With the new year coming in fast and furious and often being accompanied by the mindset to change our eating habits, it’s important we go about it in the right way. I’m sure we’re all guilty of labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ without a second thought, but I’m here to shed light on ending that phenomenon.
Food is a topic I have yet to touch on with this blog, but it is important as it is a part of our day to day lives. Far too many people have an unhealthy relationship with how we relate to food, myself included. Although I don’t have a perfect relationship with food as of right now, I have improved significantly in the way I relate to food. A lot of the changes I have made with how I related to food focus around mindful eating, what I’m actually eating and my vocabulary towards food. Today I’ll touch on vocabulary towards food, as I find this is such an important step in transitioning your mindset.
For most of my life I have grouped food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories. Perhaps you don’t use those specific words, but maybe you use words such as junk food, cheat food, diet food, indulgences, or treats. Regardless of the lingo you use, I’m sure somewhere in your mind you’ve drawn a line between vegetables and donuts, or maybe what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ eat. I’m not here to argue with science and suggest you throw out all the broccoli and begin a donut-exclusive diet, however, I am wanting you to hear me out with the way you relate to food.
Food is not inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Food does not have morals. Food is neither altruistic nor evil. Food is a combination of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and is measured by units of measurement called calories. Food is used to power our bodies so that we are able to perform activities of daily living. It is also used as the building blocks for our body, and is used by our body to generate heat.
The major difference in the different types of food that exist are the macro and micronutrient makeup of said item of food. To simplify that, some foods may be more nutrient dense than others. For example, a head of broccoli is more nutrient dense than a donut.
So what was I saying exactly with all of that? Food is not ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, but some items of food are more nutrient dense than others.
So is that to say that we shouldn’t eat food because it is less nutrient dense than other food? Not quite. Determining when and where to incorporate these food items into our daily diets all comes under the consideration of moderation, frequency and portion size.
An unknown quote my professor once repeated was that ‘the difference between a poison and a cure is the dose’. Although he was speaking to medication at the time, the same philosophy can be applied to food when we talk about what to do with foods that are less nutrient dense. All types of foods can be incorporated into our diets, as long as we are mindful of moderation.
The less emphasis we put on the label of the food, the less of a power it holds over us. When we eat a food we deem as ‘bad’, we feel as though we have done something wrong. Sometimes this is accompanied by guilt, and the feeling of wanting to ‘fix’ the ‘bad’ thing. This can look like us restricting our diets (for the rest of the day, week etc. depending on each person), exercising to ‘work off’ the ‘bad’ food, or spending time dwelling on what we ate and criticizing ourselves.
When we shift our mindset to not labeling our foods, and incorporating balance and moderation into our diets, food doesn’t have the same power over us. The things we eat do not affect us as deeply. We can eat foods that are less nutrient dense and not need to feel the need to take immediate action. Looking at food as a means of fuel, as a means of sustaining our bodies, and as a means of balance are keys in finding freedom from the power food has over us.
Below are some things you can try to shift the mindset of labeling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and shift your mindset towards fuelling your body in a balanced way.
Pay attention to the food you’re preparing and eating. While preparing, think of how to incorporate nutrient dense foods into more of your meals. If your country/state/province has a food guide available, can you find more ways to follow that closely? When you eat, sit down without distractions and truly enjoy the meal you have prepared.
When you hear yourself labelling foods ie. ‘good’, ‘bad’ etc. Catch yourself and try to change that. Whenever you catch yourself using these labels it is important to correct yourself on the spot so that you are re-directing how you think about food. If you find yourself overthinking about food, check out this post to redirect your overthinking.
Not every meal you eat is going to be nutrient dense to the max. That is OK. With balance, we are able to see that nutrient quantities will vary in our meals throughout the day, and often if we balance each meal our totals for the end of the day will add up. Some days you may eat more nutrient dense foods, other days you may eat less nutrient dense foods. Balance is finding yourself in between two extremes and focusing your energy there.
Eating foods that are less dense in nutrients (ie. a donut) will not wildly sway your nutritional requirements and goals if done in moderation. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and if your favourite food happens to be on the lower nutrient dense side of the spectrum, then practice incorporating that food into your diet in moderation. This can be said for foods that are highly nutrient dense as well. Remember, the difference between a poison and a cure is the dose, and that can be said for all food items.
There is no one solution for every human being, and this can be explained by the vast nutritional requirement variances for every person. This post was merely written to draw your attention to the subconscious act of how we label food, and how changing that mindset can offer us freedom from how we are affected by food.
Did any of this resonate with you? Is there anything you’ve tried that has been successful? Let me know in the comments!