I hear it ALL the time, “this food’s good for you” or “this food is bad for you”. But where do these definitions come from and why do we feel the need to place them in categories to make us feel a certain way about eating them? Defining a food as good or bad only puts the notion of how you’re going to feel after you eat a certain food. Are you going to feel good after eating a bagel and cream cheese if you consider it bad? Well, of course not if you’re defining these foods as bad. It’s time to throw away the idea that foods can be categorized as one thing or the other. It’s not about food being good or bad, it’s about what your body needs and wants and listening to it!
So let’s explore what we consider “good” and “bad”. After a fun little Facebook poll, I was able to see what you think makes a food good and bad.
Here are some answers for “good” foods:
- A food in its natural state
- Makes you feel good and does good things for you
- Grown from the Earth naturally
- Minimally processed
- You know where it’s coming from (ie; produce stand or butcher)
And here are the answers for “bad” foods:
- Makes you feel bad after you eat it
- Processed or injected with preservatives or dyes
- Fried or really heavy meals
- Foods high in sodium or fat
- Foods with a lot of ingredients or really shelf-stable
Now that we’ve identified the good and the bad, let’s throw this whole idea out and start thinking about foods differently. We need to stop villainizing foods and making ourselves feel guilty over eating certain foods. This pulls us away from listening to our bodies and eating intuitively, and closer to eating what we think we should eat rather than what we want to eat.
In order to allow ourselves to stop categorizing foods, you need to start thinking about the foods you genuinely enjoy and how to incorporate them into your day to day. If you love mac and cheese (like me), it shouldn’t be something that you’re afraid to eat or only eat on special occasions. It should be a food that you have when you want it, and get satisfaction from. Allowing yourself to enjoy the foods you love can help limit the feeling of needing to over eat that food. The more you restrict, the more you want it; so why deprive yourself? Every fad diet out there will give you a list of “no” foods and a list of “yes” foods. All this does is reinforce the categorizing of good and bad foods.
We give food way too much power than it deserves. We allow it to adjust our social life, make us feel restricted, and sometimes even affect the relationships we have with others. If you want to stop feeling so powerless towards dieting, you have to take the power for yourself. Stop being afraid of foods and start loving foods. Be comfortable, happy and confident with the choices you make. The more intuition you put into eating, the more empowered you feel and the more you’ll want to eat foods that make you feel better as a whole.
Eating intuitively takes time, patience, and lots of rewiring our brains. Working with a Registered Dietitian can help you plan, strategize, and ensure you’re not overwhelmed with changing the way you see foods. Just remember that no one food is going to sabotage your hard work and the less stress you put on yourself, the easier the transition will be.