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Redefining food labels and breaking free from diet culture's grip

One of the most common unhealthy food habits that I come across in my work is the practice of labelling food based on moral or value judgments, particularly in relation to their perceived healthiness or nutritional content. This behaviour is often influenced by diet culture and can contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food and negative self-perception. For instance, if you consume a chocolate muffin and label it as a 'bad' food, you may experience negative emotions such as guilt, shame, or embarrassment. This labelling can lead to further detrimental eating habits, especially if you feel trapped in an all-or nothing mentality influenced by diet culture, where you believe that you have already ruined the day and might as well continue indulging until you can start ‘fresh' the next day or on Monday.

See below a flow-chart that explains the above concept.

One thing that has had a significant impact on both my personal healing journey and the journeys of my clients the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (or ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy’ when it comes to food. Instead, it’s more helpful to use terms like ’nutritious’ and ‘more nutritious foods’ or simply view food as food. We also need to remember that not every food we eat needs to be packed with an abundance of vitamins. Our overall health is not at risk if we occasionally enjoy foods purely for pleasure. It’s worth considering that the stress caused by restricting certain foods can actually lead to more harm than actually eating those foods with a sense of peace and balance.

Food is about MORE than just nutrients and health. It is also about taste, joy, celebrations, traditions, socialising and numerous other aspects of our lives.

Diet culture has provided us with a list of ‘good’ foods that should make up the majority of our diet as well as a list of ‘bad’ foods that we should restrict and eliminate in order to be healthy, thin, skinny, fit, etc.

But what happens when we restrict food? It often leads to intense cravings and can even trigger binge eating behaviours with the very foods we labeled as ‘bad’. This is one of the primary reasons why traditional dieting approaches don’t work.

If you are looking for support to improve your relationship with food, body image and/or exercise, head to your Ignite account and book an appointment with me (Linda van den Berg).

Linda van den Berg

Counsellor | Registered Social Worker

Linda is an experienced practitioner with over 8 years of experience who specialises in helping individuals overcome social and psychological challenges, particularly in developing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies. Her approach is non-judgmental and personalized, using various techniques to empower clients to take control of their well-being,

emphasizing that growth and development are possible at any stage of life.

Need a bit more help?

Book with me via Ignite


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