 1,200 calories a day. It became an obsession to reach a goal which like a point on the horizon was always out of reach. My body was something to endure and food was a hostile thought.

Gradually understanding that I don’t have to be in a constant struggle to alter myself has improved my relationship with food and exercise. I still have a way to go and until we can change the way we talk about food by detaching it from this confusing morality, and until we can accept that exercise doesn’t have to be punishment, the struggle will continue.

Let’s start by enjoying each bite and each step.


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