Wellness Wednesday- Lets not label food “good” or “bad”

Morning everyone and happy March!  March is National Nutrition Month, so this month we will be celebrating all things nutrition.  This week is also National Eating Disorder (NED) Awareness week. I already shared my personal experience with this topic in a previous post, so today I wanted to discuss an article that hit home with me.

I read this great post today from Balance in Practice about food shaming, and it really got me thinking.  It was the second article I’ve read on the topic this week, and with good timing given NED Awareness.  At work, I feel like I am confronted with questions and concerns about “good” and “bad” foods on a daily basis.  Many people are concerned about this because they feel when they eat certain foods they are being “good” or “bad”.  I often hear, “well I was bad today, I ate a hamburger” or “you are going to be mad at me, I had cake last night”.   Um, since when does what you eat make you who you are as a person?  I am not the food police and my day is in no way changed by what you did or did not eat! But, I understand that they are projecting.

I know that my patients are not worried about me, they are upset with themselves.  It is ultimately the negative thinking that leaves me frustrated, not with them, but with our society.  We not only shame ourselves, but some even do it to other people. These judgments are often fueled by misinformation and/or a lifetime of restrictive dieting messages.  Thanks, media.

Sometimes the message is trying to be positive, but can leave others with more questions.  “I ate this clean, vegan, low-carb meal, so now all my problems are solved!” (Sorry that was a bit dramatic)  It is amazing that you feel great, and some people have real reasons they make these dietary choices.  However, now others may be thinking, “Do I need to be vegan? Do I eat too many carbs? What is clean eating? Is that the same as being good?”  We might just be creating a new type of disordered eating language, replacing one problem with another.

I love the reminder that food is not black and white, there is a lot of grey area.  I get some eye-rolls when I tell people there is no such thing as a diabetic diet, or that all foods can fit in a balanced meal plan.  It is true, a burger isn’t good or bad.  Should we eat them for every meal?  Probably not, but it is not going to make or break you.  We should enjoy a variety of food, listen to our bodies, and avoid food rules.  Food rules and people who push them on themselves or others are really an unfortunate combination.

We should be empowering other’s choices, not projecting our feelings about food or our emotions onto them.  There is no one nutrient or food group that is going to solve all of the problems in the world or cure obesity.  Also, if we label foods as “good” or “bad”, what message are we sending our children?  Because, now we have to explain that our food choices don’t define us.

Fueling our bodies the best we can is the true goal and, like I’ve said in the past, there has to be balance. Food is just food – we can’t give it this crazy power.  It has taken me a long time to learn this and I don’t expect everyone to feel the way I do about it.  My hope is that we can treat food as nourishment and not label it as a way to feel better or worse about ourselves or others.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so happy for people when I hear certain dietary changes or choices have helped them, or that they eat more vegetables, because I know they are getting more nutrients.  I am just as proud when a person can still enjoy chocolate chip cookies, but instead of having the entire box they have learned to enjoy one or two.  Everyone has a choice about what they eat to fuel their bodies, it is an experience and not all foods will leave us feeling the same afterwards.  Trusting and learning to listen to our bodies is all we can do.  Also, we should be sharing positive messages about food to our children.  Sometimes the texture, smell, and look of food is just as pleasing as the taste.  Try talking to your family about all of the flavors of food, instead of labels, and leave the “it is good for you” at the door – Maybe let the food speak for itself.

As always, thanks for being here and remember balance not perfection my friends. Cheers!

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