Today, it is fairly common to hear people referring to food as “good” and “bad”, especially around the holidays. Our culture sends so many messages to us about being “healthy”, and we often get praise when we are choosing to eat the foods that society deems “good”. For example, a few days ago I was eating with a friend and they commented, “oh you’re being so good eating a salad.” Was I trying to “be good”? Not really. It just looked delicious in the picture on the menu. But – did it make me feel good to hear that I was making “good” choices? Absolutely. This is where the problem is. Many people who get into this pattern of labeling don’t recognize the power that is attached to the words they use. Had I ordered a hamburger, and this friend told me I was “being bad”, would I have felt bad? The words we use to label our foods can create unnecessary fear, shame, guilt, anxiety, or even a false sense of pride. It can make someone feel bad about who they are, or good simply because of how they see the foods they eat. So often will I hear “I told myself I wouldn’t eat that ice cream but I couldn’t help myself and now I feel horrible.” The holidays can be stressful enough already. You don’t need the extra stress this causes.
Here are a few ways to help you battle the labels and enjoy the holidays a little more:
- All food is “food”. Your body needs fuel in order to survive. In the most simplest terms: It needs carbohydrates for energy, fats for energy and organ support, and protein to help build and repair muscle. There are going to be food choices that give you more of what you need; however, that does not mean that those food choices alone are “good”. For example, lettuce is often considered to be a “good” food; but if that is all you are eating, you are not getting all of what your body needs.
- Moderation. If you are balancing what you are putting into your body to give it what it needs, it is okay for you to enjoy some of the choices that maybe aren’t giving you as much of what you need. Humans are pleasure seeking. We were meant to enjoy food – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to experience and taste it the way we do. When you are celebrating the upcoming holidays, it is okay to enjoy those holiday sweets!
- Choose foods because you love your body, not because you hate your body. Your body can do amazing things for you if it is taken care of. If you are not feeding your body what it needs in order to function at its best, you won’t feel your best. This is why often times when someone follows a fad diet because they don’t feel good about themselves, they continue to battle how they feel about themselves and food, even if/when the weight is lost. It isn’t necessarily the food that is “bad” or “good”, it is the way we are perceiving the food and ourselves.
Food doesn’t have to control you or make you feel bad about yourself. It is meant to enjoy and above all, to keep you alive. If you find that you are struggling with food and this battle is consuming you, please think about talking to a therapist or a nutritionist for support.