It’s really interesting creating content and sharing it online for everyone to see. You can never fully anticipate what people will resonate with or find interesting and helpful until you hit publish.
In saying that, I know for sure that what I’m going to talk about here right now always(!) gets such a powerful response.
A light bulb sparks on.
An “a-ha!” moment lands.
And a perspective shift occurs.
Oh yes. This one’s a goodie.
A simple truth.
Food is not good or bad.
Now, I get it. It sounds weird. How could it not be good or bad? How could kale not be good, how could sugar not be bad? Stick with me for a sec.
That was until one day my bestie caught me out. She said:
“Seriously, Jess. Stop. It’s just food. Stop saying good food bad food. Stop saying treats too, you’re not a puppy.”
Other than laughing in confusion at the puppy comment, I couldn’t quite get my mind around what she was saying. I “got it” to an extent, but I couldn’t fully understand it at that point. I had to really let it sink in. How could food not be good or bad?! This was a whole new way of thinking about things.
In time, and with an open mind, I finally got it. It finally made sense. Food is not good or bad. It can’t be. Kale isn’t morally good and a cupcake isn’t morally bad. I know it’s obvious that a cupcake isn’t going to give you the same (if any!) nutritional value as kale would. But if you eat a cupcake every now and again is it still classified as “bad”?
Now if you’re reading this and already thinking “But how else am I meant to describe food?! What do I say instead?!”, that’s totally normal. And a really great question. So I’ve put together a little swap-this-for-that file. There is a list to get you started on what you can say instead of using those good and bad labels! Download it for free here below, lovely.
Here’s why believing that food can be good or bad is damaging:
Let’s say you eat something you’ve labelled as “bad”, well that will immediately translate in your subconscious as “I am bad”. Then you feel stressed and guilty, which usually leads to more self sabotage with food. (a.k.a eating anything and everything.)
One bite of a piece of chocolate cake and eating 3 whole chocolate cakes are going to have different effects on your body. So can you see how it doesn’t make sense to label the chocolate cake itself as “bad”?
Your food choices will never determine whether you are a good or bad person. Fact.
When you truly understand that food isn’t good or bad it takes the chaos out of eating. It removes the judgement. So instead of listening to external advice (diets, meal plans, celebrity tips etc) and what you think you should eat, you’ll create space to actually connect to what you feel like and what your body wants.
Ultimately, here is how I see things now:
Food is food.
Ditch “trying to be good” or eating “good foods” and use feeling good as your compass to navigate food choices. Eat nutritious foods to feel good. Eat your favourite delicious foods purely for the sake of your tastebuds. And remember to not stress out when things don’t go perfectly. (‘Cause there’s no such thing anyway!)
Jessica Silsby is an Eating Psychology Coach, reformed fad dieter and peaceful eater.
She teaches women the real reasons they feel out of control around food, so they stop stressing and obsessing about their eating habits and finally feel free.