Have you ever noticed how some people talk about their negative emotions surrounding food? Words and phrases like “bad,” “guilty” or “I shouldn’t” are often associated with certain eating occasions or types of foods that are meant to be enjoyable, celebratory or just plain neutral.
Often, based on their nutrition facts, ingredient composition and whether they’re considered processed or whole, foods are labeled by many either as “good” or “bad.” Such all-or-nothing descriptions can pressure us into developing problematic self-perceptions—because the way we describe our food can morph into the way we describe ourselves for eating that food.
This Valentine’s Day, we challenge you to give some love to the way you talk about yourself and the food you eat.
Rephrase thoughts like “I need to earn my food” to “I’m allowed to eat food because it gives me energy for the day.” Repeat after us: You don’t need to “earn” your food. Regardless of what we do during the day, our bodies need food to function. You may be hungrier on days where you move more, but even if you do nothing all day, you still need food.
Rephrase thoughts like “This food is bad” to “This food is less nutritious, but that doesn’t make me a bad person for eating it.” Our food shouldn’t be served with a side of shame. Unfortunately, when we eat what we call a “bad” food, we can be overcome with feelings of shame or guilt that can ruin our meal and sometimes our whole day. Remember: Feeling guilt and shame over a meal doesn’t help us make better food choices in the future.
Rephrase thoughts like “I can’t eat X” to “I can eat all types of foods.” When we label a food as off-limits, it can become even more desirable in our minds. And when we exercise strict rules about what we can or can’t eat, we often feel out of control around the off-limits food—sometimes causing us to overeat or even binge on it. Instead, opt for an inclusive way of eating in which no foods are off-limits and all foods are neutral.
Rephrase thoughts like “I need to go on a diet” to “I want to honor my hunger cues and learn to eat in a way that is nourishing and enjoyable.” There’s research that shows strict diets with lots of rules don’t work in the long-term and can sometimes lead to the development of eating disorders. Instead, try eating intuitively and mindfully—you can get started by checking in with your hunger using our hunger scale or our mindfulness-based Eat-Mojis.
The way we talk about anything becomes the way we understand it. If we only associate negative feelings or emotions with food, our eating experiences will be far from nourishing. Instead, let’s give ourselves and our food choices some love this Valentine’s Day—and all the days ahead. Cheers!