We have to stop promoting that message and using food labels.
Admittedly, I've probably contributed to perpetuating this harmful message myself in the past but I now see it for what it is -- a painfully destructive, shame inducing lie that needs to die. First, NOBODY seems to be able to agree on what the "right" way to eat is -- even those who hold multiple nutrition degrees and research scientists who have studied nutrition for decades. They all argue over what they think is "good" or "bad", with an unwavering religion-like resolve -- and their arguments get just as heated as religious discussions. Every one of them argues with the "science" behind their claims and yet, they all have completely polar opposite opinions. So, we go into this whole "I need to eat healthy" or "lose weight" thing set up for failure because literally everyone telling us something different about what's supposedly "right". How can you "be good" and "eat right" when damn near everything has been demonized by someone, at some point? It's insane. So, alllllll these 208,597 different foods are BAD (and they change depending on who you talk to) and we shouldn't eat them... Because, as we're always reminded... "you are what you eat".
So guess what happens? We call ourselves stupid, weak, pathetic, bad - we feel guilt and even worse, shame when we eat something on that ridiculous list that keeps changing. You know how many times I've heard someone start a sentence about their eating habits with "I'm so stupid..." or "I'm so ashamed..."? Too many to even begin to count. We go through life ashamed of ourselves because of what we're eating and that shame begins affecting every aspect of our life -- our body image (as though it wasn't already bad enough), our feelings about what we believe we deserve in life or from relationships... nothing is unaffected. We're scared someone else will see us eat something "bad"... if they do, we feel like we have to justify it with rationalizations:
"I'm just having this little treat because I haven't had anything bad in so long." "It's my birthday (Christmas, Easter, summer vacation, etc) so I'm allowed to eat whatever I want. I'll get right back on track and be good again tomorrow." "I don't care, I just want to enjoy life today, I'll be good tomorrow."
...insert million other rationalizations and justifications we feel required to give so the other person doesn't know how bad we are.
Then we go home and eat everything "bad" because we were already bad once today so the day is ruined and we can't have again when we start "being good again", right?
See, shame is that insidious voice in your head that says you are bad. It creates distrust in yourself, convinces you that you are not capable of change or worthy of love, connection, belonging, goodness or acceptance. And do you know what happens when we believe all those things? We punish ourselves.
We punish ourselves with destructive and abusive thoughts ("I suck, I'm so stupid, I always do this, I'm such a pathetic, screw up"), we punish ourselves with food, either by trying to restrict food intake even further next time or by overeating even more of "bad" things, and we punish ourselves with self-sabotaging behaviors.
And because we lose trust in ourselves, we're terrified to just allow ourselves compassion and joy with food ever again. The problem starts with food labels and is exacerbated 10 fold by following that with the message, we are what we eat. Good and bad food labels places morality on food. To suggest that there is a "clean,” moral, uncorrupt, blameless or even "smart" way to eat, requires the opposite to also be true... anything else must then be impure, sinful, corrupt or "stupid". "Eat smart, be smart!" after all, right? We place moral classifications on food. We believe eating those things is bad or stupid, and we believe we are what we eat. So, we believe the good or bad, smart or stupid label then applies to the person eating it, not the food itself.
No more is this more evident than in the vegan world where meat eaters are often literally called murderers but it's not isolated to just that, it applies any time we place "good", "bad", "clean", "dirty", or even "healthy", "not healthy" labels on what we eat. There are no "good" or "bad" foods. There are no "clean" or "dirty" foods. Those are made up terms used to sell you crap. Of course some foods are more nutritious than others and will make your body feel better than others -- but nobody knows what those foods are for you, better than your own body does. Even the more accurate labeling of "healthy" vs "unhealthy" is damaging because it still suggests we're eating "bad" things if we make an "unhealthy" choice. "Unhealthy" things are "bad" for us, so again, if we eat that thing that's "bad" for us... we're bad.
The labels need to die. ALL of them. And so does the guilt, shame and fear over food.
Stop listening to all the garbage in the weight loss and wellness world so you can learn to listen to your own body and prioritize eating foods that make it feel amazing because I promise, you deserve to feel amazing -- and when you stop believing you are bad for your food choices, you'll believe me on that and you'll start to actually want to eat more those things and less of the things that don't.