'Pass the Cheetos & Drop the Food Guilt'

Published on: 09:18AM Oct 25, 2011

The following blog was submitted by Michele Payn-Knoper, nationally known professional speaker and founder of Cause Matters Corp., an orgnization to help people learn how to champion their cause.

Pass the Cheetos & Drop the Food Guilt

by Michele Payn-Knoper (click here for link to her twitter page)

I love Cheetos. I’ve been known to eat more ice cream than a 200 pound man. My sweet tooth sometimes results in a meal made of desserts. And look out if you ever wave a piece of milk chocolate in front of me!

My food. My diet. My lifestyle. My choice. I don’t need the guilt trip running rampant in food claims today. I also adore cucumbers, get really excited about fresh fruit and grow at least 10 kinds of vegetables in our garden. Our little girl delights in telling her classmates that her favorite food is raw spinach and keeps a cow employed with her milk consumption. We get fast food at times because it’s quick – and it’s better than being hungry. I refuse to accept the guilt trip that it makes me a bad mother. One fast food place we won’t stop is Chipolte’s – because they lay on the food guilt thicker than sour cream with their claims and labels that are an insult to our upbringing.

I also don’t need food guilt in the grocery. Food is natural, whether it’s written on a label or not – if you don’t know that Cheetos aren’t natural, more than a label is needed. By the same token, absence claim labels are ridiculous – they were started by retailers with an interest in niche marketing. Do you really think those labels are there with your best interest in mind or to create a seed of self-doubt? The self-doubt will lead to you feeling guilty that you’re not doing the right thing as a parent or "eating right," resulting in a change of buying behavior.

Food should be fairly simple – you choose it, you eat it and you take responsibility for the results. In other words, if I eat like a cow and gain weight – I have to spend more time on the bike or throwing bales. My weight gain and health condition is not McDonald’s fault, it’s not the company’s fault who made the Cheetos (yum) and it certainly isn’t the corn, cane or dairy producers’ fault. The food on my fork is my responsibility.

Before you judge me as a food slob, consider this; I work out at least three times a week and am not known for sitting still. I serve home-cooked, low fat meals to our family and carefully monitor our balance of protein, fruits and veggies. Except when we’re on vacation; then we eat Cheetos with cookies on the side and ice cream for breakfast. Based upon conversations with my girlfriends, we’re fairly normal. You’re welcome to judge that all you want – but spare me the guilt.

Today (Oct. 24) is Food Day, put together by an activist group that specializes in guilt trips, the Center for Science in the Public Interest. How about this? We celebrate World Food Day by stopping the food guilt. Celebrate the opportunity for people to make food choices by saying no to the guilt thrown at us in every venue about food and farming. Unless you’ve visited modern day farm yourself, don’t call a farm a factory just because it looks different than your Charlotte’s Web book. Take responsibility for your own junk food addictions and don’t blame marketers or producers. If you don’t feel great because of your diet, learn more about healthy foods from a registered dietitian (thank you, American Dietetic Association for not endorsing any food guilt claims).

And consider that sustainable farms are those that can survive as a business – meaning it’s O.K. if they make money. I’d hope the most important measure of a sustainable farm and Food Day (#FoodDay on twitter) is meeting the needs of a growing population. 9 billion mouths is a lot to feed by 2050. It will take a variety of farms, a reduction in food politics, modern agricultural practices and less of the food guilt to draw in the folks "in the middle" who could likely make a real difference in a food movement. Join me in standing up against the food guilt!