Food is just food

28 Jan

Sitting at work and I overhear someone say “no don’t eat those, they are so bad for you.” A friend of mine just starting to think about cleaner eating was telling me about a dinner she was making and how the only “bad thing” in it was bread crumbs and at that only a half cup. Then there’s the person who says regular yogurt is bad and Greek yogurt is good. And don’t forget my battle with pretzels…are they good or bad?

Here’s the deal. Food is just food. It is an object. A banana. A hamburger. A tomato. A candy bar. Food does not have a soul, it does not have feelings, it does not act with intention. When we talk about the “good and bad” of food, are we really talking about the food itself? No, we are talking about the meaning we assign to what happens after we eat it. Our thoughts and feelings about food start developing in our childhood…but what if they change?

Take for example a chocolate chip cookie. A cookie is just a cookie. It sits in the oven and goes from a gooey ball of dough to a nice and warm sweet treat. For some people eating a cookie is just eating 150-200 calories and it’s over. Then there are those of us that it means something more. A cookie is a sweet and so it must be bad for you. All that sugar and chocolate…I shouldn’t eat that because it is bad. I only get cookies on special occasions because they are so bad for me. What part of the cookie is bad? The cookie in and of itself is not bad.

Depending on where you are, the result of eating the cookie may be neutral, good or bad. For me, cookies used to be “good” because I thrived on the sugar, they were a convenient binge food, and helped ease the stress of the day. Then I started watching what I ate and cookies became “bad” because they were so high in calories and one just leads to another. And now a cookie is just a cookie. I choose not to eat them every day because I don’t care to waste calories, throw a workout out the door, and most importantly mess with the weekly weigh in. If I see a cookie that I really want to eat, I will eat it, no big deal. A cookie is a cookie. It is my mindful choice of the results…do I want to eat it and deal with everything that comes with it or do I want to pass and deal with everything that comes with passing? So which is it…good or bad? The answer: neither. A cookie is a cookie.

Now for an example to really challenge you on how you think about food. Kale is just kale. It is one of the most health enhancing vegetables out there. You can buy baby kale or adult kale and use it in a salad, sauté it up with pine nuts, or make it in a hundred other ways. A friend of mine puts kale in Vitamix shakes all the time and loves it. I made kale chips and tried it a few other times but I just don’t think kale is for me. The same thing is happening here…the calories and nutrients from the kale are entering our bodies. For my friend, kale is “good”…she likes it (blech!). For me, kale is “bad”. I don’t like the smell and think that if you don’t eat it fast enough it is as close as a human can get to knowing what it is like for a cow to chew cud. At the end of the day, kale is still one of the most nutrient rich foods out there. So which is it…good or bad? The answer: neither. Kale is kale.

To get something different, you need to do something different. Start looking at how you think about food items. Is it good or bad? Why? And is it really the food or the how you feel about the result? It does not have be so black and white. Try “poor, good, better, and best choice” on for size. This helped me change the way I think about food and the choices I make.


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