“I know they’re bad, but I love these cookies!” “You don’t want a piece of cake today? You’re being good, huh?"
If you can’t stop binging, and these phrases sound a bit familiar, I see you. Because likely, like me, you’ve heard - or even uttered - some phrase around foods denoting them good or bad. At first, we usually don't mean much from our labels beyond the intention of wanting to eat healthier or to feel more empowered when making decisions. After all, it seems a lot easier to label foods as “good or bad”, “on or off plan”, “allowed or not allowed”...then it is to think about what our bodies want, question the ingredients in our foods, or even find out where those ingredients are coming from to begin with.
It seems easier to follow the “experts” rather than use our intuition. It seems more trustworthy, safer, more manageable than listening to our bodies. But, the problem is...
...many of these experts, and specifically many of the diets these experts promote, talk about food as though it has morality. As though cookies are inherently bad, salad is morally good, or cake is out to get us.
“The notion of good foods and bad ones is largely unscientific…the metabolic value of any food is profoundly influenced by factors that aren’t inherent in the food but issue forth from the eater – relaxation, quality, awareness, pleasure, and so on.” – Marc David
This means that the metabolic value of a food, let alone the MORALITY of a food, depends on a hell of a lot more than the name of a food itself.
Let that sink in, because what this means is so important. Especially if you can't stop binging.
Since food is not good nor bad, WE are not good nor bad depending on what we eat. WE do not need punishment or restriction after eating a “bad” food. WE will then not find ourselves in a binge-restrict-binge cycle to make up for our “failures”. (This is insanely important, because binging is a biological response to emotional or physical deprivation.)
Let me give you another example of how this notion of good vs. bad foods might show up. (And how it might give reason to why you can’t stop binging.)
I once made two different batches of the same food with the same ingredients. One, I rolled into a ball, similar to energy bites, and the other I flattened into a cookie shape. For both batches, I only used “clean" ingredients: eggs, honey, vanilla, oats, bananas, & almond flour.
Guess which batch sat in my fridge until I threw them away? Guess which batch I ate in a matter of days?
Energy bites = good.
Cookies = bad.
I was persuaded to eat based on the label I gave each food.
Have you ever done this? Not the experiment per say, but the labeling of food? The attaching of morality to things that are morally neutral? It’s how I lived my life for a long time. In fact, attaching morality to food is so common nowadays. Even the Whole30 doesn’t want you eating pancakes with Whole30 approved ingredients…because “a pancake is still a pancake”.
But, my question is...SO WHAT? What’s inherently wrong with eating a pancake? How is the pancake itself out to get me or the food that “got me into health-trouble in the first place”? IT’S NOT.
We are not addicted to pancakes. Nor to any other “bad” food out there. Sure, there may be additives in the pancakes we used to eat that have addictive properties. But, we are not addicted to pancakes - or any other food - itself. Instead, we are likely attracted to the emotional feeling we get from those foods. But, even that, isn’t always a bad thing. And that emotional attraction in and of itself is not the reason our health is what it is today. Additives might be. The labeling certainly hasn’t helped. Which means that shameful talk around food and body is probably a factor. Convenience of “junk” food and inconvenience of “health” food often plays a part. Societal rules of how we should look, should eat, should act might be playing a role, too. And, then, there’s also our natural body weight and size we might be rejecting. But, pancakes? “Bad" foods? Emotional eating?
These aren’t the culprits. In fact, emotional eating can be a form of pleasure, and even self-care, and when done CONSCIOUSLY it can feel real doggone good. (Note, emotional eating is different than binge eating and binge eating is a biological response to emotional or physical deprivation. Which means that if you can’t stop binging, you want to take a look at any emotional or physical deprivation in your life. Note: Isabel Foxen Duke first introduced to me the concept of emotional deprivation. Read more here.)
So, again, food is not good or bad. And, again - here’s the most important part, this means that we are NOT good nor bad depending on what we eat. And therefore, we do NOT need punishment after eating a “bad” food. And, therefore, we do NOT need the binge-restrict-binge cycle. (Because, yes, binging is a biological response to emotional or physical deprivation.)
Our self-worth is not dictated by what we eat. Only you are the expert on you and therefore only you can decide how to properly use food.
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