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Are There Really Good and Bad Foods?

Intuitive Eating Scales

Here is a question I saw in an eating disorder chat room the other day that I think speaks for so many people who are suffering in silence with eating problems, weight and body shame:

I seem to go in a cycle of being healthy, where I feel really good about myself, and then I suddenly go to the other extreme of binging on foods that are bad for me.  Then I feel so guilty I just have throw up until I can’t throw up anymore. And I know that throwing up is horrible. Not only does it screw up your hair, teeth, and skin, but it doesn’t even help me lose weight. How can I be one way and then completely the opposite the next?

The reason this person (and maybe you?) feel this way is because he or she has placed themselves in a deprivation diet cycle that is typical of most Americans. Unfortunately, we’re taught from a very young age that there is such a thing as good and bad foods. Nothing could be further from the truth! Have you ever seen a baby continue eating after she's had enough, or refuse to eat if she's hungry? Just like a baby, every person is born with a natural ability to eat when they're hungry and stop when they are satisfied.

Over the years, our family and culture often separates us from this natural ability by convincing us we will become fat if we eat "bad foods," and will remain thin if we eat "good" or "healthy" foods, and in very limited quantities.  All this does is set us up for a lifetime of yo-yo dieting, and sometimes more severe disorders like anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and compulsive exercise. Focusing on good or bad foods actually keeps us from reaching our natural weight and staying there.

It may seem scary, but the solution is to actually do the opposite of what you have been doing; namely, to allow yourself to eat all kinds of foods in moderation. Stop labeling foods good or bad, and stop counting calories. If you want to eat chocolate every day, eat chocolate every day. If you want a piece of cake in the morning, have it in the morning. Start to enjoy food and stop letting it control you. At first you may worry that you will eat these foods uncontrollably and gain weight. However, if you can truly allow yourself to eat all different kinds of foods when you want them, and stop when you are satisfied, you are much more likely to reach your natural weight and remain there without ever having to diet again.

Instead of cutting out foods you think are "bad" for you, eat every meal in moderation and only to the point of being physically satisfied. If you eat beyond that, it becomes emotional eating, whether it's Thanksgiving turkey on the table, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Once the pressure to be "all or nothing" subsides, it won't matter what time of the year it is, the pressure will be off, and the answer to recovery will be the same every single day of the year. You will be able to turn off the "noise" of people around you who try to guilt you into restricting or overdoing and will cultivate a sense of peace, tranquility and control about food and body image.

For many people this “intuitive eating” approach is overwhelming and daunting.  It flies in the face of most of the advice we hear from the billion dollar diet and weight loss industry.  It’s OK if you can’t do it alone, because we can coach you to become an intuitive eater and be able to throw out your scale once and for all. 

At The Body Image Counseling Center, we help people end yo-yo dieting, quiet the calorie counting and body shaming thoughts, and find peace with their bodies and with food for a lifetime.  Just take a look at our testimonial page to see how many people have found relief working with us. 

If you’d like a free 15-minute consult on how you can end binge eating and dieting and relearn how to eat intuitively, please email or call me and I will be in touch, personally, the very same day.  I look forward to hearing from you soon!

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