Have you been good or bad?

I often hear people talking about being good or bad in terms of their diet and nutrition, I notice myself using those terms sometimes too. This language is not helpful or healthy and here is why.

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If you have been “good” this week does that mean you are inherently “bad” but trying really hard to be good? If so, “trying” to be “good” is hard work and is therefore unsustainable, we are likely to give up from exhaustion. Having to be good all the time also brings out the rebel inside of us that likes to be “bad” and doesn’t like to be told what to do.

Identifying as good or bad also puts you in the role of the child, we are somehow trying to be “good” to fit in with or please an imagined authority figure (eg health professional, teacher, parent, whoever). This takes away personal responsibility and choice and keeps us in a constant battle between the good and bad, passing and then inevitably failing, over and over again against somebody else’s standards. If you want to bring out the rebellious child in yourself, this is the perfect way to do it!

A better option is to take personal responsibility for your choices, you can ask for advice, and then incorporate into your life what you feel is right for you at the time, it is your choice. If you are talking about your nutrition and diet, you can use terms like I am making the right choices for me at the moment, I made some good or bad choices this week, it doesn’t label you as good or bad, just your choices.

It is important to remember that food itself, is not good or bad, it is not out to get you. Yes, of course, foods have different nutritional qualities. When we put foods into categories of good or bad, we risk turning them into emotional choices. When something is forbidden we often want it more! (My only exception to this is vegetable oil which I think is bad but I don’t actually class it as food)!

We all make lots of choices every day in all parts of our life. On reflection some are good and some are really bad choices. Most of us then look at the consequences and learn from our mistakes. In the future we are likely to make better choices for ourselves based on experience. Your choices around food do not make you good or bad, you have choices and they have consequences. Making a mistake or making poor choices around your diet and lifestyle does not make you bad, it just makes you human.

It is time that we throw away all of this emotional language around food. Rather than focusing on good or bad, right or wrong etc, when making a choice around food, consider this; will this food nourish me at this moment, or not? Sometimes the food that will nourish you at that moment is the salad and sometimes it’s the chocolate, and that is OK. You are checking in with yourself and making a conscious choice. When we really tune in and listen to our body we begin to make the right choices for ourselves. This is how we learn to nurture and nourish ourselves.

Fiona Kane is a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, Holistic Counsellor, Transformational Life Coach, Professional Speaker, Podcaster and writer on Health and Nutrition and the founder of Informed Health Pty Ltd, holding an Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine, Diploma in Holistic Counselling and Life Care and Certificate in Transformational Life Coaching. Fiona is registered and accredited with Australian Traditional-Medicine Society (ATMS), Australia’s largest professional association of complementary medicine practitioners. Fiona has been in practice for 11 years.