Is there a such thing as bad food? Many people would quickly answer “Yes!” to this question. Comparing different foods can be a tricky task for someone with limited knowledge on nutrition. There are some things that should be consumed less than others, but too much of anything is not good for you. Educating yourself about overall nutrition will teach you that all foods can be consumed in moderation without any major health risks and learning the science behind macro-nutrients, vitamins, sugar, and sodium content in certain food items is a great start to having a healthy relationship with food. In “Escape from The Western Diet”, Michael Pollan says “It is one thing to entertain such explanations and quite another to mistake them for whole truth or to let any of them dictate the way you eat.” His ideas insinuate that the “western diet”, which consists of large amounts of refined carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, and fat, is mainly fueled by the processed foods that have become a staple in our diets. His 3 big rules for eating are: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He believes all diets should be comprised of real whole foods and not “food-like products”, like fast food.
Meals from fast food restaurants and other processed foods have gained a bad reputation over time. Due to the high calorie choices and the processed ingredients, these foods have been deemed “bad” or “unhealthy”. Eating a Big Mac every day is probably not a very great diet choice, but there is no hard evidence that eating these foods in moderation pose any significant health risks. Items from whole food stores are pressed for being “good foods”, but there has been proof that some of those items may be on the same plane as processed items.
Foodies love to claim that these whole foods are the answer to all diet and weight loss needs. It has been said that consuming those raw, unprocessed ingredients will give you tons of energy and will help you feel fuller and happier. These statements have a lot of truth to them. Eating these fresh, colorful snacks and meals regularly have many health benefits, but even the calories in these items from a whole food stores can really add up.
Too much of anything is a bad thing. Overindulging is a big reason for the obesity in America. Understanding how your body uses food will help you realize that all foods can be consumed in moderation with no real health risks. It should be obvious that some foods should be limited after observing certain aspects on the nutrition label. Keeping the facts regulated will produce a well-balanced diet.
The word “diet” comes from the Greek word “diaita”, which means “way of living.” When a diet is mentioned, usually people relate the meaning to a period of time in which eating habits are restricted to small portions of certain “clean” or “good” foods. This is called a rigid diet. These kinds of diets have a high failure rate, considering the fact that the person has a bad relationship with food, seeing things they enjoying eating as “bad”. A study in 2002 by Steward and others at The National Institutes of Health stated: “Individuals who engage in rigid strategies reported symptoms of an eating disorder, mood disturbances, and excessive concern with body size/ shape. In contrast, a flexible dieting strategies were not highly associated with BMI, eating disorder symptoms, mood disturbances, or concerns with body size.” This means restricting your diet too much can lead to psychological problems. Basic nutrition says the body processes all food in three major parts: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; and as previously stated, smaller parts of food, such as sugar and sodium, which should have a baseline in a diet, and be regulated.
After understanding how the body processes food, then you can manipulate these macro-nutrients to fit your daily needs. Continue to eat a diet high in unprocessed foods, but you can fit in things you crave if your calories stay within a certain range. This is called “flexible dieting” or “if it fits your macros”. This way of eating can be more like a lifestyle, and studies have shown that it has a higher success rate due to the fact that it can be enjoyable for the long term versus a rigid diet. The National Institutions of Health had a related study in 2011 by Meule, A: “Both food cravings and rigid dietary control strategies have been implicated in low dieting success while flexible control often is associated with successful weight loss. An online survey was conducted to test the mediational role of food cravings between dietary control strategies and self-perceived dieting success. Food cravings fully mediated the inverse relationship between rigid control and dieting success. Contrarily, flexible control predicted dieting success independently of food cravings, which were negatively associated with dieting success. Differential mechanisms underlie the relationship between rigid and flexible control of eating behavior and dieting success.” This was simply stating that a healthy diet should not rely fully on processed foods, but should not completely restrict them.
Personally, I used to be very overweight, and no matter how disciplined and determined I was about losing weight, the dieting always got the best of me. Staying away from “bad foods” felt like torture. After I realized that food is food, I started losing weight quickly and easily with flexible dieting. I was able to lose over 100 pounds while enjoying food that were considered bad.
I do agree with Pollan that unprocessed food should be consumed more regularly than others. I do not fully agree that other foods are bad. Understanding that some foods can give your body problems when excessively consumed will teach peoepl how to make better eating habits and reduce the current level of obesity in America. This is important because obesity can take 12 years off your life. Educating yourself about overall nutrition will teach you that all foods can be consumed in moderation without any major health risks.
- Pollan, Michael “Escape from the Western Diet”, They Say, I Say with Readings. 3rd ed, edited by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, Russel Durst (pp. 434-441)
- http://www.Google.com, definition and origin of the word “diet”
- Steward and others, “Rigid vs. Flexible dieting”, http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov
- Meule, A “Food Craving Mediate the Relationship Between Rigid, but not Flexible Control of Eating Behavior and Dieting Success” , http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov