Good food, Bad food… Does food have morals?

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Almost every day in my office I hear a client say that they ate a certain food because it was “good” or they try to avoid all “bad foods”.  Another frequent discussion is a client stating “I am a bad person” because I ate a cookie, pizza, cake, or another food that is often deemed “bad” by society, or they say “I was good today”. Their determination of them “being good” is based on only eating foods that day that they determine to be “good”.  My question is “When did food develop morals?”

I often joke to clients about the time I threw an almond at the wall during a session just to prove to that client that the almond “didn’t have feelings and therefore could not be inherently good or bad”.  The almond was not mad at me for throwing it against the wall because it has NO FEELINGS, and therefore, no sense of right and wrong.

The definition of morals: “Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong”.  Does spinach, a cupcake, or an apple know if it is good or bad? The answer is no, it does not know because it is not a human with a conscience. So then, why do we label these foods as good or bad?

The problem lies in labeling, and our use of language. Labeling foods as “good” or “bad” can lead one to think that he or she is “good” or “bad” based on what they eat. What does “good” even mean when it comes to food?  More fiber? Less calories? Less fat?  What does “bad” mean when it comes to food?  Higher calories? More sugar? More carbohydrates?  

Wait a second…. What I learned when I was getting my nutrition degree is that we need ALL of those things to be healthy. We need a certain amount of calories, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, and yes, even sugar some times in order to be healthy. Because healthy means that you eat a piece of cake every now and then because you are celebrating a birthday. Healthy means some days you are hungrier than others and need to eat more fat to satisfy your appetite. Maybe that fat comes in the form of avocados, or maybe it comes in the form of butter. The point is the food is not judging you, so why are you judging it? 

Being healthy means listening to your body, as your body is the best feedback for you to determine what and how much you should eat on a given day.  It is when we stop listening to our bodies, and instead listen and internalize society’s judgments’ on “good” and “bad” foods that things go astray.  This is when we restrict ourselves of “bad” foods only to end up binging on them later.  

Every food (YES EVERY FOOD) is a part of a healthy diet.  Because healthy means not allowing food to rule your life.  Healthy means not allowing your day or your self worth to be ruined just because you ate something society deems as “bad”.  Start today by noticing when you label yourself, or label foods as “good” or “bad”. Then, remember what I did to the almond, and try it out for yourself. You might just discover that an almond is just “an almond” and a cupcake is just “a cupcake”. Neither food requires more attention, power, or thought than the other.