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Good Foods vs Bad Foods: You Aren't What You Eat

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Have you ever caught yourself thinking in terms of “good foods” vs. “bad foods”? If so, you’re not alone. This can become a harmful way to think about what you put in your body. Here are some ways to notice that thought pattern and begin retraining your brain.

The “Good Foods” vs. “Bad Foods” Cycle

Does this sound familiar?

If you raised your hand and said, “yes, that is me!” join the club. So many of us are constantly told which foods are “good”, “bad” and either will or will not help us reach our goals.

We cling to these promises because maybe, just maybe, it is the magic key and the thing we didn’t have last time we tried. Plus, it is human nature to want things to be black and white and as straightforward as possible.

But here is the truth: there is no such thing as a “good” food or a “bad” food. And, the sooner you start believing and practicing that mindset, the sooner you’ll reach your goals.

A quick caveat: It is important to note that there are some foods that are generally considered “unhealthy” like processed sugars and trans-fats. We are not ignoring this truth! That being said, unless you have a medical condition or have very specific health goals, these foods can still be eaten now and then without detriments to your health.

The Problem with Food Morality

Have you ever said something like “I was so good today” or “I was so bad over the weekend” when referring to food choices?

When you view foods as “good” or “bad”, you’re automatically setting yourself up to go overboard on the foods you wouldn’t eat when you’re “being good”.

If you’ve ever thought “well, I’m already being bad so I may as well go for it,” you know what I mean.

What you’ll notice is that these conversations and thought patterns equate the foods you choose with the kind of person you are. You are not a bad person because you eat a donut and you are not a good person because you ate a salad.

Once you’ve started to think about yourself as a bad person (or, “not good enough”), it is easy to slip into unconscious choices perpetuating that belief. Whether it is continuing to eat foods that don’t serve your goals, skipping the gym or ignoring other healthy habits, when you think of yourself as “bad” because of your food choices, it takes away future healthy choices you would otherwise make.

​So, if “good foods” vs. “bad foods” isn’t the mindset move, how can you make choices you’re proud of?

Effective vs. Ineffective Foods

Instead of “good foods” vs. “bad foods”, try thinking about “effective foods” vs. “ineffective foods”.

I know what you’re thinking, “isn’t that the same thing?” Nope, it’s not!

Here’s why: effective vs. ineffective is fluid and allows you to make the choice that feels right for you and your goals in any given situation. Need an example? Let’s use a donut…

Example A:
You’re stressed at work and the day is flying by. You have fat loss goals and a prepped meal in the fridge. But, a coworker brought in a box of Dunkin’ Donuts and now they’re sitting in the breakroom. You’re super hungry and grab that can-get-anytime donut without thinking and eat it in two big bites. Now, you’re frustrated with yourself, have a bit of a stomach ache since you ate so fast and figure, “well, the day is shot… let’s go for donut #2.”

Example B:
You and your friends are on a girl’s or guy’s weekend. There is a little mom-and-pop specialty donut shop that has the BEST Yelp reviews. You decide to head over, pick from the selection and sit and enjoy it slowly with your friends. It tastes delicious, you leave the shop and go on with the rest of your day.

See the difference?

In Example A, the donut was an ineffective food in getting you closer to your fat loss goals or helping with your hunger. It actually led you to make another decision you weren’t proud of because you were frustrated with yourself. Plus, you could technically get that donut any time you wanted to. It was nothing special!

In Example B, you made a conscious choice to enjoy a donut with your friends. It was an effective food in curbing your sweet tooth, enjoying the environment and connecting with the people you care about. Then, you moved on with your day and didn’t beat yourself up over your choice.

Same food, two VERY different experiences.

In every food scenario, you have the chance to ask yourself questions like...

  • What are my current goals?
  • Which foods are effective in getting me there right now?
  • Which foods are ineffective in getting me there right now?

Then, you can prioritize based on your goals, the situation, enjoy your food more and stop beating yourself up over enjoying a treat!

Still need some convincing? Check out THIS EPISODE of the WAG Podcast with Michael and Adee Cazayoux!

We get it, mindset shifts like this can be hard. This is where hiring a 1:1 nutrition coach can come in handy. Our coaches are armed with the mindset strategies you need to help you treat yourself with respect and enjoy foods you love while reaching your goals.

Join Team WAG

Love what you learned but still want more guidance and support? Hire a 1:1 coach who will get to know you, your lifestyle and your unique needs and create results that you can sustain long-term. If you're not quite ready to go all-in on hiring a coach, check out our Macro Calculation Cheat Sheet & 18 Tracking Tips and Tricks for macro counting!

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Posted by Ali Macy
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Ali is a born and bred Vermonter who fell in love with nutrition and fitness in her early 20’s and never looked back. She is a coach and Program Lead for WAG with a BA in English Literature and a Master's in Nutrition and Human Performance.

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