Accentuate the Positive in Eating

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“You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative!”

That’s a lyric in a very old Bing Crosby song from the 1940’s. He wasn’t talking about food – but the advice could apply to healthy eating. For too long, we’ve been focusing on what not to eat, what to cut out of the diet, what to avoid. The trend has become extreme as diet after popular diet encourages people to cut out entire food groups to lose weight. But perhaps it’s time to “eliminate the negative” and forget about cutting foods out. Focus instead on letting healthy foods in!

In the past decade, we’ve seen the focus of nutrition recommendations and policy guidelines move more toward the negative — what “sinful” foods should be eliminated, restricted or taxed because of their fat, sugar, calorie or sodium content. But, making villains of an ever-expanding list of foods isn’t working for us (much like prohibition of alcohol didn’t work almost a century ago). Instead of viewing food as the enemy, let’s look at what we can “do” to eat healthfully and spend less time on the “don’ts.” A positive approach to eating also takes into account family cultural traditions as well as cost and convenience, allowing people to eat with joy and flexibility.

Respecting an individual’s food tastes and cooking preferences is part of a positive, balanced — and realistic — approach to eating. Restricting foods or advising people to eliminate their favorite things will only make those foods more attractive. The resulting guilt is not an emotion that should be connected to food. Eating should be enjoyable and free of negative emotions!

In a study cited by Michael Pollan in his book “In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto” Americans and French people were asked what emotions they associated with chocolate cake. Americans said guilt. The French said celebration. Which camp would you rather be in? Enjoy your celebrations. Enjoy your food. Take time to savor every bite.

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