Do you label food “good” or “bad”?

Many clients I work with have a love/hate relationship with food.  If this is you, don’t feel badly, it’s been going on as long as Adam and Eve!

However if you find yourself labeling food as either good or bad, or using other judgmental language about food, you are sabotaging your success to managing your weight.

Some common phrases I hear are:

  • I was soooo bad today
  • I ate really good today
  • I have no control over ‘chocolate’
  • I don’t know what’s wrong with me…I know I should eat breakfast but I don’t
  • I don’t allow myself to eat ice cream
  • I only eat super clean foods

This kind of language places a judgment and attaches emotional energy to particular food or eating practices.   When you look at eating objectively, food is neutral – neither good nor bad.  However, due to years of mixed messages from our environment and disconnection from balanced eating, many people have learned to create food rules and restrict ‘bad or forbidden’ foods.

If you fall into this category you may be sabotaging your success in a couple of ways:

First, you are giving food more power than it deserves.  Although food is a neutral substance when we attach negative judgments it makes the food more interesting and we tend to focus on it more. Thinking about a forbidden food alters our brain chemistry (especially when we are tired, hungry, stressed, overwhelmed or checked out) and can drive our dopamine levels.  Dopamine is the “I gotta get it” hormone which stimulates a craving for guess what?  Your forbidden food.

If you are skeptical try the following experiment.  Choose a day and tell yourself you can eat anything you want except chocolate.   Count how many times over that day you think about or want chocolate. When we label foods, or tell ourselves we shouldn’t eat them it’s human nature to then want them even more.

Second, if you label food as bad and then by some twist of fate you eat that food, there is a chance that the label attached to the food then transfers to you.  I have seen over and over clients referring to themselves as ‘bad’ because they ate the forbidden fruit food.  When we label our self as bad, it strengthens our negative self image, promotes more negative self talk (and who needs more of that?).  It also increases stress in our emotional brain which leads to more cravings and leave us trapped in a cycle.

This week I challenge you to increase your awareness of how often you categorize food as good or bad and work towards reminding yourself food is neutral!