|This was an amazing dinner. Food guilt? What food guilt?|
Can everyone stop wanging on about ‘clean eating’ please? (When I say ‘everyone’, the people who’ll know who I’m referring to will be the people – probably women, yes – who, like me, spend their internet time flitting between Twitter, the Guardian, and Instagram. No, I don’t have a life.)
Hadley Freeman puts it excellently – as always – here if you need a quick catch-up.
So yeah, if your internet habits tend towards the shallow, as mine do (an assortment of beauty/lifestyle blogs, the afore-mentioned Instagram, the lifestyle sections of various news sites), you’ll know what I’m talking about. Glamorous, photogenic young things with impractically long hair, painfully stylish food blogs and frankly insulting book deals. The ones who extol the virtues of baking cakes using avocado and sweet potato and cacao powder, instead of flour, sugar, butter and eggs, like normal people.
I’m not against eating healthily – of course I’m not. I’d go so far as to say I’m strongly in favour of it, in fact. Cooking from scratch (or in my case, having a boyfriend who does, anyway), eating lots of vegetables and fruit and grains and pulses and so on, drinking plenty of water, getting a little bit of fresh air and exercise every day – all good things. I bloody love avocado – but on toast, not in cake. I have no desire to be the kind of person who says things like “yah, I just feel so amazing since I gave up sugar.” It makes me want to say, “I feel amazing now I’ve given up sounding like a tedious, insufferable wanker. Custard cream?”
I just feel that the whole ‘eat clean’ thing is geting a little bit fetishized, and I worry. Young girls need role models (the feminist line about “I cannot be what I cannot see” is frightening in its accuracy) and will find them online – on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest. If all they’re seeing is incredibly thin women banging on about the evils of dairy, giving up sugar forever-and-ever-amen and baking with vegetables, then, well, I’m scared for them. I want to claim back some normality and say, “it’s OK if you don’t know the difference between spirulina and a spiralizer. I had to look it up.”
Plus, it’s easy to source almond milk and coconut yoghurt and white chia seeds if you’re a full-time food writer/part-time celebrity and live in a city – a) you can afford it, and b) there’s probably a branch of Whole Foods a stone’s throw from your front door. It’s not so easy to do if you live in a small town in the middle of arsing nowhere. I spent an entire morning trying to find white chia seeds in Horsham, and despite the achingly middle-class population of this town, I couldn’t.
I have been down the calorie-counting, obsessive not-eating route, and the overarching memory I have of being sixteen and unhealthily skinny (though I didn’t know it at the time) is that it’s really fucking boring. It is so dull to constantly be doing the calorie maths, to be denying yourself tiny bits of pleasure just because you want to be bony instead of healthy. And what kind of a goal is that anyway? The goal of someone who’s slightly tangled in the head, that’s what. It’s exhausting to maintain and it makes you rather hard work to be around. Take it from someone whose mother orders a salad every time she goes out for lunch or dinner – I don’t think she’s eaten a potato for over a decade.
These days, I’ve probably gone too far the other way – my “fuck it, who cares?” days far outnumber the days where I’m “good” (but again, what does being “good” mean? It’s not like there’s a reward scheme where you can collect prizes for managing to get your 5-a-day for 10 days straight) – but at least now I exercise regularly. When you know you can knock off about 400 calories by going for a good run, you start to become quite relaxed about shovelling a hearty helping of risotto into your face afterwards.
There are so many moments in life that involve food, and it’s a shame to choose to miss out on them. The decadence of ordering pizza to a hotel room and eating it in bed, for example. A cold beer at the end of a day in a stuffy office. A roast dinner with all the trimmings, plus crumble and custard for pudding (feeling stuffed just thinking about it, to be honest). Champagne to toast good news. Smoked salmon because it’s never not a good idea.
The last thing women need – and it is mainly women that this shit gets aimed at – is another thing to spend money on and feel guilty about. Let’s stop giving ourselves a hard time, and just try to inhabit something like “normal”.