Why You Need to Stop Thinking of Food as “Good” and “Bad”


Image Source: Vin Ganapathy

The holiday season is suddenly upon us, and many of us will find ourselves surrounded by family, friends, and food.  

For those individuals who are in eating disorder recovery, holidays are inevitably connected with a variety of challenges, obstacles, and triggers, often taking the pleasurable aspects out of joyous occasions. Triggering situations have an uncanny knack for intensifying eating disorder thoughts and behaviors – some mild, yet others, much more difficult to ignore.

Labeling Food as “Good” Versus “Bad”

A common trap that often leads into a downward spiral is the concept of “good” and “bad” food. In fact, this notion and perspective on food is so commonplace in our culture and in the mainstream media that we have essentially become numb to this dangerous form of thinking. This is perhaps most intensely seen around the holiday season. Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar?

  • “I am so bad for eating that dessert”
  • “I’ll be good during the meal so that I can have dessert”
  • “That dish has so much fat in it – it must be so bad for me”
  • “I’ve been good by fasting all day. Now I can splurge on this meal”

And so forth goes the negative chatter.  Some of these presumptions are internal thoughts, while others are voiced or heard from others. Asking such questions about food choices causes a need to address this concern: When did food become a moral issue? The truth is, many of us innocently label foods as being “good” or “bad”, but the reality is, food cannot determine a person’s character, will, or disposition.  


Learning to Neutralize Food

The danger of this mindset is the chaos that unavoidably follows the idea of food being a good or bad thing. When we make choices about food based on the assumption of morality, we subsequently face consequences that work to correct these choices. For example, if you have classified dessert as something “bad”, yet eat something that falls in this category, you will likely experience negative feelings stemming not from the food itself, but your perception of what defines this food. Feelings of guilt and shame are typically controlled with some means of compensating, or for those who have struggled with an eating disorder, triggering past behaviors that are harmful.  

This holiday season, take the power away from food by normalizing your eating experience. When you are engaging your body and allowing yourself to eat intuitively, there is no need to view foods through the lens of good or bad. Food is simply nourishment for the body that comes in various shapes and forms. Our bodies can be nourished through all different kinds of foods, and you are free to eat what your body wants and needs without needing to compensate or fall back on an eating disorder. Celebrate this freedom and enjoy the pleasurable aspects of eating during the holiday season and everyday!


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