When healing your relationship with food, the idea that “all foods fit” can feel skeptical. Diet culture has ingrained in us the idea of good foods vs. bad foods. But is there really such a thing as good and bad food? Is there truly a way to allow and enjoy all foods in your diet without needing to restrict?
We are breaking it down and showing you why all foods DO fit in a healthy diet!
All foods fit: all foods are made up of nutrients
There is a common misconception about food when we start labeling it as good or bad. The reality is, all foods are broken down into smaller compounds composed of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Whether it’s a donut or a piece of broccoli, your body knows exactly how to break it down, and exactly what to do with the energy and nutrients it breaks down to.
There are 3 main macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each of these macronutrients are essential to our body’s needs and every day functions. Have you ever heard of carbs and fats being demonized? We can almost guarantee that diet culture has tried to convince you of that at one time or another. Rather than focusing on what we should be cutting out, we can put the focus on how do we ADD to our diet to have balance and variety within these nutrients?
But here is the truth about each macronutrient:
Carbohydrates are used for energy and brain power. They are the main source of fuel for muscles and the only source of energy for the brain. Whole grains also provide antioxidants and fiber for digestive health, satiety, and cardiovascular health. Carbohydrates contain B vitamins to help the body with energy metabolism, and iron to deliver oxygen throughout the body. Inadequate carbohydrate intake can cause fatigue and tiredness, depression, anxiety, and constipation.
Protein is used for muscles, energy, skin, tendons, organs & bones. Every cell in the body depends on protein. Protein serves for much more than building muscle. Additionally, this includes blood clotting, immune function, and tissue repair. Meat sources of protein are particularly rich in iron, which carries oxygen through the blood and vitamin B12, which is essential for energy metabolism. Inadequate protein intake can cause muscle wasting, low metabolism, reduced energy, and electrolyte imbalances.
Fats are used for long lasting energy and satiety. Eating fat is essential for optimal health and very low fat diets cause major health risks. Fat also insulates organs and maintains body temperature. Fat forms the protective membrane around all cells of the body, and fatty acids are converted into essential hormones such as vitamin D and allow for absorption of many other vitamins. Certain kinds of fats, omega-3s, can even act as anti-inflammatories and reduce risk of heart disease. Inadequate fat intake can cause reproductive failure, fatigue, poor healing and liver and kidney disorders.
All foods fit: all food has value
Unless you are allergic to a food, dislike the taste of a food, or a food is expired, there is no reason to eliminate a food from your diet altogether!
We’re only human! If you tell yourself that you can’t eat <insert any type of food here> and you label this food as “bad,” when you inevitably end up eating this food, how are you likely to feel? Guilty? Bad? Disgusting? What happens then? You say: “to heck with it, I might as well just keep eating, I’ve already failed…” Down the dark, dieting rabbit hole you fall.
Some are more “nutritious” than others. An apple has more health-promoting nutrients than a brownie, but while an apple could fill us up physically, a brownie might be more emotionally satisfying. They’re just different! One food is not morally superior to another. Your body knows what to do with the food you provide it!
When we have the approach that all foods fit, you are never putting yourself in a position to view yourself as good or bad based on what you choose to eat. Food does not have a moral value!
Dieting and restriction do more harm than good
It may seem that the best way to be healthy is to engage in the latest diet trend or be strict about the foods you allow yourself to eat, but this is doing more harm than good. The all foods fit mentality actually can help you achieve your healthiest self, both physically and mentally.
You tell yourself you can’t have said food item and then you end up eating said food item, and the negative thoughts attack. Why did you do that? Not because you are a failure and you suck at this, but because you LOVE food and food is delicious! READ: it’s not you that sucks, it’s the diet. If you listen to your body and allow yourself to enjoy this food, you might find you end up eating exactly the amount your body needs! Depriving yourself can only lead to overeating, which can, in turn, lead to more deprivation on the other side. Reduced calorie intake will actually push your body into survival mode, causing it to hold onto the energy and fat we have, and slow down your metabolism, which is most likely the opposite action you’re looking for.
All foods fit: food is meant to be enjoyed
Beyond the nutrition benefits of food, many foods contribute to other types of value. Food is a huge part of our lives. Holidays, celebrations, cultural traditions and other events and memories with friends and family are typically surrounded by special foods. These foods are here to be enjoyed! Restricting yourself or putting too much pressure on yourself to avoid and limit these foods takes away from enjoying the present moment.
What would it be like to say yes to spontaneity, outings and parties with friends and family that involve food? Attaching working on your relationship with food to these opportunities can be impactful. This puts the focus on food to help support connection and make memories rather than solely on the need to restrict or micromanage them. No better way to start having fun with food than connecting it to enjoyable, meaningful experiences!
You deserve unconditional permission to eat all foods
You are deserving of all foods. After years of dieting and restricting, the idea that all foods fit may not come super naturally. We are here to support you in this journey and lead you toward unconditional permission to eat all foods in your diet.
Looking for places in your diet where you can challenge yourself, add in variety, or treat yourself to something fun and enjoyable are great places to start.
Undoing the damage of deprivation or labeling certain foods as “bad” as we are conditioned to do will take some time. In order to reach a point where food no longer takes up so much headspace, we need practice, patience, and lots of experimenting to get to a place where we feel confident and competent in trusting our body’s signals. The only way to do that is to build up many positive experiences with foods. This will lead to slowly chipping away those psychological restrictions you might still be holding onto.
As you begin or continue navigating your journey with food freedom, NourishRX wants to be there for you every step of the way. If you are interested in working together, learn more about our team of dietitians and the services we provide to support you.