Do you feel like you’re being “good” when you eat veggies and “bad” when you eat cake? You’re not alone. I buy “guilt-free” snacks and treats, and go on juice cleanses when I need to detox. But, how are these rituals shaping our self image and health?
Many peoples’ relationship with food is based on morals. After all, “you are what you eat,” right? But, when we moralize food, we are not focusing on health or energy. We are concentrating on how food defines our character. In extreme cases, food moralization can even be a component to eating disorders. Here’s how to stop this behavior.
How We Eat
Rather than focusing on what you are eating, concentrate on how you’re eating … and how you’re choosing your food. Are you eating when you are hungry or are you confusing hunger for thirst? How fast are you eating? Are you enjoying your food or do you find yourself eating when distracted? Focusing on the action of eating, rather than your food itself, will encourage more mindful eating.
How We Cook
How we cook our food has a great influence on what we consume. If you find that you rarely cook, ask yourself why. Are most of your meals takeout? Pre-packaged? If so, what about your lifestyle encourages this? How often are you using your microwave? Focus on healthy cooking methods, like stir-frying, roasting, grilling, baking, steaming, and sauteing — all of which encourages the use of fresh, whole-food ingredients. Just watch — as you begin cooking this way, you will find yourself consuming more nutritional rich foods.
Stay Off the Scale
Don’t get hung up on losing weight. Instead, focus on how you feel. Pay attention to your energy levels after you eat. What foods make you feel awake versus lethargic? How are your clothes fitting? Is your skin bright? How often are you getting sick? Your body is pretty brilliant at communicating what foods are working for it — you just need to be open to listening. Keep your focus on maintaining a healthy body that allows you to do the things that you love. And then, any pounds that could stand to come off most likely will … but at that point, it’ll just feel like a nice perk.
Ask for Help
If you find yourself emotionally attached to food and tying your self-worth to your diet (or notice a loved one exhibiting this behavior), it might be time to ask for help. Moralizing food makes any sweet forbidden and bad. Consequently, people are more likely to eat “bad foods” in excess and then feel guilty for consuming a “forbidden” treat. This mentality can quickly unravel into binge diets and eating disorders.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, there is help available:
We need to overcome the idea that any foods are inherently “bad” or “good.” Instead, let’s focus on what food is — a source of energy. Eating cake is fine! But it’s good to be aware of the fact that it might make us feel lethargic and, therefore, less likely to go for a hike. Tune into yourself and your body — if you really want cake, have some! Just maybe try to add in some super nutritious food, too — not because you should, but because you’re worth taking care of and those foods improve your health.
What are your thoughts on “good” and “bad” foods? —Alex