If you put food into categories, good food vs bad food then you’re going to want to read on. The theory that labelling food “good” and “bad” can actually lead to overeating is too simplified for most of us. Good food vs Bad Food doesn’t account for carb addiction. The theory says that we categorise food as follows: good food is food that makes you feel good and bad food is food that makes you feel bad. Simple right? Well not really because food that is “good”, that makes you feel good can contribute to disease.
Good Food vs Bad Food – the battle
This week in my Facebook group Stop Emotional Eating someone posted a text written by Graduate Researcher and author of Eat, Stop, Eat Brad Pilon (you can join here and read the post) . Brad suggests that labelling food as good or bad leads to overeating. When you don’t allow yourself to have “bad food” for prolonged periods then you reach a point where you tip over and binge on all of the “bad food” that you have been denying yourself. He calls this disinhibited eating.
He says “Disinhibited overeating is a period of eating where you eat with no conception of a limit in either food choice or amount, along with feelings of lack of control, like you “can’t stop eating.” A period of disinhibited overeating can even be enough to erase any progress made by the previous period of restrained eating.”
And he goes on “From this research on restrained eating and “diet boundaries,” we can clearly see that restricting specific foods and food categories leads to a very unhealthy view of food. We also have seen that the tighter your diet boundaries are, the worse the binge will be once you cross that boundary”
It’s a very good point but unfortunately Brad misses one huge part of the puzzle.
Moderators and Abstainers
What Brad misses here is that this advice only applies to people who can moderate. You know those that can have just one slice of pizza, maybe two and walk away. They are the ones that can wave away the dessert menu without thinking twice and make their Easter eggs last for weeks (I live with one of those!) and don’t agonise over their food choices. When you ask them to restrict they can fall into the trap of overeating what they “aren’t allowed to eat”. We all want to do things people tell us not to do!
He is right that people like these don’t lump foods into groups other than “I want that” or “I don’t want that”. These are called moderators.
Carb addicts however, me included, are sweating over the thought of not eating the entire thing, battling a mental argument about finishing it. We start feeling deprived and grumpy at not being able to finish it and we end up eating the whole thing anyway despite trying to choose the “right way”. Yes there are tactics we can use to cope with the temptation but they don’t always work. Once we cross the line, it’s at this point the floodgates open. The pizza becomes the trigger that Brad is talking about. These are the abstainers.
While I believe this theory certainly applies to a large proportion of people, Brad misses the difference between moderators and abstainers. It’s not surprising really because based on what I can get from a Google search Brad doesn’t look like he has ever been overweight or struggled with obesity and he definitely isn’t a woman, I think. It’s not that he’s wrong, he just doesn’t have the experience of carb addiction, or being an obese woman.
Just one glass of wine please
If you expand the theory to apply to other addictive substances you can really see my point with extra clarity. Imagine rocking up to an AA meeting and suggesting that the alcoholics simply stop thinking of alcohol as bad. If they think that restricting alcohol stops binges, they simply need a mindset adjustment. I think there would be many blank stares.
Carb addicts don’t have the ability to moderate foods that trigger us simply by not labelling them as “bad”. This approach will definitely apply to many people but if you have issues with carb addiction, overeating and this disinhibited eating that Brad talks about then moderation is not the answer. Addicts can’t do moderation.
Admitting a problem is the first step
Thinking about food as good food vs bad food completely misses the issues many of us have with carbs. If you ask any run of the mill, orthodox trained doctor or dietician they will tell you that whole grains are good and saturated fats are bad. Whilst in reality many of us regained long lost health by eating the opposite. Food labelled as “bad”. This “bad” food keeps us from eating ourselves to death.
Once you realise that you fall into the abstainer category the easier it is to move forward. Just like AA or NA, celebrate your sobriety and approach it like the real life, damaging addiction that it is. Because that is what it is.