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  • Writer's pictureScott Mansell

Food Morality? Good Food v Bad Food

Have you ever caught yourself referring to foods as “good” or “bad”? Maybe it was that inner voice when you were deciding whether to have ice cream or fruit for dessert. Maybe you have said it out loud at a big family dinner when you decided to have an extra piece of chocolate cake – “I know I’m being bad, but I’ll make up for it tomorrow”.

Food morality is the belief that our worth and value as a human being is tied to the foods we eat. We are ‘good’ when we can stick to certain foods but we are ‘bad’ when we inevitably fall off the wagon of these restrictive eating rules and labels.

The reality is food has NO moral value – it’s just food. 

Diet culture has become so normalised that it has created confusion and can overwhelm people (including our kids!) about what we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat. It often leads to us following an arbitrary set of food rules, not because of what truly makes us feel our best, but because we have been led to believe that if we don’t, we are “not good enough”.

What’s the Issue with Food Labels?

When we eat something that we’ve labelled as ‘bad’, this often leads to feeling guilt or shame. When we eat something ‘good’, we feel great about ourselves, until we eat something ‘bad’ again. 

Labelling foods like this also oversimplifies nutrition and doesn’t take into account the fact that our bodies need a variety of nutrients from different foods (yep… including carbs!). Having these rigid labels in place can limit our food choices and cause emotional and mental distress. It is difficult to have a healthy relationship with food if we are emotionally tied to it – this can ultimately impact our quality of life!

If we allow ourselves to spend hours fretting over what we did or didn’t eat, it can cause increased emotional eating, or we might find that we miss out on important moments and events to avoid certain foods.

Becoming Food Neutral – Losing the labels!

If you struggle with labelling food as “good” or “bad”, the first thing to know is that you’re not alone! Try making a few small changes to challenge your relationship with food labels.

Reframe the things we tell ourselves

Instead of this…

Try this…

“I can’t believe I ate ice cream AGAIN last night. I feel so guilty.”

“I am so grateful I got to share that experience with my daughter”.

“All food provides nourishment”

“I really didn’t need to have pizza with the kids yesterday”

“I am grateful for the energy that carbs provide me”

Give yourself permission to eat all foods

This can be a particularly liberating experience. It is about recognising that no foods are off limits, and there are no forbidden foods. Ask yourself what would taste good, feel good and be satisfying. Allowing yourself to make decisions around what would feed good – mind, body and soul, allows you to connect with your body and foster those intuitive eating skills that we’re all born with.

Reject diet culture

Recognise the negative influence that diet culture can have in promoting ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ food and increasing food morality. Challenge the things you see or are told and seek out resources that aligned with a more balanced and compassionate approach to food.

Start small & be kind to yourself!

Shifting our thinking and removing food labels and won’t happen overnight, but it is life changing on the other side for your mental and physical health. Normalising foods, taking them off a pedestal, and finding balance will improve your nutrition and your relationship with food. Start small and show yourself some grace for the changes you make. Kids develop their relationship with food based on what they see from their caregivers, so it’s up to us to set them off on the right path. 

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