Are There ‘Good’ And ‘Bad’ Foods?
How you talk and think about what you consume has a massive impact on your relationship with food. There are many words and phrases that can result in a negative relationship with food.
We often label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We may call nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, as ‘good’. We often see ultra-processed foods like chocolate, ice cream, pizza and burgers as ‘bad’. Some foods have a better nutritional profile than others, but the context in which they are eaten is more important.
When you assign labels like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to a food, you are harmfully affecting your nutritional choices. Assigning judgement to foods creates negative associations, like guilt or frustration, that begin to control your choices, making you restrict and fixate on ‘good’ foods.
Labelling foods as ‘bad’ can make them more desirable to you. It will cause you to believe that you must restrict or avoid these foods entirely, as they may prevent you from reaching your health goals. Making foods forbidden drives you to want to eat them. It’s like when you tell a child ‘no’ to a sweet; they will then cry and scream until they get that sugar hit. It’s a part of human nature.
When you allow yourself to have foods you’ve decided are ‘forbidden’ treats – for example, you might ‘give in’ to the cake craving at a friend’s party – you risk creating one of three scenarious:
1. Loss of Control
You can become so excited to have this restricted food again that you mindlessly eat and end up overconsuming what you normally would have. You don’t even take the time to enjoy or savour the food, as you eat much more quickly when you have lost all control. This can then lead to feelings of guilt and shame. As a result, you may start restricting and applying more control, causing the beginning of this cycle to repeat.
In this scenario, as you believe you’re doing something ‘bad’, you tell yourself that you’re only going to have it just this once. So you might, for instance, end up trying eat up all of the ‘bad foods’ in the house at once for a ‘fresh start’ tomorrow. This spiral results in physical discomfort from overeating and feelings of guilt, stress or shame. These negative feelings trigger the cycle once again.
Maybe you’ve never experienced the previous two scenarios. You may feel totally in control of your eating habits. It is common, however, for people to eat a certain amount of food that suits their needs and hunger levels at the time, and still felt immense guilt later on, worrying that this momentary pleasure has ruined all the progress towards their goals. So, the restriction cycle starts again…
We need to mend our relationship with food. We need to start focusing on the positive aspects of eating, like satisfaction and enjoyment, and the joy of sharing food with our loved ones. Yes, some foods have a higher nutritional value than others and should be consumed more regularly to benefit our long-term health; however, there is absolutely room to include lower nutrient-dense foods purely for enjoyment in moderation.
Say goodbye to the food critic inside that judges all your eating choices and prevents you from giving your body what it craves and needs. It’s time to challenge your negative attitudes towards food that have been built up over years through toxic diet culture and myths about food, so that eating isn’t a stressor or a chore anymore.
Check out our Biscoff Overnight Weetbix to see how even ‘treats’ can fit into a healthy, balanced diet.
Thomas, L. (2019). Just eat it : how intuitive eating can help you get your s_ together around food. London: Bluebird Books For Life.