“Good” and “Bad” foods don’t exist…
Some foods are less optimal (energy-dense and less nutritious) and some are more optimal (more satiating, more nutrient-dense) and these can be looked at as appropriate or less appropriate, goal and situation dependent.
There are good and bad diets when looked at as a whole, but no single food is going to make you ‘unhealthy’ or gain fat.
By labelling certain foods as ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ and others as ‘dirty’ and ‘unhealthy’ you’re creating a ‘good’ and ‘bad mentality towards food. And in doing so, you set yourself up for failure from the beginning.
Calling a food ‘bad’ gives it undeserved power. Bad foods are perceived as forbidden fruit, which sets us up for overeating and bingeing.
Also, these labels (clean/healthy/good versus dirty/unhealthy/bad) then become attached to your self-worth;
When you’re eating foods you’ve deemed ‘good’-you see yourself as a ‘good’, disciplined person who can stick to their diet; and when you eat the foods you’ve deemed ‘bad’-you see yourself as a ‘bad’, undisciplined person who can’t stick to their diet.
This is why you eat well for a week but then have one bad day of eating and that one bad day has more of an impact on you than the entire week of eating well.
Even though rationally you know one bad day of eating won’t have that much of an impact on progress, you can’t help but focus on that one bad day (or one bad meal).
You feel bad because you ate all these “bad” foods and you’re such a bad person because you can’t stick to a diet. Then you promise yourself that come Monday you’re going to be “good” again and not eat these “bad” foods.
You’ve now created a negative feedback loop that only strengthens the belief that you’re a bad, undisciplined person who can’t stick to their diet.
But the problem isn’t you-it’s the labels you’re using.
You haven’t had a ‘bad day’ if you’ve eaten less nutritious foods over more nutritious foods. You need to look at your diet as a whole and not based on 1 or 2 days or even one single food decision.
You then fall into the mindset of “Oh I ate a whole bag of sweets, my diet is ruined, I may as well write off the day/week”.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD;
Make sure you are eating more optimal foods for your goal (lower in calories, more filling, and provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fibre).
Over less optimal foods for your goal (higher in calories, not as satiating, and provide fewer amounts of all the good stuff–BUT, they’re great for you mentally because you enjoy them).
The good old 80/20 rule.
So, for example, if you went out for lunch and enjoyed a meal that was less optimal, you just make sure that your next meal contains foods that are more optimal.
Another example: If you’ve been great with your diet during the week and you know you’ll be going out on the weekend, you won’t be stressing out because you know that you’ve been eating more optimal foods during the week so you can fit in and enjoy some of the less optimal foods at the weekend.
You can also do this in reverse… let loose at the weekend? reign it in the next week with more optimal choices.
- No food at all is inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is an accumulation of our choices of food, drink and exercise over a period of time that dictate our health.
- Words matter. Instead of using the terms “good” or “bad”, use more optimal or less optimal.
- You are responsible for your diet and your own eating habits. Ok, so you ate poorly for a day-don’t stress, just get back on track with your diet and goals and eat some veggies.
- Eating the foods you enjoy, having a pizza sometimes or some beers with your friends is not ‘bad’. It is the decision that we have ‘blown it’ and to dive into sabotage mode that causes us to gain weight or to not make progress.
- Removing the good and bad mentality reduces the ‘fuck it’, all or nothing, attitude towards your diet and reduces the all or nothing approach to your goals.
- During the course of a diet, it does become trickier to ‘fit’ calorie-dense options into your calorie allowance on a regular basis. But choosing to pass on an item of food does not mean that you are assigning moral value to the food.
- While dieting if you opt to fill more of a gap with more optimal-high-volume / low-calorie foods rather than less optimal-low-volume / calorie-dense foods sometimes, remember that you’re doing that for practical, not moral reasons.
- So long as you can balance your total calorie intake (and this can be across weeks rather than a single day) your outcome will be the same – and you can balance calories using whatever foods you like once you’ve taken care of protein and eaten some vegetables.
- Have 80% more optimal foods and 20% less optimal foods in your diet, coupled with plenty of moving and decent sleep and you’re on the road to success.