I Am Not a Dog
That title just blew your mind didn’t it? But seriously (and yes things are going to get a little serious)... Yesterday I had my annual physical. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. I didn’t think my doctor would find anything wrong or that I would come away with any new regimen or needing to implement/refrain from anything, but I knew there would be blood work and I HATE needles. I have begged doctors not to give me shots because survival of the fittest and if it’s meant to be it will be; at Brown, Health Services knew me as “the one who cries” (there are approximately 6,500 undergrads); and when I was about six, I hid under the table, resulting in two nurses and my mom having to be present for shots until I stopped going to my pediatrician at age 18 because trust issues (by the nurses, not me). Ironically I have my ears pierced and have a tattoo, the latter of which is a story for another day.
Leading up to my doctor’s appointment, I asked myself, “What should I get as a treat afterwards?” In my mind, there was no question that this treat would be of the food variety. As I thought about what I might want, I remembered a conversation I had had a few months ago surrounding how society has come to view food. Before we go any further, please remember that I am not a nutritionist or dietitian. Any views expressed are my own, formed from articles I have read and conversations I have had with a trained nutritionist, but they are NOT to be taken as medical advice. Too often food is seen as a reward or a punishment, with specific foods categorized as “good” or “bad.” It wasn’t until I found myself verbalizing this practice that I realized how much it bothers me when people refer to certain things as cheat foods/meals or deem their day good or bad based on what they had to eat.
Food is fuel and food, along with the cooking, baking, and dining that go along with it, should be enjoyed. Food is not the only way to show love or make memories, and it is not a punishment or a present. Of course some foods are better for us than others (and some are actually quite harmful), but life is about balance and being mindful of our choices. By all means celebrate a birthday with cake or pie or a tower of oysters, if that’s what you want to do, but in the process, don’t lose sight of the fact that there are many ways to mark milestones, celebrate achievements, and find comfort when times are tough. This brings me to the title. Dogs are frequently rewarded for good behavior with treats and, in my experience, it is the most surefire way to get them to do what you want. But, most dogs that I know also love to be pet, cuddled, and play, but ultimately it is the treats they want. As humans, these alternate gold stars have so much value, and don’t run the risk of spiraling into a harmful relationship with food. By labeling foods this way, we start imparting guilt into decisions surrounding food and make it ok to judge one’s self and even others for their choices. We risk fearing certain foods and sticking only to others. I’m not saying eat whatever you want whenever you want, but rather that I think a better approach is to be conscious of your decisions and know that it’s fine to have it all so long as you’re not having it all all at once all day every day. Do I get food guilt? Of course. Do I, despite hating it, still see certain foods as ways to celebrate/treat myself? Yes, again. The thing to remember is that none of us is perfect, but as one of my favorite sayings goes: progress over perfection. However this isn’t to say that I will ever give up my daily dessert. I won’t. Some days I might even eat yours too :)
What do you think?