We often hear the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Most of us can agree that this statement has good merit. It’s not a stretch to believe that if we eat healthy food our bodies will respond positively, and conversely if we eat unhealthy food, our bodies will respond negatively. Over the years as a professional in the field of nutrition and fitness, I have noticed a critical portion of this statement is missing. And it’s in this omission that the bridge to change is always under construction. We are not just WHAT we eat. We are also what we THINK we eat.

Stay with me here for a minute.

I am not at all suggesting that we can eat cake, chips and candy all day and because we believe these foods to be healthy, we can thrive. What I am suggesting is that our beliefs around food and eating profoundly affect our choices. These beliefs can lead us to freedom or the hellish quicksand of chronic dieting and body shaming.

The majority of people with disordered eating and/or body image issues have been mind f*cked for years. After reading and following dozens of diets, fads, and other pseudoscience food and exercise programs, they have cultivated a number of “Good” and “Bad” lists. They have rules for the lists. They have rewards and punishments for the rules. And they have been chasing their tails in this arena forever.

The moment when we decide that food is something other than food, we get into trouble.

How many times have you said or asked the following as it relates to food?

I’ve been SO good today.

I’ve been SO bad today.

These foods are good.

These foods are bad.

I’m going to cheat.

I deserve a treat.

Why do I always self sabotage?

I feel so gross/ashamed/guilty.

It’s fascinating to read these statements all together. What we deem as a CHEAT, is also a TREAT. The foods that make us HAPPY are often the same foods that make us feel GUILTY. Whichever foods lead to SELF-SABOTAGE, are usually the same foods that we use to REWARD. When we decide that we have been GOOD, we feel we deserve something BAD.

Can you see the hypocrisy? Not only are our lists and labels extremely confusing, they also directly affect our feelings about ourselves. And our feelings about ourselves directly affect our choices.

To change our habits, we must ALSO change our thinking. The first thing I teach my clients is that Food is just Food. It’s not good, bad, a reward, cheat or treat. Some food is nutrient dense, some food is not. That’s IT.

When we take away the lists, the labels and the rules, the emotional charges are unplugged. If there is no such thing as good and bad food, then WE are no longer good or bad depending on what we eat. For most people, this is a life changing idea. And it’s frightening. For so many years there has been comfort in the confines, even though great distress has kept us company there too. Breaking free is brave, because we must redefine who we are.

If we aren’t what we eat, then WHO ARE WE?

When we change our thinking about what we eat, we change our thinking about who we are. We are more than our food choices. Much more. This is GOOD.