At a chocolate workshop I ran in Singapore, a participant from India asked why western people feel guilt and shame when they eat delicious treats. In India, she explained, ‘sweet treats are an important part of our culture that we gift to others if they have given birth, are getting married or have any other reason to celebrate, and we eat these treats without guilt’. This was such a taught provoking question as we too celebrate with treats. Celebrating with food is ingrained in all cultures around the world. We celebrate with birthday cake, we provide gifts of chocolates for Valentines and Mother’s Day, and food is an integral part of most of our social gatherings. We get together over a BBQ, a glass of wine, a coffee, or a meal.
So why do we feel guilt and shame in enjoying these celebratory foods and food centred gatherings? My initial thought was because we have such an ingrained diet culture that has demonised the very foods that our celebrations and social connections are centred around. Thus, creating internal friction as we want to join in, yet at the same time feel we shouldn’t be indulging in these foods. Thus, we are creating guilt when we do indulge.
I responded to the Indian lady’s question by proposing that our diet culture was a possible culprit. She then asked, ‘why is dieting such a large part of your culture?’ Hmmm. Before I could form an answer in my mind, a wave of emotion came over me as I realised just how much constrained dieting has taken over our lives in western culture.
For a moment, I could only imagine…
Imagine a life where you could enjoy treats that were gifted to you as someone loves you. Imagine if you could celebrate birth, graduation, marriage or the life of a loved one passed, and enjoy the delicious delicacies being served without thinking about your waistline or whether what you are eating is good or bad for you. Imagine a life where you could enjoy time out with friends without justifying your food choices or explaining that you’ll ‘burn it off’ later or ensure your next meal is much more controlled to compensate for this indulgence. Imagine a life where you could focus on living life to the fullest, enjoying each moment, without constant concern and consideration of what you are eating and feeling your body isn’t good enough the way it is.