“Good” and “Bad” Foods
Author: Breanna Mills R.D.
Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CEDRD defines diet culture as a system of beliefs that worship thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others and oppresses those who don’t match up with its supposed picture of health. One of the ways that diet culture promotes itself is through the idea of “good” and “bad” foods.
Diet culture loves to categorize foods and assign meaning to them through labels such as healthy and unhealthy, clean and dirty, real and fake, whole and processed, along with many others. The eating disorder loves these labels and likes to apply them to who you are as a person, such as if you eat good food then you are a good person, and if you eat bad food then therefore you are a bad person. However, these labels do not make a lot of sense. All food provides nourishment, whether it is something fast you picked up on the way home, or something that you have grown in your garden.
We make food choices based on a multitude of different factors, and no choice is better or worse than the other. Our overall well-being is so much greater than our food choices alone and getting nutrients from food is only one purpose of eating. We also eat to socialize and connect, we eat for cultural reasons, we eat to celebrate, we eat for traditions, along with many other reasons. By simply focusing on the nutritional aspect of food, we are missing out on so many other things. Eating is supposed to feel good, after all we are satisfying a powerful biological need!
How can you move away from food labels?
It may be helpful to start by simply naming the categories that you put food into. How do these categories and rules work for the eating disorder? How could you start to think of food in a more neutral way and break the rules that the eating disorder has?
Breaking eating disorder rules is never easy; however, it is a way to depower the eating disorder and increase freedom with food. You may find yourself reaching for the foods that have been previously labeled as off-limits more often. It is normal to go through this phase while the brain and body learn to trust that these foods are no longer off-limits and continued and unconditional permission is granted.
By getting rid of the labels of “good” and “bad” foods, you can start to make peace with food. Making peace with food helps to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being and helps to move towards full recovery.