I like to think that eating healthy is a personal goal. It’s right up there with getting more sleep, making it to the gym and trying desperately not to eat that pan of brownies that is currently beckoning to me from the freezer.
Confession: I already ate half the pan of brownies.
It was while I was feeling insanely guilty about that half-pan of brownies that I started to think about the language of diets in North America.
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
If we want our bodies to be “pure,” we do “a cleanse,” a sort of baptism for our innards. We want our lettuce to be natural, organic, and well, green. We shop at Whole Foods and avoid the Dirty Dozen. It’s all very wholesome. Sometimes, we even have to battle the sugar demon.
While I have wondered if throwing holy water on those brownies and shouting “The power of Christ compels you!” would make the sugar cravings stop, I’m not totally convinced.
In a lot of ways, it seems like the language of clean eating has invoked some religious connotations, whether its proprietors meant to or not. Our notions of healthy vs. not healthy have been wrapped up in a larger narrative of clean vs. dirty, as if eating that stupid banana (instead of the brownies) will absolve us of our dietary sins.
The Food Narrative
In our attempts to ward off these diseases, the narrative of food has become steeped in religious imagery. From a linguistic point of view, clean eating bases its ideas on eating foods that make the body pure and clean. The message implies that if you eat the cleanest food possible and make your body like a temple, you will save yourself from the hellfire of disease.
Okay, enough ranting for today. I’m off to gnaw on a piece of celery.
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