I’m sure that at some time we have put a label on certain foods. Dessert is “bad”, protein is better than carbs, etc. We all have done it, even if we do not intend to. The thing is these labels can affect our decisions and thoughts towards food, even if we are unaware of it.
A healthy attitude towards food is such an important tool in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s not always easy, but here are some common thoughts about food that I want to discuss.
I deserve this
There is certainly a place in a healthy lifestyle for a treat. However, telling ourselves that we “deserve” a certain food because of a bad day or stress is not wise. Making food a reward is a bad thing. Whenever something happens and food is used to numb the pain, we are eating from an emotional place. Drowning our sorrows or stress in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s might feel good at the moment, but how are you going to feel later? Most likely there will be some regret and disgust with yourself. Do you see how fast emotional eating can turn into feelings of guilt.
Find different ways to recover from a bad day. Exercise, take a long shower, get a manicure, or talk with a loved one. Instead of rewarding yourself with food buy a new outfit or get that much needed massage.
All or nothing
The all or nothing mindset does not really allow flexibility. It is so rigid and can become a stressful part of daily life. Why put yourself through that? Of course choosing to eat healthier is fantastic, but making sudden changes and not being ready to commit long term to being healthier will add nothing but stress to your life. In a cruel twist the added stress could potentially cause us to eat more or hinder digestion by not allowing for proper nutrient absorption. If battling with feelings of deprivation, you could potentially binge down the road, which can lead to guilt, beginning a potential vicious cycle.
Instead of all or nothing, do not bring these trigger foods into your home and schedule in a time when you are allowing yourself to consume a not so healthy food. Focus on the abundance of healthy foods that you can consume without any harsh rules or consequences.
Bad food vs. good food
Labeling food as “bad” can work against us by building fear around eating. Sometimes placing certain foods off limits can lead to craving and wanting that specific food even more. Yes sometimes you just have to avoid a sugar craving, but sometimes it’s OK to give in to a craving.
What if it’s a food that you actually enjoy? Are you willing to give up a food you love forever? You are not a bad person if you have pizza for dinner, so why would you tell yourself or your friends that you were so bad because you had pizza? Does that mean you should have a large pizza every night? Of course not, you know that. Does it mean that you can enjoy a slice or 2 of pizza every few weeks. Yes. Will you enjoy that pizza more if you are not scolding yourself while eating it? Yes.
Instead of using “good” and “bad” labels for food, think about how you feel after eating certain foods. Did that pizza make you feel great and ready to workout? Does that pizza leave a heavy and uncomfortable feeling? If it leaves you not feeling so good, then either eat less or try something different. Maybe you just were not as hungry as you thought. No need to give up pizza forever, just focus on finding a balance.
It’s fat free, gluten free, natural, etc
Seeing a certain label on a food can seem like an answer to prayers. Be careful. Labels are used for marketing purposes to entice us to buy products. When flavor is removed from a certain food it is replaced with a different ingredient. A lot of times this can be a sugar. While it’s “all natural,” it’s loaded with natural sugar. The other problem is portions. Seeing an “all natural” or “gluten free” label does not mean to forget about portions. We tell ourselves that something is good for us and easily can consume too much. Remember a high protein, all natural, gluten free cookie is still a processed cookie.
It is always a good idea to review ingredients and nutrition labels when buying a packaged food. Do not rely on marketing to determine if something is healthy. Arm yourself with knowledge rather than what is pretty on a shelf.
It is a special occasion
Life is meant to be celebrated and enjoyed, but do not sabotage yourself. If eating a piece of cake on your birthday makes you wonder about calories or how much exercise it will take to burn it off, then celebrating has turned to stressing. On the other hand if overeating just because it is a special occasion, put on the brakes. Have a good time and enjoy yourself, but there is no need to ruin a week’s worth of hard work in one evening. Going out to a favorite restaurant to celebrate is great. Enjoy the night out, but remember to eat healthy the whole day and maybe pick just one special indulgence-drinks, dessert, bread, etc.
Find a realistic balance that works for you and your social life. A healthy lifestyle can work with a busy social life as long as you do not overdo it at every event.