Since When Has Food Become A Moral Issue?

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Submitted by Franca Alphin, Director of Nutrition Services Student Health at Duke

Having worked in nutrition for many years, I have been saddened by the changes that seem to be occurring to our relationships with food. Growing up, in a different culture, I have very fond memories of food; it tasted great, my mom was a great cook, meals were a wonderful time of conversation and appreciation of the food that was being served. Never did I hear mention of the word “calorie”, or “fat” in any context other than how it made the food taste better. Today, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear someone referring to their eating habits and how it’s made them or their day better or worse. “Today is a good day because I’ve stayed on my diet”, “today is a bad day because I chose the dessert rather than a fruit”, or comments such as “I can’t believe that you’re eating that, do you know what’s in it?” Since when has food become a moral issue—how has it happened that we’ve allowed food to impact our sense of self-worth? Since when has food had the power to make us “feel” anything other than full or content? It doesn’t, food is neutral. We are the ones empowering food to impact how we feel about ourselves and that’s not healthy. I worry more about that than the amount of calories or lack of fiber that something I’m eating has or doesn’t have.

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