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Teach kids about food MODERATION not POLARIZATION!

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There is constant talk about food and weight in this society. A simple look on Netflix shows that there are several different documentaries "exposing" various aspects of the food industry. One of these documentaries is FED UP. Obviously, the creators of this documentary feel strongly about their beliefs, and I see no problem with having it available on Netflix. However, my concern begins to surface when it is being shown in schools, and various propaganda alongside it, putting foods into "good" and "bad" categories is coming along with it. 

I'm sure that almost all of us, at some point in our lives, have labeled a food as "good" or "bad." Whether that label comes from calories, fats, carbohydrates, preservatives, GMOs, or some other aspect of the food, I think it's something we've all done. For many of us signing this petition, it's something we no longer do, or hope to one day stop doing.

Why? What is so bad about labeling foods as "good" and "bad"? 

1. Close to 30 million people, of all ages and genders, have eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. This does not include the many who have Other Specified Feeding/Eating Disorders and engage in unhealthy behaviors, or those who do not engage in eating disordered behaviors but have awful anxiety connected to food, or those who are suffering from Orthorexia, which is not yet labeled as a clinical eating disorder, but involves an obsession with eating "the right way" to the point of physical and emotional distress) [1]. Many, many eating disorder sufferers not only categorize foods into "good" and "bad" categories, but can report having placed these value judgments on food long before their eating disorder sets in. In recovery from an eating disorder, it can be years before an individual conquers certain "fear foods," which often stems from a label that society has placed on the food.

2. 81% of ten-year-olds are afraid of being fat [1]. We aren't just labeling foods as "good" and "bad" here, we are also placing those value judgments on body types, and even attaching an unsubstantiated correlation that eating "bad" foods lead to being "fat," something that children as young as ten years old are afraid of. 

3. All foods have a place. Some foods are great at giving us long-sustaining energy. Other foods bring us pleasure because the taste suits our tastebuds wonderfully. There are some foods that we try to integrate into our routines even if we don't love them, because we know that they bring some value to our body. There are other foods that are less nutrient-dense that bring an enjoyable variation to our palate. There are foods that we eat almost daily, and there are foods that we enjoy once or twice a year. And there are hundreds of foods in-between. No food should be eaten exclusively, day in and day out. Excess and deprivation are not ideal - and both can lead to death. Labeling foods as "good" and "bad" not only leaves us placing value judgments on inanimate objects that cannot legitimately hold these values, but also leaves us placing these values upon ourselves. The phrase "you are what you eat" may not be true in that we do not become avocados if we eat avocados, and we do not become fat if we eat fats, but there is a tendency to (wrongly) label oneself as "bad" after eating foods that have been categorized as "bad." 

4. Dieting, which often involves labeling a specific food group or aspect of food as "bad," actually does not help with health in most people. In fact, 95% of people regain weight that they "dieted" off within a year [1]. Of course, if you're signing this petition, you may already believe that health is about more than just weight. That being said, the other health effects of this "diet" are often lost as well. There must be a way to be healthy other than by placing rules around food!

The creators of FED UP obviously believe very strongly that sugar is bad. The subject line of their email, "Sugar Has 56 Names" suggests that sugar is not only bad, but deceptive. 80% of products in the grocery store have added sugar. This is supposed to horrify us. However, sugar is a natural substance that is often added to flavor things - sometimes, to flavor nourishing foods that would otherwise be pushed aside because they do not taste appealing to the masses. If you put sugar in your kale smoothie, you still have the nutrition of the kale smoothie, it is just also sweetened. Sugar does not negate other nutrients.

True, there is minimal knowledge of nutrition in certain parts of the country and the world, and obesity, heart disease, and diabetes rates have risen. However, is shaming sugar and teaching children (and adults) to categorize foods into "good" and "bad" the solution to this? 

The creators FED UP want to help create a healthier world. However, what they are doing is instilling disordered attitudes about food at an early age. Believing that a food is "bad" often makes people want it more, and can lead to binge eating at times. Being taught to avoid a substance, such as sugar, can start an individual in developing intense fears about the consequences of certain foods, often tied to an eating disorder. 

It is important to learn moderation, and to eat intuitively. Keeping the FED UP curriculum out of schools won't teach these lessons for our children, but it will keep them as a blank slate and give us all the opportunity to learn to live in the "rainbow of colors" that exist in this world, instead of the "black and white" of restrictive dieting. It will keep children's - and adults' - minds open not just to the fact that foods can have many different qualities that affect our bodies in various ways, but that most - if not all - things in life cannot truly be categorized as "good" and "bad." 

 

SOURCE: 1. Eating Disorder Statistics - ANAD (http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/).

2. Image ( http://www.motleyhealth.com)



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