Why You Are More Than What You Eat

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In a world that idealizes diets and restriction, often glamorizing undernourishment and placing celebrities front and center to product place and perpetuate dieting “tips, tricks and potions”, it is common to feel like your worth is based solely on how much you can restrict or how perfect or healthy you can eat.

After all, how many times have you heard the phrase tossed around, “you are what you eat”. But what are those that use this phrase actually saying? And most importantly, how do you hear it?

What is implied is that your identity and worth as a human is wrapped up in what, how, when and in what way you eat. It associates your food intake with your value and has a twinge of morality woven through it. Do you feel that?

It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s an incredibly privileged statement to make. If you are poor, what does that phrase then mean? Or if you are a working single mom, what about then? Disabled? Person of color? The list could go on.

And because you exist in a culture of dieting, or diet culture, the kinds of messaging that you are exposed to from a young age shape, form and influence your relationship with food and your body and how it continues to be affected. Thus, “you are what you eat” becomes more complex and carries a more corrosive meaning.

But what if I told you that you are not what you eat? What if you knew on a fundamental level that your purpose and value in this life was less about what you eat and more about all the other things you are.

Your life matters more than how many veggies you consume, how little carbs you are eating, how few calories you are taking in, or what food groups you are avoiding.

And while as a registered dietitian I do not negate the power of foods, I also understand that having your identity be integrally intertwined with what you eat can lead to many negative consequences, such as disordered eating patterns, shame, binge eating, and eating disorders.

More than anything I want you to know this: You are so much more than what you eat, and much more than what you restrict. You are a unique gift to this world and you, and only you, have things to offer it.

You are a vessel of experiences, uniqunessness, intelligence, and love.

You have skill and talent and presence that no one else does.

This world needs more of you and less of the things that are limiting your power and holding you back from pursuing the things that light you up.

Katherine Metzelaar