I know some of you probably have a list of foods in your head which you associate as good, or as bad. Like apples are good, and pizza is bad. I wonder if you’re thinking, how can apples not be good for me when they are full of so much nutrition, and you can’t say that slice of meatlovers pizza full of salt and fat and deliciousness isn’t bad. This dietitians crazy. Please, hear me out.
I can imagine using such labels helps you be a little bit clearer on your food choices. A guide almost. I get it, I’ve been there. Maybe sometimes, even still there.
But here’s the thing: Food is not bad.
It’s not good either.
While using such labels may provide some clarity, the impact can be far more complex.
When we label foods as good…
We give ourselves permission to like it, to eat it, to enjoy it. We give ourselves a pat on the back. Hooray a piece of food that won’t kill us. Insert hallelujah emoji.
But do you force yourself to eat it? Do you enjoy it? Are you just doing it because you feel you have to? Rather than focusing on eating mindfully, you may just feel obliged and with that the enjoyment of eating and using your senses is gone.
When we label foods as bad..
It goes in the shame basket, along with things like shooting your friend or running over your mother-in-law, drunk or trafficking drugs or stealing money. Funny how eating a Kit Kat can have such a detrimental effect on us as if we did something that could mean a jail term.
Now when we shame a food, it becomes a ‘forbidden food’ so, naturally, we want to eat it all the time. We all only have so much willpower, so eventually we cave and indulge in this ‘forbidden food’. You may do this at home, or in private, or in your car. And now you feel like you’ve lost control, you feel guilty, somewhat shameful, trying to hide the wrapper and really starting to feel like a bad person. All because of a god damn biscuit.
Yeah, it’s crazy, right?
It is also important to remember that the positive or negative effects of a food is very much dose dependent. No one food is going to kill you, just as no one food is a magic bullet. Eating one beautiful nutrient rich salad isn’t going to outweigh your weekend full of fast food and alcohol, just as a single fun size kit kat isn’t going to send you spiralling into ill health. Maybe eating a whole bag, everyday might, maybe.
We are all individuals with different needs, desires and relationships with food. Food and nutrition is far too complex to be simply narrowing our food choices and needs down to good or bad.
Food is neutral.
There is no moral attachment to it, and what you do or do not eat does not dictate whether you are a good or not so good person.
Food is fuel. It is nourishment. It is pleasure.
Food is essential to life, and we certainly do not need permission to eat it.
While changing this mentality can be hard and you may need support, being able to enjoy food without feeling guilt or shame or anxious is essential to having a healthy relationship with food and thus can benefit your social and mental health.
Remember, you should not be valued on the foods you eat, or the exercise you do or the clothes you wear. You are valued because of your heart, soul, personality, drive, passions and talents.