Food has the power to fuel us through enduring or strength-based feats, but also can bring us joy, pleasure & comfort. It can help us create meaningful experiences with our loved ones. It can connect us to our culture, family, and traditions. After all, food plays a significant role in a variety of celebrations and religious practices like Thanksgiving or Passover to name a couple. Food itself is not inherently bad or good.
However, the way that our consumption makes us feel can most certainly feel good or bad. If we have a moment where we overconsume something, that could make us feel bad and then we relate that bad feeling to that food. If we indulge in something that has a tendency to upset our stomachs because of our personal and individual needs, that could definitely make us feel bad or discomfort and maybe we’re associating that with that food.
Something I have previously done with a client is ask a few of these questions after receiving a message where they let me know that they ate bad food over the weekend.
Give me more here… What was bad about it? Did it taste good to you? Did you feel good bodily-wise as you were consuming it? Did the food bring you value through being able to have that moment with your husband while experiencing food?
After asking these questions, we came down to the single truth here. We can have any food… Anything. And it’s okay. There are no good or bad foods. The statement is far too simple.
When I am working with clients, I like to talk a lot more about the value that food either brings or takes away.
The Value Food Brings or Takes Away
This is simply a different way to look at everything.
If something brings you value in any sort of way, there’s nothing wrong with that. That value could be a cheerful moment, nutritional goals being achieved, or quenching your hunger when you’re out on the road and that’s all you can get.
The value that might take away… when we eat to the point of discomfort or we don’t choose something that we feel aligns with who we are and what we want. And truthfully, we are going to have moments where that happens and I think what’s more important is what we learn from it and what we learn about ourselves from it.
How to assess value
What we’re looking for when we’re trying to figure out the value something brings us is how to quickly assess that for the here and now but also for our future selves. What might bring us value right now could potentially remove value later. I like to think about situations where maybe we consume something that doesn’t necessarily sit well with our stomach and in the moment it feels fantastic but then for the next two or three days, you have an upset stomach and GI distress. How do you stop at that moment before consuming and assess both that pleasure at the moment and whether or not you are willing to pay that cost for the future?
You could ask yourself two questions to keep you in the conscious thought process.
- Is it worth it?
- Will I feel good mentally, physically, and emotionally later?
If it clears both of these questions, then you have made a conscious decision about those things. That means that it aligns with where you are in that moment but also where you are heading.
Having this moment means that we’ve also paused to check in with ourselves in a mindful way. We’re allowing ourselves a moment to make a choice and be intentional.
Workthrough: “Bad” or “Good” Food
Do you want to try to see how you feel about different foods? Try this work through.
- Head to your pantry and grab the first thing you see.
- Take a moment to reflect on your initial thoughts about this food.
- Do you immediately categorize it as “healthy or not healthy,” “safe or not safe,” “good or bad,” or something similar with a judgment attached?
- If your categorization places items into categories that involve judgment, it’s important to be aware that all food is just food. Take a moment to check for any restrictive thoughts you may have about food. Are these thoughts based on truth?
- There are some categorizations that can be put in place instead of ones that involve judgment like listing foods by a food group (dairy, meat, grains, fruit, vegetable), main macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat), or meal your associate with it (breakfast food, lunch food, dinner food, dessert). Although I will say with this last one, brinner or having breakfast for dinner is kind of amazing.
What all of this comes back to is that food is not inherently good or bad; it simply exists. Yes, food’s primary function is to provide energy to the body, but it is much more than that. It brings joy, and comfort, and gets us all around a table to connect with each other.
Disclaimer: If you battle with this concept, please seek help from a registered dietician or a mental health professional.