I cringe every time I hear that a certain food, no matter how devoid of nutrients, is “evil”, “bad” or “bad for you”. Sugar is not poison. Arsenic IS poison. A high carbohydrate diet is not going to kill you. In fact, done properly, a high carb healthy diet has many health benefits (think, fibre from whole grains, tubers, and legumes!). Your body prefers carbohydrates as its primary source of energy, and does not thrive as it is meant to without regular consumption of them. By categorizing foods you may be setting yourself and others up for failure. However there is a more pressing issue surrounding this topic that I would like to address, even more than which foods are actually “bad for you”.
I spent a few weeks of my internship prior to becoming a Dietitian working on the eating disorder unit of a hospital. I believe that some of the real “evils” in the food world are the mental diseases of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, as well as Binge Eating Disorder and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). Relatively new to the mental health category of eating disorders is “orthorexia”, an obsession with healthy eating and an outright refusal or extreme anxiety over consuming unhealthy foods. What happens when most of us eat cake? We taste it, and we like the taste. We digest it, our blood sugar rises, our happy hormones rise, and we usually desire another bite. When an eating disorder patient in the throes of illness takes a bite of the same thing, they may be so mentally ill that their body does not produce this positive physiological response. It instead produces the fight or flight response, increasing anxiety and fear of the food. Awful, huh? What would it be to not enjoy dessert?
I challenge you to create an environment in your work, home, and social life that encourages positive body image and healthy perception of food. If you know that you label foods as good or bad, forbidden or desirable, instead of watching what you eat this week, watch what you say, internally and externally about food and dieting. Someone you know may benefit from a more careful approach to this topic.
See this article from CBC news about orthorexia!