This is part of a series we’ve lovingly dubbed “Illuminating Wellness”. It seems there is always some new term popping up in the wellness community (and your Pinterest boards). Let’s lay out what they mean and most importantly how you can actually apply them to your own day-to-day routine. Let’s talk about: “Bad” Food
This post isn’t so much about delving into a buzzword as it is about dissecting a concept everyone seems to be preaching about. And that concept, my friends, is “good” foods and “bad” foods. It seems every fad diet, lifestyle change, and advocate for clean eating at the moment is circling around the idea that some foods are “good”, and others are, well, “bad”. And those “bad” foods? They’re usually labeled as off limits and to be avoided at all costs.
Now this is never said anywhere overtly, but when certain foods become off limits it can sometimes be hard to separate eating “bad” foods from being a bad person: “I ate a food on the do not eat list, I am so bad.” Or how “I am a failure at this diet” can so easily turn into “I am a failure.” However, the food choices we make are not a determinant of who we are as a person.
There is really no such thing as a “bad” food. And while living completely off of cupcakes or even bananas will certainly lead to poor health, a few here and there will not be the end of the world (or your health). When we tell ourselves that certain foods are off limits we unintentionally make ourselves crazy and set ourselves up for failure. We become so focused on the fact that we can’t have a certain food that it drives us to want it even more. And then when we “cave”, we feel weak.
Restricting is clearly not a solution to creating a healthier way of eating, but focusing on food that is nourishing can be; after all, food is a means of nourishing our bodies. Any meaning we attach to it aside from that is self-created, whether we learn that meaning from society, our family, or friends. It happens. And that’s okay. To create a healthy relationship with food though, we need to unlearn that behavior, which leads us right back to intuitive eating (remember that?)
When we allow all foods to become good foods, carrots and cupcakes can become nourishing foods. Because let’s face it, eating a cupcake can be very enjoyable, and when you savor each bite, that’s nourishing. It’s a profound act of self-love when you are able to allow yourself to be immersed in the experience of the rich fluffy cake and sweet creamy frosting.
You are so much more than the food choices you make. And the food choices you make are such small parts of your day. One slip up does not mean you should abandon your attempts at creating a healthier way of living. Life is not black or white. Nor are our daily food choices. What we need is to become comfortable with the gray areas that make up day to day life.
So what steps can you take?
To start, ditch any list of foods to avoid you may adhere to (unless of course it’s for medical reasons) and follow the intuitive eating steps. Focus on the practice of allowing yourself to have foods that you once considered “bad”, and creating a positive experience around it. Practice noticing the textures and flavors of your food, how does it make you feel physically when you eat it?
Remember: this is a practice, have patience with the process. Be gentle with yourself if you catch yourself assigning moral value to food and celebrate when you hold a more objective view towards your meal.
– image credit: Sarah Swinton