Why you shouldn't divide food into good and bad

Why you shouldn't divide food into bad and good

A major mistake in intuitive eating is dividing food into bad and good. Lisa Gilman, head of nutritiology at Atlas Biomedical Holdings, tells us how to make friends with both broccoli and donuts at the same time. 


Bad food and good food 

With eating disorders, it's often common to categorize foods into clear categories. Some foods are good, I eat them. Other foods are bad, I do not eat them. But there are many nuances and many shades of gray in nutrition. In order to make peace with food, it's important to treat all foods equally, morally. What does that mean? Putting some foods on a pedestal and demonizing others often leads to binge eating, overeating, breakdowns, excessive restriction, and, of course, a great deal of shame and guilt over food.


Of course, some foods are more nutritious than others. Clearly, broccoli is more valuable than a donut in terms of nutrients. That said, broccoli has no more moral value than a donut. When we extol kale and label a doughnut as "bad," we are more likely to be unable to control ourselves when we encounter a piece of deep-fried dough. 


The goal is to lower the heat of emotion around food, that is, to be calm and equally neutral about both broccoli and doughnut. Healthier foods simply serve a different purpose.


There are many ways in which food can promote health and fuel the body beyond nutrients. Providing energy is just one piece of the puzzle. For example, a snack with lots of sugar may not be the healthiest food, but if I'm going for a run, it may be just what I need - quick energy. Ice cream is a source of calcium and fat-soluble vitamins. Pasta provides the brain with the carbohydrates it needs. If you find yourself in the desert, for example, sugary sodas will quickly stop being bad and unhealthy. Enjoyment is no small factor. Of course, lemonade doesn't provide many benefits. But cold lemonade with ice - how nice it is on a hot summer day!

There is also a social aspect to food. It should not be underestimated. Most people don't consider the May holidays to be the healthiest time to eat. But the health value here is in socializing with friends and family. After all, loneliness will take up far more years of your life than cake. Take the stress out of your relationship with food by evaluating your diet on the pleasure scale


If you find it hard not to divide food into good and bad, try a simple exercise.


When you catch yourself labeling a food, imagine a vertical scale. The bottom of the scale means the food has no (or very little) nutrients, the top means it has a lot of nutrients. Mentally place that food on the scale. If it's at the bottom of the scale, think about how you can raise it a little higher.


For example, chips are potatoes, oil, and salt. What nutrients are in potatoes and butter? Potatoes contain vitamins B, C and starch. The oil helps absorb the fat-soluble vitamins. Even if you put chips up a little bit on the scale, it's already a step up from black and white thinking. If you put green juice at the top of the scale, try the opposite, move it lower - that is, challenge its usefulness. Green juice is not high in energy, fiber, fat, protein, or carbohydrates.


Now imagine another scale - that of pleasure. This scale is also important when it comes to health. Think about how enjoyable it is to eat and the process of eating. The purpose of this exercise is not to find the perfect balance on the pleasure/utility scale and use it to combat black and white thinking.


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