Can Food Make You “Good”?

Copyright 2006 Sheri Zampelli

Over 95% of people who use restrictive dieting to lose weight, gain it all back within one year. Restrictive dieting alone will never solve your weight problem. In fact, many studies show that dieting actually causes weight problems because it forces you to focus most of your energy on food and your weight. Dieting fosters diet mentality which causes us to call some foods “good” and others “bad”. If you’re dieting your feelings about yourself are often dictated by your food choices.

Here are some common statements you might hear people make when they’re on a diet:

“I was really good today, all I had was rice cakes and a protein shake.”

“Wow! That cheesecake is so good I felt like licking my plate.”

“I wish I could be good like you, look at how bad I’m being.”

Notice how the word “good” is used for the diet food and the high fat food interchangeably. Notice also how dieter’s judge themselves based on the food they put in their mouths. Our words and beliefs have power over our feelings and our actions. If we do something we think is “bad”, we will likely begin to feel bad and even make choices to prove how bad we are. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, one of the keys to stress-free slimness is to stop judging ourselves based on food choices. Another key is to change our definition of “good” so that it’s consistent and self-affirming. There is no food that’s universally “good” or “bad”. We all have different tastes and we can eat a variety of foods in moderation without gaining weight. However, it is true that some foods contain more nutritional value than others and therefore are good for our bodies. Some foods give our bodies more of what we need. If you must call food “good”, reserve the label for food that’s: high quality, enjoyable and beneficial to your body’s health.

As a dieter, you are in a quandary when you label “good” food: boring. I’ve seen long-time dieter’s roll their eyes at people who are healthy or “good”. They say things like “I’m not good like her” or snicker at the prospect of eating “good” as if it’s somehow uncool or dreary. We must change our mindset if we hope to have long term health and weight maintenance.

If you’re like many dieters you have assimilated numerous low-fat, low-calorie foods into your diet and you call yourself “good” for eating them. Yet these foods are not good in any way. They don’t taste good, they usually aren’t good for you and they don’t necessarily make you feel good after you’ve eaten them. In fact, many dieters will admit that certain diet foods cause a myriad of symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, headaches and constipation to name a few. I think we can all agree: these side effects are not “good”. So, to help you reframe the concept of “good” food and “bad” food, I’m going to leave you with a mental image you can carry with you so that you are eating more “good” foods and feeling better. If you keep it up, you will probably lose weight too.

Imagine that “good” food is the kind of food that makes your body say “hooray!!” Imagine the food goes down the “conveyor belt” of your throat, to your stomach. When it arrives; your organs, cells and glands all say, “WOW check out all the new nutrients we just got in! There’s tons of good stuff here. Yipee!!” On the flip side, when you eat pre-processed, preservative and chemical-laden foods, your body says, “Oh no, not again. How does she expect me to exist on this? There’s almost nothing I can use here. The whole thing is waste! I’m going to have to spend all my energy processing this worthless food…for what?”

I hope this mental image will stick with you the next time you’re making a food decision whether it’s at the grocery store, a restaurant or a party. Be good to yourself. You deserve it and your body deserves it.