Do you reach for a cupcake or a bag of chips when you’re stressed? Buzz60’s Tony Spitz has the details.
It is interesting that almost everyone today appears to be exercising and hyper-focused on eating the “right” foods, yet the rate of overweight and obese individuals is on the rise.
Individuals seem to be deciding what their bodies need rather than listening to their body’s needs.
As a society, we label foods. One will often hear someone state, “Oh, I am being good today. I will have a salad” or “I was so bad last night. I had a brownie.” These seem like innocent comments; however, what is the impact of labeling foods, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy?
Labeling foods in this manner attaches an emotional association or gives morality to foods.
If one eats a food they label as bad or unhealthy, this usually results in a feeling of guilt or disappointment. Some individuals may feel the need to compensate at other meals or at the gym. Others may try to avoid the “bad” food altogether and when they eventually cave, they throw in the towel and may end up binging on the item rather than consuming it in moderation.
These forbidden foods begin to have a lot of power over us and, at times, start to consume our thoughts. The foods you labeled as “bad” have now become something you crave or struggle to avoid.
As these emotional associations are ingrained in our food philosophy, it interferes with the communication between our body and mind. We have decided what foods our body need and often deny ourselves or ignore our body’s hunger and fullness cues.
Some individuals can give themselves psychosomatic symptoms if they consume foods they have deemed as “bad.” Or because they are unable to consume the forbidden foods in moderation and often go overboard with them, they have decided their body is unable to tolerate them at all. Most foods, if not all foods, when consumed in excess will cause discomfort — even broccoli!
Labeling foods can also impact us on a social level. Take, for instance, a birthday party. Usually, cake is offered to guests to celebrate. If an individual has deemed cake as a “bad” food, they may obsess over having a slice, rather than just enjoying the social aspect of the party. Imagine if they decided they will have a slice, but only a small one. Now that they have consumed this “bad” food item, they may spend the rest of the party thinking what they will do to compensate, while the rest of the guests are simply enjoying themselves.
In addition, the labeling of foods detracts from the nutritional value. I had a patient once say to me she was avoiding oatmeal because “it is empty calories.”
This baffled me, but also reinforced how the black-and-white thinking we have toward foods can interfere with meeting our body’s needs. Oatmeal belongs to the macronutrient group of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are eventually broken down in the body and turned into glucose, which is our brain’s preferred source of energy. If one restricts carbohydrates, one’s body will still produce glucose from its glycogen stores; unfortunately, this process can result in muscle breakdown. Carbohydrates can provide many nutrients, including B vitamins and fiber.
It is best to adopt neutrality around food. Of course, there are certain foods that are more nutrient dense than others, and they should constitute most of an individual’s diet to promote health. However, labeling foods as forbidden or not allowing yourself to eat certain foods can result in deprivation and disordered eating. We also need to recognize the reason we eat is not limited to nourishing our body.
Ultimately, you cannot guilt yourself into a healthy diet. Eating in moderation, striving for variety to ensure a wide array of nutrients and intuitive eating are key to leading a healthy life.
Beatrice Paganini is a registered dietitian at the Dyson Center for Cancer Care at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie.
Nonna Rosalie’s High Protein Salad
2 hardboiled eggs, peeled, cut in quarters lengthwise
1 can of tuna, drained
1/2 cup cubed Emmental or similar Swiss cheese
1 bag of mixed greens
Balsamic dressing (three parts oil, one part balsamic vinegar). Put in blender to make an emulsion for a creamier feel if desired or put ingredients in sealed jar and shake vigorously
Place mixed greens in large bowl. Mix with dressing, then top with the eggs, tuna and cheese.
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