Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Junk Food vs Real Food

So, I suppose coming off the heels of yesterday's Nutella Lawsuit post is as good a time as any to try and work this idea out.

I grew up, as I'm sure most people here have, and as I'm not yet convinced is a terrible problem, with a distinction made between Junk Food, and Real Food. Real Food is what you eat at meals - meat, vegetables, pasta - and also some snacks like fruit. Junk Food is what you eat otherwise - chips, candy, soda, etc. I think everyone deals with these distinctions. And I think it's a good distinction to make. Nutritionally, there's a difference between a bag of chips and a bowl of pasta, even if I'm eating both as a snack.

But since getting into the FA movement, I've started to wonder about how to phrase this properly. I don't want to demonize any given food to myself or others by calling it "junk". Food is food, and it's not like it isn't okay to eat Junk Food. But the word is so loaded.

I've been thinking of it lately as a difference between Substantial and Insubstantial food, instead. It's basically the same breakdown. Substantial food is what's going to keep me full and provide some real energy. Protein is big in this for me, since I can not stay full from meals that don't contain enough of it. Nice substantial starches, veggies. Insubstantial food is more of a compliment to Substantial Food. A bag of chips with my sandwich for lunch helps finish filling me up, but by itself it only lasts a little while. And I've talked before about the trouble I have if I try to get full by eating sweets.

Part of what this does for me is to kind of re-orient myself to concentrate on how hungry I really am. I do still have trouble allowing myself to eat Substantial food after a certain hour, but I'm working on eating something filling and bigger instead of eating 5 snacks to try and get the same effect. I feel like this is healthier, to put something nutritionally sound into my tummy, and save the insubstantial snacks for when I only have a small bit of hunger or just want something to taste good. 

I guess I wonder if it really does anything to re-label the groups in my head. I'm not really sure it helps me sort them any more efficiently. Maybe it just makes me feel like a good Fat Acceptance-ist to try not to exclude snacks and candy from "real" food.

I wanted to write more about the way that the world draws such a line between the groups, that was what the point of this post was supposed to be. That even when "junk food" is allowed in a house, a lot of the time it's off-limits except for very specific cases and times. Going back to the Nutella thing, the idea that if something is in the Junk Food category, it can not possibly be part of an otherwise balanced meal. I do think that's something that my Substantial/Insubstantial categories might help with. If a food is Junk, then it doesn't belong in a meal, but if it's just Insubstantial it can be a compliment to something else, it just doesn't stand on its own.

The more I type about all this though, the more I do get stuck wondering if it's worth a whole lot of words. It feels more like something that I just have to make a tiny change in my head, just change my attitude a tiny bit, and then basically go on the same way I always have.

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