I’d like to take a moment to chat with you about a detrimental habit I find people engaging in on a daily basis. It is the categorization of a day, meal, or even oneself as being “good” or “bad” based on food consumed. To further clarify, here are some examples I often hear at bridal showers, family gatherings, the workplace, restaurants, etc.
“Oh I guess I’ll be bad and have another cookie.”
“I’ve had such a good day- I only ate my salad for my lunch.”
“I was bad at dinner and had an extra helping of food.”
Heard any of these before? Maybe you’ve been the one saying them. It’s become such a part of female lingo that it’s almost expected for someone to make a moral conclusion about the day, meal or themselves when it comes time to eat. Though these phrases might sound trivial and rather harmless, they actually play a huge role in continuing the dieting mentality and unhealthy food relationships in our culture.
Oftentimes, the end result of these phrases is not improved eating habits, which might be the hope in saying something like this. Instead they breed what feels a lot more like shame and guilt around food choices. They make one feel as if they’ve sinned by simply eating a cookie. They also:
Encourage the “all or nothing mentality,” which often leads to binge eating
Elevate less nutritious foods above nutrient dense foods by making them scandalous and overly tempting
Cause exaggerated frustration and feelings of failure when a “bad” food is eaten
The problem with continuing to talk like this is that you further an inaccurate picture of what eating should really be about. Eating is meant to fuel your body and allow it to move and work in the way it was designed to; it should also be enjoyable and even celebrated.
Constantly categorizing food as good or bad, develops food rules. When those rigid lines are crossed, feelings of defeat arise. This is an unnecessary process of self-shaming and hatred because the truth is, you are not a better person if you deny an extra cookie, and you are no less of a person if you choose to have the extra cookie. Human value and worth don’t change based on having a second helping of food. True worth is determined by character, actions, and the intrinsic value established in a mother’s womb.
A better way to talk is to make unbiased observations about the day.
“Today, I had more sugar than I normally do. It was my birthday and I made sure to enjoy every bite.”
“I am wanting more carbohydrates today. I wonder if I may be using them as a stress outlet or if I am sleep deprived.”
“I feel way less bloated from my salad than I know I would have felt if I had eaten pizza instead.”
These statements push towards making healthier habits because they don’t condemn, leaving the eater feeling less guilty and less likely to give up on making better choices. However, they don’t ignore reality either. Oftentimes people think that not categorizing food as good or bad means a free pass to overindulge in candy, cupcakes and ice cream. That’s not the point. Yes, some foods are less calorically dense and loaded with more vitamins and minerals. And yes, it is a good idea to try and maximize these foods to increase health and longevity. However, when other, less nutrient dense foods, are enjoyed in moderation, one does not become a bad person because of it and they have by no means failed. In fact, they might have even increased their quality of life.
The second set of phrases listed above allow for intentional observation one one's body, considering how it feels after ingesting certain foods, thereby giving insight on which foods should be maximized and which might be a good idea to limit. The second set of phrases also:
Allow one to openly process why he/she might be drawn to certain foods
Encourage enjoyment and a healthy food relationship
Decrease restriction and thereby subsequent binging
Normalize eating a variety of foods
So, the next time you’re out with your friends and start to slip into diet talk, reframe your mind, and redirect the conversation! Instead of talking about how “sinful” the food before you is, talk about your life giving passions, discuss your latest adventures, or how your day truly went, aside from the food you ate.
If you find this topic confusing or scary, that’s a good sign you might be stuck in the dieting mentality. It can be hard to ditch on your own but with some accountability and the proper tools, it is definitely possible to break away and live more freely! Please reach out and I’d love to discuss how we can get you on the road to a healthy food relationship!
Lots of love,