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last updated March 1, 2021

“Good” foods, “bad” foods, “cheat” meals, and the morality of health and fitness

by Rob Arthur

Have you ever felt like you did something “wrong” for your food choices, or felt morally superior or inferior to somebody because they eat or train differently than you?

Here are some thoughts on what our food choices do and do not say about us (transcript):

Hello! …again.

In my past few videos I’ve talked a bit about, you know, going “off track”, going “on track”, behavior change, and our sense of self-worth, and mindset type stuff, and I found myself having to be mindful of my wording, especially when it comes to the idea of “good” and “bad” habits, and “good” and “bad” meals.

I’ve found myself on occasion using words like “good” or “bad” when referring to behaviors.

I think I’ve done a pretty good job of correcting myself when I’ve done that, and one of the reasons that I am working to be aware of that kind of language is because another key to long-term success is removing all morality from our food choices, and removing that same morality from pretty much anything related to our own personal health and fitness.

Now, that’s not to say that there may not be certain situations where… I don’t know… you could make the argument that there’s a moral issue with not taking care of yourself.

I could see that… that argument being made [shared healthcare expenses, for example].

However, my… my… point here is more specifically about saying,

“Oh, I was ‘bad’ last weekend; I need to be ‘good'”,

or… or… even… even going further than statements like that, which are typically more playful… beating yourself up over having a day, a night, or a week where you weren’t… where you know you… that you… [get your act together, Rob] where you know that you weren’t taking care of yourself or where you know that… you know, that you weren’t doing the things that you know you need to do to be as healthy and fit as you’d like.

Now, I don’t mean to say that there’s anything necessarily wrong with not being happy with yourself for doing something that you know you deserve better.

There’s a difference between saying, “Oh my god, I feel like trash. This is not good for me” from a health perspective [and the examples mentioned earlier].

You know, I know I’ve felt like that.

I’ve had times where I’ve had a rough weekend, either at, like, a bachelor party, or I have a wedding or something, or, hell I just have “a night”, and I wake up the next day, and I feel like trash, because of food choices or booze choices.

It just doesn’t feel too good, and on those days I might feel a sense of, “Damn, Rob. This shit can’t happen again”, but that’s not necessarily thinking that specific foods or specific things that I did morally made me a bad a person.

That’s not necessarily a moral judgment on myself so much as it is recognizing that my actions don’t align with my goals.

Do you see the difference?

Do you see the difference between attaching morality to a food choice or a lifestyle choice – the difference between attaching morality to those things or just acknowledging that those things aren’t how you want to live your life, for yourself.

Does that make sense?

So, for example, a common term or phrase out there is a… a “cheat”, a “cheat” meal, or… or a “cheat”… a “cheat” day, and the word, “cheat”, to some people, that… that whole idea of a “cheat” meal or whatever, that might not carry too much weight.

No pun intended.

That was probably a horrible choice of wording, but whatever, we’re… we’ll roll with it.

The idea of a “cheat” meal, to some people, is something to be, you know, something that’s, “Okay, yeah, like, I just really just ate something I wanted to”, but that’s more in the context of, like, a, “I consciously made a decision to please my tastebuds even though I knew that it didn’t align with my goal”, and so they may call it a “cheat” meal, but they don’t necessarily feel like they “cheated”.

But not everybody’s like that.

Some of us, when we indulge in a food or a behavior that we know doesn’t move us towards our goals, we do it and then we… we don’t feel [simply] as though what we did doesn’t align with our goals; rather we actually feel a sense of shame, as if that decision reflects on us as a person.

Like, “Oh my god, I cheated on my diet”, like, that’s very different than saying, “Yeah, kind of had a cheat day yesterday… tasted pretty good”, which still, arguably, for a lot of people, might not be a good strategy in the long run.

That’s a very individual thing and we could talk about that and you could argue either way.

I’ve heard compelling arguments on both sides and I’m not getting into that, but what I will get into you is that your food choices, at least in terms of how you view yourself morally, and in terms of how you view yourself as a person, your food choices shouldn’t be a part the equation.

There is nothing moral about food.

Eating one thing or eating another thing doesn’t make you any “better” or “worse” of a person than the people around you eating differently.

Now, along that same note – I’m glad I threw in “better” in that last sentence.

On that same… in the same vein, not only should you not beat yourself up for making certain food decisions, don’t think that you’re better than somebody else because of your food decision, regardless of whether what somebody else is eating actually is “healthier” or not.

You know, for example, we get the whole “paleo” versus “vegan” thing and, just saying, both of those sides can be assholes to the other side, for lack of a better term.

Um.

Both of those… both of those sides of things, they can… they can have a lot of pride.

It’s almost like, “Oh, I’m morally superior to you for how I eat.”

Don’t be like that.

What you eat has nothing to do with how good of a person you are.

Now obviously, let’s say if you’re eating a certain way because of treating animals fairly, or if you’re eating a certain way for environmental sustainability, even then there are different ways to argue both sides of the… both sides of things, based on who you happen to believe in terms of research and science.

For instance, uh, there’s a lot of argument out there against veganism for environmental sustainability, particularly when it comes from mono-crop farming.

That’s… that’s… that’s a valid argument to me.

My point is here – I’m not trying to get… I’m opening up too many cans [of worms].

My point here is that of all the things to base how we view ourselves as people, and how positively or negatively we’re contributing to the world, specific food choices are not probably number one on the list.

You could argue that, in some ways, certain ways of eating are better in terms of other people’s lives than others, but way more important than that is, do you say “please” and “thank you”?

Do you hug your family?

Do you call your brother, your sister, your mom, and your dad?

Do you spend time with your friends?

Do you work hard on the job?

Those things are so much more important, and they will take you further or… mmm… maybe not “take you further”…

They will… they will allow you to impact the world in a much better way than whether you choose to eat meat or not, or whether you choose to not eat certain things.

Don’t attach morality to food.

OK?

Cool.

That’s all I got.

Damn, I covered a few different ideas there so I might have to revisit some of this.

I apologize… but not really.

Anyhow, I’m done.

Have a great day!


Tags

bad foods, behavior change, cheat days, cheat meals, coachroba.com, dieting, fat loss, fitness, goals, good foods, habits, health, healthy diet, mindset, mindset coach, morality, nutrition, nutrition coach, off track, on track, online nutrition coach, paleo, Rob Arthur, vegan, vegetarian, weight loss


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