Why I Don’t Use “Good” or “Bad” When Talking About Food

Humor me for a second, okay? Take a look at this doughnut right here. What are the first words that come to mind as you look at it? Be 100% honest—what does your brain automatically associate with this picture?

If you are anything like the average climber, or anything like I was three years ago, your thoughts might sound something like this:

  • High calorie
  • Fattening
  • Full of sugar (or carbs or fat)
  • Empty calories
  • Bad

Okay so maybe doughnuts aren’t that exciting to you, but think of something else that you may associate similar labels of “bad” or “high calorie.” Maybe it’s pizza or bread or chocolate or ice cream or chips.

And let’s go a little deeper—you might have had thoughts like: “[insert food here] is/are delicious but—”

  • Not worth the calories
  • Only eaten on days I workout a lot
  • A cheat day food
  • Something I’ll regret afterwards
  • Can be avoided using willpower
  • Something that elite athletes should cut out

If you’re like most people, these are things you may think subconsciously about a food that is largely perceived to be “bad” or “unhealthy.” This does not mean something is wrong with you, we’ve been taught to think like this. But let me say something crazy.

What if I Told You There is No Bad Food?

Okay sure, not all foods are created equal when it comes to their nutrition content (as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I of all people know that). But just like you can’t survive on chocolate, you can’t survive on lettuce either.

And let me tell you, the less I think in terms of “healthy” and “unhealthy” and “good” and “bad” foods, the more naturally balanced my diet gets! It honestly feels crazy, but it’s that magic sweet spot of moderation that’s impossible to find when you have a negative relationship with food.

The more I learn about intuitive eating, the more it makes sense the less crazy it feels and the more it makes sense.

Restriction inevitably leads to overeating—which is why so many people don’t keep certain foods in their homes. Because when they have chips or oreos around they’ll eat the whole bag or package.

But that is not because these foods are bad or they don’t have enough self control. It’s because they have a negative relationship with food, which can’t be solved by avoiding it.

So How Should We be Thinking About Food?

You know those adorable pictures of babies celebrating their first birthday? Think about that for a second. They’re sitting at a high chair, covered in icing from their nose to their elbows and their having the time of their life enjoying the wonder of cake.

Are they thinking about how many calories they are eating?

Are they thinking about whether or not the exercised enough to be able to “afford” this treat?

Are they thinking about whether or not they’ll be guilty afterwards?

Heck no. Because they are babies!

They haven’t learned to label foods yet or be afraid of them. All they know is that cake tastes amazing and they’re going to enjoy it until they’ve had enough.

Let’s Be More Like Babies

I don’t know about you, but I think babies have it pretty good when it comes to their relationship with food. They eat what they want when they want it, trust their bodies, and experience pure joy instead of anxiety or guilt.

We’ve grown up believing lies about food and what being happy and healthy really looks like. And it’s time we call those lies out and replace them with what is actually true.

Because food is so good my friends, and the more I learn that, the more rich my life is. The more joy and freedom I experience. The more I cherish time with friends and family. And the less time I spend stressed, deprived, and guilty.

No matter what you’ve been told about food for how long, I want you to consider what your life would look like if you truly believed that all food was good.

I’m talking sweet summer strawberries and apple cider doughnuts. Juicy salmon and hamburgers. Tender asparagus and salty French fries. Greek yogurt bark and milk shakes.

Because it’s the truth. Food really is good.

And if you let it, this truth will literally change your life!

I’ve experienced it firsthand. It’s been life-changing for me, I’ve seen it change the lives of my clients, and I know if could be life-changing for you. The choice is yours.

Published by Chiara

I’m a rock climber and registered dietitian teaching fellow climbers to become the strongest and happiest versions of themselves with evidence-based fueling strategies and by making peace with food.

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