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  • Alyssa Abrahamson

The Dangers of Labeling Food as “Good” and “Bad”

Our culture labels certain foods as "good" such as vegetables and fish, or “bad” such ice cream and cake. We also tend to label ourselves as “good” or “bad,” based on what we eat. 

How many times you’ve heard someone, maybe even yourself, say something like, 

“I’ve been so good this week – I’ve eaten a salad every day for lunch” or “I’ve been eating so bad lately, I need to be good and start eating clean.”

While this may seem harmless, it contributes to a toxic diet culture. When we assign moral value to the foods we eat, and to ourselves, it’s detrimental to our emotional and mental wellbeing. 

3 Reasons to Stop Labeling Food as “Good” or “Bad”

1. ​​Creates a restrictive mindset 

Labeling foods as “bad” or “forbidden” can increase your cravings for them. Telling yourself, for example, that ice cream is something you “shouldn’t” have because it’s bad for you, sets up a strained relationship with it. 

2. Triggers food shame and guilt

Labeling foods is placing a moral value on it, which typically reflects moral judgment upon yourself and your eating habits. This can perpetuate self-criticism and negative self-talk and believing you do not have the discipline it takes to make the "right" choices for you and your body. 

3. Hinders a harmonious relationship with food

While labeling foods as “bad” can trigger guilt or shame, there can also be a tendency to view foods that are “healthy” as boring and requiring too much effort. Do you ever think, “I don’t have the time or energy to prepare healthy food”? Notice your self-talk and beliefs. Are they really true or are you using them as an excuse?

Here are 4 improved approaches to cultivating a harmonious relationship with food


Pay attention to how you think about certain foods. How is this impacting you and your relationship with food?

Reframe negative self-talk

Instead of, “I’m so bad because I ate some pecan pie” maybe say, “I choose to eat a piece of pecan pie and I am excited to enjoy it.” Reframing can help lead your decisions from a place of mindfulness and empowerment, recognizing you’re in control of your choices.

Choose foods based on how they make you feel

Learn to make decisions around foods based on how they make you feel. Before eating ask yourself, “What’s going to nourish my body and mind right now?” Or “What will keep me full and energized all morning?” Shifting your perspective to how you want to feel helps eliminate stress and self-judgment.

Practice self-compassion.

It takes practice and patience to adapt a new approach to food and break the habit of “labeling.” It takes time to change inner dialogue from restriction to permission. Take it one day at a time, and be kind with yourself along the way.

When you learn to take judgment out of the equation, it allows you to focus on nourishing your body and less of worrying about eating the “right” foods. 

So instead of punishment with shame or guilt, let’s make food choices based on the goal of nourishing ourselves out of self-care and self-love.

If you want help with cultivating a harmonious relationship with food and are looking for personalized guidance with an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, email me and let’s talk.

Love, Your Wellness Coach,


June 5, 2024


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