Have you ever found yourself thinking in terms of “good food” vs “bad foods”? Or how about saying something like “I was so bad this weekend” when referring to your food choices? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, but this can be a very harmful mindset to adopt about the things you put into your body. In this article, we will talk about why this isn’t the best way to think about what you eat and how you can shift your mentality away from assigning morality to food.
The Food Morality Cycle
Does this cycle ring any bells? Join the club! We are constantly told which foods are “good” and which are “bad”. We are led to believe that we should feel “guilty” about eating certain foods and “proud” for eating others.
But we’re here to tell you there are no “good” or “bad” foods. There are foods that should be consumed in moderation and some that can (to a point) be eaten freely. The sooner that you start believing and practicing this mindset, the sooner you’ll reach your goals. And the better you’ll be at maintaining - or advancing – them.
Why Assigning Morality to Food is a Problem
When you decide foods are “good” and “bad” you are already setting yourself up to go overboard on foods that you wouldn’t eat while you’re “being good”. The more guilt you feel about a eating a food, the less in-control you will be around that food.
If you’ve been in situation where you said to yourself “I’m already being bad so I may as well just have more” you know exactly what we’re talking about. And this inevitably leads to you feeling bad.
These thought patterns result in you equating the foods that you eat to the kind of person you are. But eating pizza doesn’t make you a bad person, just like eating broccoli doesn’t make you a good person.
Once you start feeling like a bad person, it is easy to slip into a downward spiral. You may begin reaching for the potato chips more often or skip a couple of extra days at the gym. These unhealthy habits will make you feel even worse and you will be less able to quit the cycle and start making healthy choices again.
So how else can we make healthy choices if we aren’t going to vilify donuts?
Effective vs Ineffective Foods
Instead of referring to foods as “good” and “bad” we encourage you to think of foods as “effective” or “ineffective”.
This way, you can consider your goals and the situation you are in to decide whether or not a food is “effective”. You can also deem a food “effective” in one scenario and “ineffective” in another, instead of it inherently being “bad” or “good”.
Let’s see how we can use both terms to describe the same food at different times. We’ll use a chocolate chip cookie as an example.
Situation A: One of your coworkers brings grocery store chocolate chip cookies to the office for everyone to have. You’ve been working on your fat loss goals, and have a macro-friendly lunch in the fridge. But, you feel a little hunger pang and some jealousy as everyone else reaches for a cookie, so you decide to have one. You realize that cookie wasn’t even worth the calories and you feel guilty about straying from your plan. You have another because, what the heck, you already feel like crap!
Situation B: You are on a trip with your significant other. You read about this amazing little bakery next to the ocean with the best coffee and chocolate chip cookies. The two of you decide to pop in midmorning for a pick me up and a snack. You each get a cookie and sip on some joe at an outdoor table and enjoy the view, the company, and the sweets.
In situation A, that chocolate chip cookie didn’t serve you in any way and was therefore an “ineffective” food. You ended up feeling bad about eating it and it didn’t get you any closer to your goals.
In situation B, you enjoyed your cookie and your time at the coffee shop. You were in a situation that made this cookie an “effective” food as it allowed you to spend meaningful time with your significant other without stressing about what to eat.
Soul Foods vs Whole Foods
Another way you can look at foods is as “soul” foods and “whole” foods. Foods won’t generally be fluid between these two terms, but they can be categorized as two different types of “effectiveness”.
“Whole” foods are foods that will get us closer to our goals. They come from the earth and are filled with micronutrients as well as macronutrients. These are the types of foods that we encourage you to fill your plate with on an everyday basis.
“Soul” foods are foods that will make your heart happy. These are those foods that should be consumed in moderation, in addition to your “whole” food meals. Soul foods include the things you treat yourself to on occasion, like that chocolate chip cookie at the seaside bakery in situation B.
In every scenario you can determine whether or not a food is an “effective” or “ineffective” food.
If you have set goals, you will always be able to check in with those and decide if a food will be “effective” or “ineffective” at getting you to those goals. You will also be able to prioritize those goals and determine which category of “effectiveness” you are aiming for in a given situation.
This way, you can enjoy your food more and stop the vicious “good food” vs “bad food” cycle!
We know that shifting your mindset can be hard, and we’re here to help! Hire a 1-on-1 coach who can guide you through mindset changes and help you reach your goals while enjoying a treat every so often.