Do you ever eat something, perhaps something you consider a “bad food”, and then instantly feel guilty?

By contrast, do you ever dread eating your “good” foods?

It’s human nature to categorize things as either good or bad. That mode of thinking might go all the way back to childhood, when we were rewarded for doing good things and punished for doing bad things. However, when engage in this viewpoint toward our food, we could be setting ourselves up for an unhealthy relationship with our meals – and even our self image.

How many people do you know, who have been eating only foods they detest for years and years now? How many people do you know, who routinely eat foods they enjoy?

Bingo: We’re going to stick to a diet of foods we enjoy.

When you view a food as “bad”, or a guilty pleasure, it can establish a difficult dynamic in your mind. First, it will make you crave that food even more, because the forbidden fruit is always the sweetest! Second, you might begin to use that food as a reward – for exercise, for getting through a bad day, even for things as silly as doing a good job on a work report or getting your mail drawer organized. That’s because we all like rewards. They’re fun and they make us feel good.

On the other hand, eating that “bad” food will then make you feel guilty. You’ll give yourself a hard time, maybe even “punishing” yourself with extra exercise the next day. Now you view exercise as a punishment for enjoying life, and who wants to stick with an exercise routine that feels like a punishment?

Going even further with this idea, you might tell yourself you can only eat “good” (healthy) foods for the rest of the week. This causes you to resent foods you ordinarily might enjoy… and who is going to stick with a diet of foods they resent?

Categorizing foods as “good” or “bad” sets up an unrealistic expectation about our diets, and an unhealthy spiral of shame, punishment, and rewards. Stop it!

Instead, ask yourself, “Why do I want to eat this?”

There are no bad foods, only bad reasons to eat them. It’s okay to occasionally indulge in some of your favorite treats, but try to be conscious of why you’re doing it. Are you actually hungry? Or are you eating due to anxiety, sadness, loneliness, or something else? Are you trying to reward yourself? Be conscious of why you’re eating.

Yes, it is true that some foods are healthier than others, but when you base your diet around healthy choices that you enjoy, you can leave a little room for the occasional indulgence – without the guilt.

On that note, call us for an appointment.  Remember that different medical diets may have specific nutritional requirements. We’ll discuss your dietary needs, establish a weight loss plan if you want one, and help you learn about nutrition so that you can make healthy, enjoyable choices for yourself.