OK, I am interrupting my regularly scheduled programming here for a minute. Crudite and spicy peanut sauce can wait!

There’s a reason that writers like Michael Pollan say we have a National eating disorder. Between the meaningless descriptors on food packaging (what does natural actually mean? organic? free range? etc.) to the 100 calorie pack phenomenon (I don’t care if it has 100 calories, Oreos are never gonna be good for me) to artificial sweeteners to the HFCS vs. real sugar debate, no one knows what the hell is going on anymore. When you can’t even trust the government to set up a realistic food pyramid (the original version was heavily influenced by the dairy and meat lobbyists, and we know this country’s track record on valuing science over personal beliefs or undue influence from industry) who can you trust?

There are a lot of facts still missing from people’s general perceptions about food, and it’s important for people to know the facts. But what really bothers me is this healthy eating as a means to become skinny mentality. “Skinny” can be just as unhealthy as “fat”. These words are meaningless, because they don’t take into account anything about your lifestyle, your body type, or your history. And when our vision of skinny is based on many clearly unhealthy models and actors and we’re pursuing that end goal, we’re in trouble.

This is a long, roundabout way of saying that I came upon a list of “motivational phrases” listed on the blog of someone I knew in college who is now a fitness instructor. I think it’s a great thing to do – to help motivate other people to really make a change in their lives. I know I am 100 times more likely to work out when I have my favorite group exercise class to go to than when all I can look forward to is 45 mind-numbing minutes on some machine. And I have, in large part, my instructor to thank for that. HOWEVER. As a person in a position to motivate people and help them change their habits, I have a problem with health instructors making this statement: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

If you can honestly say that and believe it’s true, I feel bad for you. Really.

That is just the kind of sentiment that drives people to extremely unhealthy eating habits. To cutting out all carbs out of the misguided belief that a piece of whole wheat bread is going to make you fat. To eating SnackWells instead of something made out of actual FOOD, just because it has “low fat” or “fat free” or “diet-friendly” on the package.

If I had to make up some motivational phrases (or maybe it’s more like personal philosophy), they’d go something like this:

1. Eat foods that looks like food.
2. Don’t be afraid to make your food tasty by using butter, salt, and other flavor-enhancing ingredients. Just don’t go overboard.
3. Artificially sweetened things will make you crave sweets more because your body will figure out eventually that you didn’t get the calories (read: energy) it thought you did – it’s better to eat one homemade cookie with real sugar that will satisfy your craving, than possibly drive yourself to binge later.
4. Your body is yours. No one else’s. Don’t let anyone’s idea of “beauty” affect your personal health goals. Skinny has nothing to do with healthy.
5. Being skinny is not worth it if you’re miserable.
6. Experiment with new flavors and spices from varied ethnic cuisines. It’ll keep you from getting bored with one thing, and lots of flavor from aromatics (garlic, onions, herbs, spices and the like) will help you use less fat (notice I didn’t say no fat – just less than, say, Paula Deen).
7. Speaking of Paula Deen, if you feel like making her brownie recipe with 7 sticks of butter one day, do it, enjoy it, and then wait awhile before you do it again.
8. Eat less meat. Eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
9. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat certain foods and eat more of the ones that make you feel good. If you really listen to your body, you will automatically eat healthier things, packed with energy and nutrients.
10. Slow down. Enjoy your meals sitting down. Chew every bite. Don’t eat out of habit or boredom. Food should be enjoyed – it’s one of the few things in life we actually can’t live without.
11. Don’t beat yourself up. If you eat poorly at one meal, move on quickly and don’t dwell on it. The day isn’t a waste, and guilt isn’t going to help. Just start fresh.

I’m sure you can tell I love food, like love love it. It makes me sad when people are encouraged to defer to foods they find flavorless or unpleasant in the interest of becoming skinnier. Health first. If you cultivate healthy habits, the size of your thighs will be just what they should be, no bigger and no smaller.