If I could banish one word from my clients’ vocabulary it would be the word “bad” in reference to food, how they ate or how they feel about what they ate.
“I ate so much bad food this weekend.”
“I ate a few cookies and had a glass of wine. It was definitely a binge and it was so bad.”
“I went out to dinner and ate so bad.”
My philosophy? There is no such thing as BAD food unless it’s spoiled or rotten.
FOOD IS JUST FOOD.
But I know, this is a really tough mindset shift to make and I can’t blame my clients or anyone else for thinking of food as good vs bad because it’s kind of what we’re taught. The health and fitness industry is saturated with information on what’s “good” for us and what’s “bad” for us and we get totally trained to think of food in that way.
But when we think of food as good or bad, we can’t help but attach ourselves to those adjective. If cookies are bad and we eat them, then we’re bad and fell off the wagon. If spinach is “good” for us and we eat it, then we’re good and on track.
So if there are good foods and there are bad foods, are there any foods that are neutral?
In reality, ALL FOOD IS NEUTRAL.
Now is the time when the argument of “Lauren are you really saying cookies are as healthy as spinach?!” and my answer is, it depends.
If you’re someone who has no food issues and you can look at a cookie as a cookie and look at spinach as spinach and you’re fine with either choice, any time, guilt-free, then I’d say go for the spinach and have the cookie when you feel like it from a pure health standpoint.
However, if you’re someone who has hang-ups around food and feel guilty after eating cookies, then no I don’t think spinach is healthier for you than cookies. Because before we worry about calories and grams of fat and how many carbs we’re eating, we have to fix our relationship with food first. We have to get our mind right FIRST AND FOREMOST. Which means we need exposure to those forbidden foods to take the novelty away.
Because here’s what happens. We restrict, restrict, restrict, get tired of the restriction, get frustrated that we “can’t” eat certain foods so we throw in the towel and go to town on the cookies. Then what? Start over again with the restriction come Monday morning.
Here’s a challenge for you this week.
Allow yourself to eat all food and any food MINDFULLY.
Eating mindfully means asking yourself questions like:
>> Am I physically hungry?
>> Do I actually want this food?
>> Will I feel deprived if I don’t eat it?
>> Will it be satisfying?
Then as you’re eating the food, stay present and remind yourself that what you’re doing OK. Talk to yourself by using some of these prompts:
>> Does it taste good? (If yes, keep eating. If not, leave it)
>> I deserve to enjoy the food I eat
>> I trust myself to stop when I’m satisfied
Once you’ve finished your cookie or meal or snack, notice what kind of thoughts you’re having. If you’re prone to negative self-talk, SHUT IT DOWN. Replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Replace the “I shouldn’t have eaten that” with “I ate a cookie and it tasted great. I’m satisfied and I’ll have another tomorrow.”
What we’re doing here is taking the novelty away from certain foods and taking them off of the pedestal. We’re making food neutral.
Once all foods become neutral, we naturally start making food choices that are nourishing, satisfying and healthy for our body AND mind.
Gone will be the days of restriction and deprivation and food guilt.
Once all foods become neutral, our physique will start taking care of itself which means no more stress about what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. You’ll eat what tastes and feels good for your body, you’ll eat when you’re hungry, you’ll stop when you’re full and you won’t have to worry about starting over every Monday morning.
Try it out. Try adding one or two foods into your diet this week that you typically restrict, using the tips above to stay mindful, and let me know how you do. It’s gonna be uncomfortable, it’s gonna feel weird, but I promise that once all foods are on an equal playing field, your physique will respond and your overall stress around food will disappear.
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