Why my potato chips are healthier than the diet mentality

Saturday afternoon: another Netflix marathon, full relaxation mode… Until the TV screen is taken over by a pile of steaming, fluffy French toast, seductively dripping with sticky, golden maple syrup.

“Yum,” I think.

All of a sudden, the breakfast of dreams is destroyed as a towering box of Special K lands smack on top of the plate, rescuing viewers from entertaining our thoughts of having such a “sinful” food as French toast for our next breakfast.

Then, a female narrator’s voice assures us that, with Special K’s help, our “temptations are toast.”

By the end of this commercial, French toast has become the enemy, and the array of food choices available to women has become a dangerous battlefield on which we’re forced to fend for ourselves: One wrong bite and we’ve stepped on a landmine.

How are we supposed to decipher which foods are the good guys and which ones are the bad as we’re exposed to an ever-changing barrage of mixed media messages, which all put one food in the spotlight as either the cause of all our maladies or the cure to all our woes?

Ads like these instill fear in us, which makes us feel the need to crush cravings without any scientific basis for why we should do so.

Because of this, America has developed orthorexia, as well-intentioned young women have succumbed to a phobia of eating anything that isn’t “pure” or “good.” We’ve stopped asking about why we should follow any dietary advice, and we’ve been brainwashed to think that something is definitely wrong with our bodies’ shapes and sizes. Our acceptance of all these preposterous health claims continues to fuel the media; thus, the negative ads continue.

Regarding the Special K ad, which portrays “tempting” food as being our opponent — I have to ask: When did cravings get such a bad reputation in the first place? Try to answer that question without blabbing off the lists of how you can beat cravings that you’ve read in the bogus “health” articles that litter most women’s magazines.

Dieting has become a way of life in our society. We almost inherently associate cravings as being something problematic, as what we crave probably doesn’t align with whatever diet we’re trying to follow.

Think about it: How many times have you been out to dinner with friends, and at the end of the meal, when the server asks if anyone would like dessert, your dinner companions obligingly chide, “I really shouldn’t,” while gazing longingly at the next table’s chocolate mousse?

What appears to be your friends’ ability to exercise supreme “willpower” is really just a disaster waiting to happen.

According to psychologist Fritz Heider, “the moment you banish a food, it paradoxically builds up a craving life of its own that gets stronger with each diet, and builds more momentum as the deprivation deepens.” When we finally do give in, we often overeat, and the cycle of an unhealthy relationship with food begins.

Instead of relying on the media to decide when, what, and how much to eat, how about giving your own physical hunger cues the reigns? The key concept of Intuitive Eating, a non-diet method for living healthfully, is listening to one’s own body.

The principles of Intuitive Eating encourage all of us, as human eaters (not dieters), to reject the diet mentality, honor our hunger, make peace with food, and challenge the food police. By learning to get in touch with what we know is most nourishing and satisfying for us, we can trust ourselves to decide what to eat.

For the record, the day after I saw the Special K ad, I didn’t even have French toast for breakfast… But a large bag of extra crunchy salt and vinegar potato chips made the rest of my Netflix marathon perfect.

Carina Chiodo is a native of the East Bay Area, and is currently pursuing her Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition. She hopes to one day specialize in Nutrition Education with a focus on eating disorders, body image, and communicating why food is fabulous, not something to be feared! She loves immersing herself in specialties all over the globe, and she will forever be a foodie.

2 thoughts on “Why my potato chips are healthier than the diet mentality

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  1. Have you seen the latest Weight Watchers ad? (I’m not going to look for it because triggering like whoa, but it’s on constant rotation on the CW’s app)

    It’s back to the “food is a drug” approach. It is *really* awful.

  2. I have, and it makes me so sad that the media often portrays weight loss as an endeavor that will somehow “cure” a person of all their woes and issues. I find it very discouraging that most diet ads are not emphasizing health, but rather a completely unattainable ideal, which ultimately leads to guilt.

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