How Categorizing Food as ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Can Lead To A Binge

Unpacking Your Triggers: How Categorizing Food as 'Good' and 'Bad' Can Lead To A Binge pic

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Ryann Nicole

Embarking on a journey toward a healthier relationship with food involves understanding how our thoughts and beliefs about different foods can affect our eating behaviors. One common practice that can contribute to unhealthy eating patterns, including binge eating, is categorizing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons behind labeling food and how it can trigger binge eating.

Understanding Food Labels

Labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ often stems from societal norms, diet culture, and ingrained beliefs about nutrition. Foods are typically labeled based on factors like calorie content, nutritional value, or perceived healthiness. However, this practice oversimplifies the complex nature of nutrition and can lead to unintended consequences.

The Problem with Dichotomous Thinking

Categorizing food into binary labels creates a dichotomous mindset where certain foods are seen as virtuous (‘good’) and others as sinful (‘bad’). This black-and-white thinking doesn’t account for the nutritional diversity that our bodies need for overall health. As a result, it sets the stage for an unhealthy relationship with food.

Calling a food “bad” might not seem like it could trigger a binge, but here’s why it does:

Feelings of Deprivation

Labeling certain foods as ‘bad’ can create a sense of deprivation. When these foods are restricted, the desire for them often intensifies, leading to cravings and a higher likelihood of binge eating episodes.

Guilt and Shame

Consuming foods deemed ‘bad’ may trigger feelings of guilt and shame. This emotional response can be overwhelming and contribute to a cycle of secretive binge eating as an attempt to cope with these negative emotions.

Loss of Control

Dichotomous thinking around food can lead to a loss of control during eating episodes. The strict labeling may intensify the urge to consume ‘forbidden’ foods in larger quantities, contributing to binge eating behavior.

Breaking Free from Food Labels 

Because labeling foods as good and bad is so normalized in our culture, how do you break out of this habit? Start here:

01) Adopting a Balanced Approach: Instead of labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ embrace a balanced approach to nutrition. Recognize that all foods can have a place in a healthy and varied diet.

02) Listening to Your Body: Tune into your body’s hunger and fullness cues rather than relying on external labels. Trust your body to guide your food choices based on its nutritional needs.

03) Challenging Diet Culture Norms: Question societal norms that perpetuate the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Challenge diet culture and its impact on our perceptions of what is considered healthy.

04) Seeking Professional Support: If struggles with binge eating persist, consider seeking support from healthcare professionals, therapists, or registered dietitians. They can provide personalized guidance and strategies for building a healthier relationship with food.

Categorizing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ can have profound effects on our relationship with eating, potentially triggering binge eating episodes. Embracing a more balanced approach to nutrition, listening to our body’s cues, challenging societal norms, and seeking professional support are essential steps in breaking free from the constraints of dichotomous thinking and fostering a healthier relationship with food.


10 Things To Add To Your Coping Box 

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An emotional coping box, also known as a self-soothe or comfort box, is a personalized collection of items that can help individuals cope with difficult emotions, stress, or challenging situations. It’s a tangible and accessible resource that provides comfort and distraction during moments of distress. Here are 10 things you can consider adding to your emotional coping box:

Comfort Objects

Include items that bring you comfort, such as a soft blanket, stuffed animal, or cozy socks. These tactile objects can provide a sense of security and grounding.

Positive Affirmations

Write down or print out affirmations and positive quotes that resonate with you. Reading these affirmations can help shift your mindset and promote self-compassion.

Sensory Items

Incorporate items that engage your senses, such as scented candles, essential oils, or stress-relief lotion. Pleasant scents can have a calming effect.

Fidget Toys or Stress Balls

Include small items like stress balls, fidget spinners, or textured toys. These can serve as a physical outlet for nervous energy and help redirect focus.

Journal and Pen

Keep a journal or notebook to write down your thoughts, feelings, and reflections. Journaling can be a therapeutic way to express and process emotions.

Photographs or Mementos

Include pictures of loved ones, happy memories, or items that hold sentimental value. Visual reminders of positive experiences can bring comfort and perspective.

Guided Relaxation or Meditation Resources

Include a small audio player or device with pre-loaded guided relaxation or meditation sessions. These can help you practice mindfulness and manage stress.

Playlist of Uplifting Music

Create a playlist of music that brings you joy or relaxation. Music has the power to influence mood, and having a go-to playlist can be a quick mood booster.

List of Coping Strategies

Write down a list of healthy coping strategies that work for you. This could include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or simple activities that bring you a sense of peace.

Remember, the contents of your emotional coping box should be tailored to your preferences and needs. Regularly review and update the items to ensure they remain effective for you over time. The goal is to have a readily available toolkit that supports your emotional well-being during challenging moments.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.