Disclaimer: I am writing about the inherent morality, or lack thereof, in food choices. I am not talking about food choices that are more nutritionally dense than others, or talking about medical reasons for eating or not eating certain foods.
Trigger Warning: This post has to do with food and lists a few different foods, including candy. Please do not read if that will cause issues with any recovery you may be in.
I have been slowly building a candy business. I make the candy with the best ingredients I can: local honey, good quality chocolates, whole milk, cream, butter. I use no artificial ingredients. If something is flavored, it either has that thing in it, or it has an oil or extract of that ingredient. No “artificial flavorings” allowed.
One of the types of candies I make is caramel. Besides the regular caramel, I’ve been making different flavors. In season, I offer a strawberry made with strawberry syrup I make myself from fresh strawberries. I perfected a maple caramel using maple syrup (and it took a while to figure the chemistry involved for the caramel to not crystalize). Now, I’m working on a chocolate caramel.
(Stick with me, we’ll get to the Fat Activist part of this, honest!)
In developing my flavors, I don’t just rely upon my and my husband’s tastes. I have a group of people who are willing to be testers, so I can have a well balanced idea of what may or may not need to be changed in my recipes. Yesterday on Facebook, I was informing people that there will be two chocolate caramels to taste with subtle differences. Of course, my tasters don’t taste for free, and while I can’t afford to pay money, I do give some of the established candy as payment.
A friend responded and said the candy was “guilt free” because my tasters were working for it. I responded that none of my candy came with added guilt.
That started me thinking (ah, now we’re getting to it). Just what does “guilt free” really mean?
Dictionary.com defines guilt as:
noun1. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime,violation, or wrong, especiallyagainst moral or penal law;culpability: He admitted his guilt.2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime,wrong, etc.,whether real or imagined.3. conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs,etc.: to live a life of guilt.
If you listen to the diet industry, guilt free means fat free, sugar free, carb free, calorie free, and maybe even food (ie, nutrition) free. The candy I make is not anything like that.
The idea that is being sold to us, and we are buying, is that the only way we are allowed to enjoy something is if it has nothing enjoyable in it. If it is unrepentantly full of fat or sugar or carbs or whatever, then it is “naughty”, “evil”, or “bad”. If a person is seen eating such a thing, they generally have to justify it. “Oh, it’s only a small piece to celebrate!” “I know, it’s bad for me, but it was just too tempting!” “I’ll just work out extra hard at the gym to make up for it!”
So, what does “guilt free” mean? With the dictionary definitions above, it would mean that there is nothing wrong, legally or morally, with it.
And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? We live in a world where food, especially certain kinds of food, are considered to be moral. Anything with fat, sugar, eggs (for the cholesterol value) is judged to be morally inferior, and the people who presumably eat a lot of it are also judged to be morally inferior.
And, except in a legal sense, guilt (which walks hand in hand with shame) are used by people to control other people. How dare you have that sandwich with full-fat mayonnaise on it? How dare you go back for seconds? Or have dessert? Don’t you know how bad you are being for eating that? If you really must have that treat, how are you going to work it off?
All of those questions are designed to make people feel guilty for enjoying whatever they were eating, and ashamed for the supposed outcome. “Well! No wonder you are so fat!”
“Guilt Free” means just that. There is no moral deficiency for enjoying food, whether it’s freshly picked tomatoes, a loaded baked potato, a steak cooked to your desired doneness, chocolate cake, or any of the other wonderful foods that are out there.
Food is not immoral. It never was. And nobody is immoral for eating food.