3 Words to Eliminate when Talking about your Diet

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As a dietitian, I talk about food and nutrition more than anything else. On any given day, I may discuss: how to prepare food, what kinds of food to eat, explain what nutrients the body needs, and offer support and guidance regarding food choices.  Through these conversations, I have noticed something that I think many of us can relate to - certain words we say in reference to our diet carry deep-rooted negative connotations.

Without a doubt, food is more than simply sustenance.  Food is comfort, culture, celebration, and togetherness. Food creates memories and helps establish traditions for years to come. So it’s no wonder that thinking about food often evokes emotions. But the question remains – Is it okay when these emotions are negative?

Heck no!

Food is just food. Let's keep the
negative emotions out of it.  

Granted, I don’t say this lightly. I say this from years of experience and saying such things myself; especially, in my younger years before I learned a thing or two about nutrition. Looking back, I want to reach-out to my former self and say, “Hey, it’s okay – If you really want it, then eat that cookie and enjoy it."  Since I can’t actually do that (unless the DeLorean from Back to the Future actually exists and parks itself in my driveway), I am reaching-out with this blog in hopes of saving others from the pointless anguish I put myself through.

Here’s my list of the top three diet-related words to ditch.

1.    “Bad”

Do any of these sound familiar?

·      “I’m so bad for eating that (insert delicious food of choice)."

·      “I feel like being bad and eating dessert tonight."

·      “I was so bad for eating that (insert perceived unhealthy food), that I might as well just keep eating bad and start over tomorrow!”

I would encourage steering clear from classifying foods as "bad" because it tends to arouse feelings of guilt when said foods are consumed.  In reality, when consumed mindfully as part of an overall balanced diet, all foods fit.  So let's keep the term "bad" to simply reference the leftovers you just found from two-weeks ago in the back of your fridge.

2.    “Cheat”

Have any of these phrases ever entered your mind?

·      “I’m going to cheat and have an extra slice of cake tonight.”

·      “I was good all week, so I’m going splurge and have a cheat day.”

·      “I can’t eat that – that’s cheating!”

To "cheat" implies that you are following a rigid set of rules that cannot be altered. While there are general principles of healthy eating, they are simply guidelines that if broken, does not mean you are a "bad" person that deserves to feel guilty or ashamed. Your food choices have no relation to who you are as a person.  Not to mention, part of normal eating includes everything in moderation, even moderation (as the iconic chef, Julia Child astutely remarked many years ago).

3.    “Fattening”

Beyond all others, this particular word is the biggest faux pas. It's most popularly used in the phrase, “Isn’t that fattening?” or “That’s so fattening."  What does it even mean . . . Really? An ex-boyfriend of mine regretted it pretty quickly when he said this to me (as I was happily eating a salad with cheese on top).  His actual words were, “Isn’t cheese fattening?” (slathered with judgement and disdain). Let's just say making a judgemental food related comment to a dietitian is a recipe for regret..lol

The truth is that ANY food can promote weight gain if you eat more than your body needs, regardless of how healthy it is. In other words, cheese doesn’t promote weight gain any more than apples do (when consumed as part of your overall energy needs). In fact, eating foods rich in fat (opposed to low-fat or fat free alternatives) such as cheese and nuts promotes a feeling of fullness which helps when trying to manage your weight.1,2 So please, go ahead and mindfully gobble-up portion controlled full fat foods, like cheese, and do not think twice about it.

What’s the Bottom Line?

It’s time to stop talking down to ourselves (and others) when it comes to the foods we eat. 

Words like "bad," "cheat," and "fattening" 
do not belong in our vocabulary when referring to our diet.

Rather, let us embrace eating all foods, in moderation, while becoming more attuned with our hunger and fullness cues. When we eat according to our physical needs, we realize that it truly is healthy foods we crave (most of the time) and from that brings optimal health and nourishment. Of course, mindful indulgence in our favourite foods (whether it be chocolate, ice cream, wine, or chips) is part of normal healthy eating; and the only thing not normal, would be berating ourselves about it.

In celebration of Nutrition Month 2017, let’s end all the food fights and eat well - guilt and judgement free.

To learn more about the principles of healthy eating, check out our FREE report, 5 Secrets for Healthy Eating Success (we guarantee you, feeling guilty or ashamed about your diet is not one of them!)


About the Author:

Jodi Robinson, dietitian & founder of Craving Health, is a healthy eating coach who helps busy people clear their confusion about healthy eating and discover simple and sustainable meal and snack solutions. She is most passionate about helping her clients realize healthy eating really isn't complicated and can taste great!

References:                                                                                                                                          1. Rebello, C., Greenway, F., Dhurandhar, N. (2014). Functional foods to promote weight loss and satiety. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 17:596–604

2. Rautianinen, S., et al (2016). Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 103; 4, 979-988. Retrieved from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/103/4/979.full.pdf