Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Junk Food Day ... are you getting yours?

It's National Junk Food Day! I found this out as I was browsing the news sites this morning, here and here.

Now, as a public health professional, I know you're all going to expect me to sit up on my high horse and preach "eat your veg!" and "leave junk food alone!"

But I'm not going to do that. In fact, I find that perspective overly simplistic and frankly more than a little upsetting.

Junk food has a place in your diet. It has a place in my diet. It has a place in everyone's diet!!! *sound of shocked public health professionals everywhere* Yes! Really! It does!

If anyone has ever heard of the Health At Every Size movement (HAES), or Intuitive Eating, you would know that by perpetuating the idea of the "food police" we are just harming our natural drive to eat what our body needs. That's right, we should trust our bodies to tell us what we want to eat. Sometimes I eat chocolate cake for dinner for a week straight. Yes, I admit it. I'm not the strictist dieter, and I don't beat myself up when I want chocolate cake. I don't eat it every day, but there are times in life when you want a sweet or salty treat! It's OK!

After I've eaten all that chocolate cake, though, it's generally not surprising that I reach for oranges, quinoa, spinach, and other delicious alternatives for a long time. When I was going through eating disorder treatment, I ate chicken wings and pie for about 3 weeks straight, because I was finally "allowed" to do so. I haven't had them since. I don't feel guilty about either choice.

I eat what I want, as much as I want, when I want to. Really. Sometimes it's a lot, sometimes it's a little, sometimes it's in the middle. And my life's better for it.

Point being, if you deny yourself junk food when you really want it, I think you're more likely to binge on it later. The whole point of public health is to create normal eating patterns and provide adequate access to reasonable food options ... for everyone. Now, someone tell me that junk food is not part of a normal American diet ...

Yep, didn't think so.

Let's acknowledge junk food, celebrate its importance in satisfying our sweet tooth, and stop vilifying everyone who cracks open a package of Oreos every once in a while. Isn't our overall health a little more important than maintaining a perfect weight all the time?

I'm overweight. I eat junk food. I'm a vegetarian. I'm also pretty darn healthy (mentally and physically). So Happy Junk Food Day! Throw back some Lay's, Twix, Skittles, SnoCaps, Milk Duds ... you get the picture.

You're not a bad person for wanting some junk food. Don't beat yourself up endlessly about it.

For more, see what The Fat Nutritionist has to say.

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