Food labeling


A common diet sabotage is labeling food as good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, clean and dirty. By labeling foods as good and bad will increase the risk of having a bad relationship with food. Unfortunately, when trying to lose fat, the mental relationship you have with food is more important than you may think.

The first problem with labeling food is that you are putting a restriction on certain foods. The second problem with labeling food is that you then attach your self-worth to food. If you eat clean then you’ve done well and you are a disciplined person who can stick to a diet. If you eat “bad” foods you then see yourself as the opposite: a bad undisciplined person. As human beings we will most likely focus on the one bad day of eating over the 6 days of good eating and that one day can mentally ruin everything we’ve done that week.

This is a cycle that usually happens week after week. You either eat 100% one day but if you have one “bad” food then the mentally all or nothing comes in and then you feel like you may as well eat all the bad food because you’ve already ruined your progress. Then the guilt and negative self-talk comes back and you feel like you’ve failed and that you are going to do better and get back on track. This vicious cycle happens over and over again.

What you need to notice is that giving in and eating a pizza or a chocolate bar is normal human behavior: we all do it. The issue is not you, it is the labeling of food. The issue is not that what you are doing is bad or good, it is the labels that are making you think that what you are doing is good or bad. 

A way to avoid this food labeling is to think of having two trolleys when you’re out shopping: a more optimal trolley and a less optimal trolley. In other words, a trolley full of foods that will be more beneficial to your health and fitness goals and a trolley that will be more beneficial for the mind and soul goals.

Throughout the week the goal is to have a more optimal trolley slightly more full (if not at least equal) to the less optimal trolley. This means if you had a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar as a snack in the afternoon, mentally you know that, that goes into your less optimal trolley and so that your next snack or meal should go into the more optimal trolley.

If you know you have a big weekend coming up you can spend the week trying to fill up the optimal trolley as much as possible so that when it comes to the weekend you have more room in your less optimal trolley. If you go slightly overboard one weekend and your less optimal trolley is more full than your optimal trolley, then that is just your mental cue that the next week you need to try a little more to fill up the optimal trolley.

By having this mental image (or even physical image) of your trolley throughout the week it reduces the all or nothing approach as it makes you keep a nice balance between both. It helps keep you accountable for the food you are eating and makes you responsible to eat a piece of fruit or vegetable if you have eaten too much of your favorite “soul” food.  Finally, it gets rid of labeling the food as good and bad and helps you keep a balance of the foods your body needs and foods your body wants.