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Pass the Cheetos & drop the Food Guilt

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.

Farmers & healthy food choicesBefore 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.

October 24 was 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) 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!



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21 Responses to “Pass the Cheetos & drop the Food Guilt”

  1. Abby says:

    Don’t you mean that today is Food Day? World Food Day is a much different event, and was held on October 16.

  2. Rob says:

    Congratulations on taking responsibility for the food on your fork, and for you and your family’s health. Perhaps as a next step, you could take responsibility for your own feelings. Stop blaming the retailers, the manufacturers, and the farmers who are striving to provide consumers with information and choices for your own feelings of guilt and self-doubt. Most people I talk to do not feel guilt or self-doubt when presented with information about their food; they feel empowered, informed, connected, and thereby able to make intelligent decisions. If you’re really feeling such guilt, perhaps you should explore the roots of those feelings a little deeper; personally, my guess is that your motives have very little to do with guilt at all.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Rob, I agree that we don’t need to blame anyone. And I’d agree that people feel empowered when given information about food. There’s a difference between scientific information and guilt. Unfortunately, our society leans more toward the guilt and less toward the science.

      • Rob says:

        OK, so who is the arbiter between “guilt” and “science”? Pardon my assumptions, but I would guess that according to your “science” I should feel guilty about not consuming GMOs because they are increasing yields, reducing pesticide usage, and feeding the hungry. But according to my “science” you should feel guilty about consuming GMOs because they are creating superweeds, reducing ecological diversity, and pose health risks that we are only beginning to understand. At the end of the day, you can spin the “scientific information” to say whatever you want it to say and to “sow the seeds of self-doubt” in any person. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, no one can make you feel guilty without your permission. So no to the guilt, but say yes to the information!

        • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

          It’s interesting to track the disconnect with science in our society, but biotechnology is a different debate. I’d agree that people can’t make one feel guilty without that person’s permission. I don’t believe I said I felt guilty. I, like so many Americans, am simply sick of the efforts to impose guilt around food. It doesn’t have to be political, nor does it have to be complicated.

  3. Richard says:

    Of course, moderation is the best course. Yes, you can pig out sometimes and no big deal. If you do it often, without exercise, you’ll balloon into 2-ton Betsy, and that’s not a good thing. So the formula is: eat healthy the majority of days, keep cutting those calories by exercising, and when a Cheeto proves too much of a temptation — gobble down that sucker. Without guilt. Life is just too short (shorter if you gooble down too many).

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Agreed that moderation is key- and I rarely eat Cheetos, though I do love the wicked things. And at times, you just have to indulge, but know there are consequences. Just as there should be consequences for misleading food labels.

  4. DeEtta says:

    LOVE this post. I’m a healthy and active 20-something that has lost 60 lbs over the past year and a half. I didn’t do it by eating organic, non-GMO, eating local, or avoiding HFCS. I took responsibility for the food on my fork and decided to make time for exercise when it was hard but when I needed it the most. I can still enjoy all the foods I love (Halloween Oreos!) but I do it in moderation. Take responsibility. Thanks Michele!

  5. This is a wonderful post, Michele! You make excellent points and I thank you so much for sharing them.

    We are so blessed as Americans to have a plentiful and safe supply of food, and an array of choices regarding what we eat. The “balance” of having those choices is taking the responsibility for your decisions and enjoying your food without guilt!

    All the best,
    Anne Burkholder
    “Feed Yard Foodie”

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      We are indeed blessed, but our full stomachs sometime lead to a whole lot of complaints about things that don’t really matter in the big picture. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Patricia says:

    it is good that you take responsibility for what you put on your fork. You might do well to take responsiblity for your self-imposed guilt. This piece would seem to be a thinly veiled warning for the “gov’ment to stay off my dinner plate” with labels that provide nutrition information. Hooray for you for making your own decisions. You have always had that right.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Patricia. It seems a few have misunderstood – I don’t have a lot of food guilt, but am tired of the direction we’ve gone with politics and posturing in food. Nutrition information is great, if people read it (research shows they don’t, BTW). Labels with false claims based upon marketing isn’t. Pitting one portion of ag or food against another also isn’t. But to each their own – that’s the point.

  7. Patricia says:

    That’s exactly what I meant! “The direction we’ve gone with politics and posturing in food.” In today’s world of information and ideas, we choose what we want to read and acknowledge. If people don’t read labels, that is their choice. False claims? Welcome to the world of television, the Internet, and the newspapers that call for your attention as you check out the food that you purchase at a grocery story. Each of us make our choices in a world of posturing. It appears to me your guilt is self-imposed. Have a Cheeto. You will feel better.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Thanks, I did enjoy my Cheetos. Again, my point is that I don’t have guilt – but that there is certainly positioning within the marketplace to illicit those feeling from people.

  8. Michele, thanks for your site and for your attitude. I’m glad I’ve found you!

    You must know that you are threateningly successful when the anti-GM crowd trolls you! Well done.


  9. I cannot live without my Cheetos!

  10. […] food has always been a very high priority in our household (minus the cheetos that show up on vacation); protein, fruit, vegetable, some form of grains and milk make up most of […]

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