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“Bad” vs. “Good” (80/20)
“There’s no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods.”
It’s a body-positive statement you’ve probably heard before, right up there with “everything in moderation”…but is it really true?
After all, we know a McDonald’s cheeseburger and French fries has a completely different nutrient profile than say a chicken breast and sweet potato.
And we know what the better option is when we compare a Snickers bar to an apple.
So is there really such a thing as “no good or bad foods” or “everything in moderation” (when the truth seems sooooo obvious)?
Allow me to explain…
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For years, in and out of eating disorder treatment, I was told in order to be “normal,” I needed to eat pizza on Friday nights, birthday cake on my birthday and Egg McMuffins for breakfast. Salads were frowned upon at dinner outings, and if I wanted an apple and almonds for a snack, the staff scoffed at me for choosing the “safe” option.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, watch any diet commercial, read news headlines or pick up any best-selling book in the health section at Barnes & Noble, and you’ll surely find prescriptions and protocols to “Cut sugar,” “Choose whole wheat over white,” and “Eat less processed foods.”
In one definition, a “healthy relationship with food” means eating Egg McMuffins.
In another, a “healthy relationship with food” means eating NO Egg McMuffins.
The real answer to the “Is there good and bad foods?” question is really this…
Not a distinctive “yes,” or a “no.” But instead a 100% customized answer to you—depending on your heart, head, experiences and personal health status.
The views, attitudes and relationships we have with our bodies, our food and ourselves are FAR more important than the nutrition labels, or stereotypes, of any food we put into our body.
An Egg McMuffin is not “good” for me, especially if I eat a lot of processed foods—on the regular, want to improve my gut health, or if I am looking for the most optimal, energizing nourishment.
However, an Egg McMuffin may very well be “good” for me, if it symbolizes something far greater than the actual nutrients going into my body. While consuming them daily is NOT recommended, eating an Egg McMuffin—and living to tell about it—was actually one of the most mind-freeing exercises I could have done for myself because it allowed me to:
a.) Recognize what does not kill me, makes me stronger;
b.) Go on vacations or participate in experiences with food—out of my control—and go with the flow (“Hey I lived to tall about that Egg McMuffin!”)
c.) And, lastly, it gave me an appreciation (and a passion) to discover more about the role of food in actually nourishing my body. Eating Egg McMuffins every Friday morning for a year inspired me to explore and integrate “food as medicine,” in the later years and for the first time, embrace real, whole fresh foods as life-giving nutrition to my body (mind and soul)
See the difference?
Yes. Certain foods do have more nutrients than others.
Yes. There is no denying that REAL food—the simple foods like animal proteins, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats (like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, fatty fish and nuts/seeds) are foods your body recognizes as food and thrives upon—like a plant thrives upon “water and sunshine.”
And yes, the Standard American Diet is laden with sugars, processed foods and refined grains that do contribute to disease and inflammation.
BUT…When I label foods as “good” or “bad,” I give food a greater life and control of its own and set myself up for the diet mentality.
EAT IN ABUNDANCE
It’s a methodology I practice today that helps bring clarity to the dilemma at hand.
Eating in abundance. Eating as “least restrictive as possible.”
When you begin the art of intuitive eating (listening to your own body), you begin to recognize how certain foods truly make you feel/don’t feel and what foods are good for your own gut health, mind health and energy.
“Eating in abundance” means maintaining an “abundant” mindset—what can I eat?
Instead of a restrictive mindset (What do I have to eliminate? What CAN’T I have? What SHOULDN’T I have?)
…We instead view the glass as HALF FULL (instead of HALF EMPTY).
Instead of saying, “I CAN’T have that,” or “That’s BAD for me”…We say things like:
“What CAN I have?”
It also means, INSTEAD of looking to rules and Google articles on whether a food is good or bad for us…we turn INWARD. We ask ourselves: “How does this food make me feel?”—truly.
I HATE the worlds “eliminate,” “cut out,” “avoid.”
When we hear these words, what does our human nature do?
We want what we can’t have.
We “should” and “shouldn’t” and shame ourselves.
What if, when it comes to deciding whether or not a food is FOR US, we asked ourselves this question?:
How am I nourishing my body?
The answer may very well become clearer.
You perhaps may be able to tolerate brown rice, even though the latest research says that white rice is better.
Or you may find that you do better when you eat some starch with your breakfast, whereas your friend swears by Intermittent Fasting or a ketogenic Bulletproof coffee.
You MUST find what works for you.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“Good” and “bad” foods don’t exist.
More nutrient-dense foods DO exist.
Less nutrient-dense and nourishing foods DO exist.
And “good” and “bad” mentalities DO exist.
Aim to eat more nutrient-dense foods, in abundance.
Tune in to how certain foods do and don’t nourish your body (how you feel, breakouts, gut health, etc.).
Go on strike from unnecessary rules.
Embrace opportunities to challenge old diet mentalities.
And realize, there is NO such thing as “perfection” or “perfect eating.” Life happens—aim for 80/20 balance…always.
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