Proud2Bme | Pier One's Planner Problem

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Pier One's Planner Problem

By Christina Keefer--I had a friend in high school that kept a very detailed planner. She color-coded her planner into categories: to-dos for school, for church, for the various clubs she was in, little personal reminders to herself, etc.

The great thing about the school-given planners was that each week had printed, uplifting messages.

"Teenagers need about 8 hours of sleep per night - so remember to go to bed early tonight!"

"The hypotenuse for a triangle can be determined by the sum of the squares of the two other sides - you will ace this math test!"

"Take a deep breath and relax, there are 168 hours in a week - use one for yourself!"

While we mostly joked about the affirmations in home room before the announcements, looking back, I wish I had remembered more so I could copy them into my own planner.

So it's quite troubling that Pier One's version of affirmations is misguided diet advice. In dissecting each item, the advice seems less helpful and more like adding fuel to a disordered eating fire.

"Eat better," sounds like a half-hearted, vague New Year’s resolution that will be most likely forgotten midway through February. What does "better" even mean?

The nutritionist at my treatment center was very eager to prove to all of us that no food should have labels other than the nutritional guides denoting the daily percentage of vitamin A in each serving. Bad, good - those were advertising scare tactics to further brainwash us into disorder. If it tastes good, that's fine - but no food is inherently better, or worse, for us if we take care into noticing how it nourishes us.

Going under popular current assumptions, I will guess that Pier One correlates “better” with “healthier” foods. I will guess, in a purely cynical way, that Pier One hopes a user of this planner will look down at the goal, donut in hand, and suddenly feel guilty enough about his food choice to pick up an apple instead. Because “better” can only mean more nutritious, right?

The health of our bodies are not just regulated by how much potassium we consume - it’s also predicated by how much we take care of ourselves mentally. 

“Cook more,” is probably the least offensive item on the list – but it’s still pretty judgmental for a planner goal. If you’re trying to save money, if you’re trying to improve your culinary skills, if you enjoy it - then by all means, cooking more is perfect advice!

But on the other hand, who is to say that you aren’t cooking enough of your meals? Who is to judge you, if the reason you do not cook more is because you don’t enjoy cooking? Or because you don’t have the time to cook or access to supermarkets?

The fact that the “Eat less” goal comes directly after “cook more” is both perfect and infuriating. Perfect because it’s a glaring sign that these goals are ridiculous, and infuriating because if they are unintentionally ridiculous, why are they in print? If you are cooking more, but eating less, who are you cooking for?

Pushing people to “Eat less” is dangerous advice, particularly without context. Encouraging restricting? When has that ever been a good idea? Pier 1, stick to your home d├ęcor expertise.

The last item - “Cheat less” - is, to me, the most infuriating item on the list. Piggy-backing off my former-nutritionist's spiel that no food is inherently good or bad, only good or bad tasting, no food is inherently a cheat food. No food or meal should be treated like a cheat food, and there should be no day designated as your sole “cheat day” of the week. If we are mindful eaters, aware of the purpose behind each bite of food, then there won’t be cheat foods, winning foods, bad foods, good foods, healthy foods - they will all just be food.

And I think that is ultimately what is wrong with this list of goals; it focuses on trying to “fix” a generalized population’s eating habits, instead of fixing a generalized population’s motivations behind the habits.

By being aware that while, on a purely nutritional basis, an apple may be “healthier” than a bar of chocolate - but that we are eating that bar anyway because it provides a relaxing way to end the day - that is mindful eating. By being aware that you could never make this paella at home, and that you’d like to go out to eat with friends- that is mindful eating. By being aware that a certain kind of food is triggering for you, and may push you past the point of relapse, so you should probably eat less of it in the short-term until you’re at a more stable point mentally - that is mindful eating. By acknowledging that food is food and the only adjectives that should be attached are ones describing the taste, and not ones invoking shame - that is mindful eating.

Goals should not revolve around solely fixing habits. They should revolve around fixing why the habits started in the first place, and then the new habits will follow. Eating “better” will not magically dilute the underlying problems that prompted you to eat “unhealthily” in the first place. Only asking yourself, “Am I focusing too much on what I eat right now because of how it tastes or because I have other problems that I am actively avoiding?” will start the journey in addressing those problems.

We should not be focusing on eating “better” - we should be focusing on how and what “better” means to us.

About this blogger: Christina Keefer is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. She currently lives in Washington DC and is interested in identity and how body image plays a role in cultivating and shaping our personalities. 

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