Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I just went for a run so I deserve that beer later” or “don’t eat that ice-cream because it is bad”. Our language and the way we talk about food feeds into this discussion of food guilt.
We have somehow assigned morality to food. It may have started when we were children. In how our parents discussed what we “should” eat or how desserts were often a reward. Or it could be from the endless marketing ploys or fad-diets that are constantly labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” But by assigning morality to the food we eat I hear “I am unhealthy because I ate that bag of chips,” or “I am a failure because I indulged in more cookies than I had intended to.” Unfortunately, for some, food choices can hold enormous amounts of weight in the success of one’s day, goals, or overall emotions.
What if we removed the labels attached to the food we ate and unpacked this odd idea that we have to be 100% consistent to reach our goals. What if indulgence and healthy eating could be incorporated into our everyday life without the added conversations in our head of guilt or shame? Let’s take a look at three ways you can challenge your attachments to food as either “good” or “bad” and begin to differentiate between the labels you assign to food and yourself.
Whether this is once a day or once a week small indulgences should be a part of our diet.
We overindulge because we under indulge. My suggestion is to let yourself have the food items that bring you joy (obviously everything in moderation) and leave the labels at the door. If we perpetuate deprivations, that will-power to refrain will eventually give, and more times than not will lead to binge-like behaviors. To stick to a meal plan 100% of the time can be exhausting. Try to approach your nutrition with the 80/20 mentality, 80% of the time focus on exercising, eating well balanced meals and then 20% allow indulgences so your nutrition doesn’t always feel like an all or nothing plan.
write it down
Try writing down all that you are thinking or feeling after you have eaten something you are classifying as bad. Oftentimes when you read over what was written your comments have little to do with the nutrient profile of the food, or how it is going to nourish your body. More often your writing will be verbiage about how you define yourself. This is a wonderful exercise to do as we begin to denature these good/bad labels and personally notice how much we tie in our own worth to the food we eat. It could not only create awareness to our internal dialogue but bring attention to how foods feel through the process of digestion.
Before heading to the grocery store pick out some new recipes that you are excited about. Sometimes schedules or the excuse of “not having enough time” will result in convenient eating which doesn’t always set you up for success and then the shame cycle continues. By building out meal plans you can intentionally start to replenish your fridge with the foods you want.
Over the course of our lifetime we continue to attach labels to the food we eat, which not only adds stress but limits our ability to approach our nutritional goals from a balanced, kind place. I invite you to challenge those negative phrases and separate the morality we have attached to food. Over time, you might begin to hear yourself say, “that food made my body feel nourished and energized,” or “I loved how refreshing that cold beer tasted after a hot bike ride.”