I know we’ve all heard the quote from Hippocrates, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” right? Well, first and foremost….food isn’t medicine. Medicine is medicine. Food is food. Period. The idea that all disease can be cured or prevented through diet is complete bullshit. I hate to burst your bubble, but it is. Let’s talk about 8 reasons why this belief is bullshit and why it can be problematic.
Health is so much more than just food
The belief that food is medicine completely ignores other important aspects of health like relationships, career satisfaction, emotional health, stress levels, genetics, environment etc. You could eat all of the superfoods in the world but still not be healthy if your thoughts are toxic or your stress levels are through the roof.
Food is so much more than medicine
It’s energy, social connection, joy and culture. Reducing food to medicine robs it of these beautiful attributes. Enjoying food is part of the human experience. Worrying about if we are eating perfectly healthy steals the pleasure and satisfaction in our eating experiences and is actually worse for our health than just eating the food your body is craving.
The people preaching food is medicine typically have no medical or nutritional qualifications or experience.
It’s usually people who have a motive to sell you some nonsense like detoxes or cleanses (fyi our bodies are very skilled at naturally detoxifying for us…this isn’t something we need to worry about or control).
It implies there’s a one size fits all approach to nutrition
And we know this absolutely isn’t true. When one person perceives that they’ve been “healed” from a certain diet, good for them (I can’t speak to their experience…maybe it did heal them, maybe it didn’t). But regardless, it’s problematic when they make the assumption that anyone who eats the same way they do will have the exact same experience (especially celebrities who have massive influence). Every single human is different. You could feed the every single person in the world the “perfect” diet and yet disease and body shape diversity would still exist. This is because we are bio-individual beings and what works for one person may be extremely harmful to another. Isn’t it interesting how many nutritional theories exist and how each conflicting theory can be “proved” right? Some can “prove” dairy is good for us and build s bones. Others can “prove” it’s bad for us and causes mucus build up. So who the F do we trust? We have to trust ourselves and our intuition and stop letting diet culture rob us of our freedom and emotional well-being.
It places blame for illness on the individual
This leaves them feeling like their disease is punishment for eating the “wrong” diet. They feel like they failed when in reality, it’s usually not their fault at all. Genetics and environment play a huge role in disease. Many times, getting sick is completely out of our control and implying that it is can be really detrimental to an individuals physical and mental health. Do you think someone who’s sick really needs all of that extra stress and shame?
It amplifies our culture’s obsession with perfect health and encourages disordered eating habits
It breaks my heart that we live in a culture that tries to convince us that having the perfect body and diet should be our life’s purpose. Like are you kidding me? We have so much more to offer this world and we’re only able to do that when we make peace with food and our bodies and create the mental space to step into our freedom and power. And as much as our culture tries to convince us, the perfect diet does not equal perfect health. Striving for the perfect diet typically produces the opposite effect actually because restriction not only causes emotional damage but our bodies miss out on vital nutrients when we create a ridiculous set of food rules to follow. Having a balanced, healthy relationship with food is what allows you to adopt health-promoting habits from a place of self-care, in a way that is actually sustainable.
It wreaks havoc on our relationship with food and our bodies
Having a joyful, relaxed relationship with food; eating reliable, adequate meals; and honoring your body’s natural hunger, fullness and satiety signals (intuitive eating) actually results in greater nourishment. When you approach food with a sense of ease and freedom and allow yourself to eat a variety, it ensures optimal nourishment. The emotions you feel when you are eating definitely affect the experience. If you’re eating a plate of pasta and really present, enjoying beautiful scenery or in good company just taking pleasure in the meal at ease, that’s going to be nourishing. But if you’re eating the same pasta and filled with anxiety over eating it, totally distracted or arguing with a family member, that may not be nourishing. It’s a totally different experience when you allow yourself to enjoy your meals without guilt or judgement and how you FEEL about your food does affect how it’s processed in your body.
It ignores the bigger picture and reduces foods to individual ingredients
For example, yes, we know that turmeric may have anti-inflammatory components and that cinnamon can help lower blood sugar for someone with diabetes. But this doesn’t mean that putting cinnamon and turmeric on everything you eat can replace medicine. When you isolate ingredients as magical potions, you fail to acknowledge the fact that foods interact with each other. Again, this goes back to variety and why it’s so important. Eating a variety will ensure you get all of the nutrients you need. When you zoom in and focus on just 1 or a few ingredients, you are missing the bigger picture.
Let’s chat more about this in the comments. I want to hear what you think!