24. Why You MUST Stop Calling Food "Junk" or Even "Joy" Food
Welcome to episode 24 of the Mindful Weight Loss podcast. I am your host and your coach, Emily Erekuff and today I am talking about why you need to stop calling certain foods junk or even joy foods.
But first I'm excited to share a few quick announcements.
The first is that I've just launched a free course wherein I will teach you the 5 keys to end overeating and binge eating. And I do this over the course of 7 days because this course is also designed to help you create a daily habit of planning for success. Lasting weight loss is about taking small steps in the direction you want to go every single day, and like I talked about back in episode 6, how to commit to weight loss, you need to recommit to taking those steps each day. So if you would like to learn what it takes to stop overeating and binge eating and start practicing that daily habit, visit mindfulweightlosscoach.com/start that's START.
And the other announcement is that I have decided to offer my 12 week program without private coaching for an awesome low price. In the past I have only offered it alongside one on one coaching sessions with me, but I really believe that material stands on its own and I want to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
And if you're interested in that, the free program will give you a taste of what the 12 week program is like, so if you like what you are hearing here and are finding this information helpful, visit mindfulweightlosscoach.com/start and take that free course.
Ok, so let's get to it. What's the deal with calling food junk or joy food?
We really take language for granted and we think words are just words. But they really influence our thinking, and the way we relate to the world around us. We say sticks and stones hurt your bones but words can never hurt you, and yes, the word isn't the thing, but the word is the meaning and in that way it has a more subtle power.
I mean just think about the word fat and what that means to you. I'll bet that when you call yourself fat it actually does hurt. And sure you ultimately have control over what you believe and so there are people who have taken the word fat back so to speak, people who refer to themselves as fat and identify with that term in a way that isn't loaded with all the negativity that the rest of us associate with that word.
But doing something like that takes a lot of incredibly purposeful work and while I would actually encourage you to do that with the word fat, it's impractical to do it with so many other foods like good, bad, joy, and junk.
And when we use those terms - really when we make judgements about food and categorize it in these ways, there is a real impact on what you believe and how you feel about and interact with those foods.
I'm sure you've heard not to label foods as good or bad already, because for one foods aren't intrinsically good or bad but also because when you consume good or bad foods, you come to see yourself as good or bad by association. And that's obviously problematic for your mental health and notice that it's based on something not at all true. Holy crap, you're making yourself feel bad because of some arbitrary lie that you've been told.
And so with junk food you can see it's the same thing. If you eat junk food, what does that make you. Someone who likes junk, someone junky? Eww, right?
And so in some circles there's a seeming improvement where the distinction is made between fuel food and joy food. And yeah, it sounds better, but is it? And there's a similar thing going on with programs like weight watchers where foods are assigned point values and Noom where some foods are green foods and other foods are red foods. It seems better because you're not using words like good or bad, but is it really?
This is where the diet industry and diet culture is so sneaky and not purposely so. Like I don't think noom is trying to deceive you. It's not like their developers are sitting in a back room thinking, ok, how do we trick people into thinking these foods are bad, ooh, let's label them red, because red means things like stop.
Although, as an aside I have to say that it's actually super ironic and kind of funny because red is the the color used most by fast food chains. According to an article on Color Psychology in Food Marketing, the authors say:
" red is the color most used by fast food chains, followed closely by yellow and orange. Yellow and orange are colors that make people feel hungry. The color red is associated with emotion and passion. So when one sees red combined with yellow and orange, they become passionately hungry"
So actually I wonder if those red and yellow labels sort of work against themselves.
And Noom explicity tells you that it's important to remember that red doesn't equal bad and green doens't equal good, but really it's hard to escape those meanings, those values we associate with the color red, things like stop, prohibited, danger.
And the whole problem stems from the fact that the entire idea of dieting rests on the principle that we need to place different values on different foods because we need to limit some foods and encourage others.
And the latest distinction that I hear is joy food vs fuel food and I feel like that might actually be one of the worst in part because it sounds so much more innocent than good or bad or even healthy or unhealthy.
But the distinction really pits joy against fuel and implies that what is joyful isn't healthy and that what is healthy isn't joyful and that's so unhelpful and potentially damaging.
And it's also absolutely not true. All food is fuel food. A chocolate chip cookie absolutely does supply you with fuel.
And where this becomes really damaging is that the joy food is clearly the bad food. The joy is what needs to be controlled and limited, and that idea is so terrible it makes my skin crawl.
Thinking that you need or should limit the joy in your life is perhaps the worst idea in the world and that kind of mindset has probably helped you gain weight.
And I know there are people who say, well but you shouldn't get all your joy from food and yes, that's absolutely true, but the way we relate to food is how we relate to life, so there is a very good chance that if you believe you need to restrict your joy when it comes to food, you also believe you need to restrict your joy when it comes to a lot of other things.
Not only shouldn't you have the chocolate cake because you want to lose weight, but you also shouldn't buy the new pants because you should wait until your a smaller size. And you also probably shouldn't go to the party and have a great time because you should feel embarrassed or uncomfortable because you're fat. Ooh and getting a massage sounds amazing, but oh, why not use that as a reward for when you lose 5 pounds.
Do you see what we do here? And we don't just limit ourselves because we are overweight. A lot of the time we have the very same relationship dynamic with everything else. We don't buy the thing because we don't have enough money, even though we actually could afford it. Or we don't go after something we want - a new job, or a new opportunity, because we just think we don't have what it takes, even though we do.
And that's why this work is such a great opportunity because when you see the BS about food, when you realize freedom with food and your weight, you realize it in other areas of your life too. You realize that you are free to get a different job or start a business, or to try anything, and to fail, and to truly do and be whatever you want to be.
So pay attention to any kind of limiting or black and white thinking, because it's all problematic.
And it's going to cause you to rebel. You truly have no limits and when you limit yourself you are going to sabotage yourself.
That's why limits don't help you lose weight.
It's all food and it can all be joyful.
That's the other thing that gets me so up in arms about this. It sends the message that you shouldn't be enjoying everything you eat.
One of the biggest breakthroughs I had with a client centered on this.
She got so much pleasure out of dessert each night and really looked forward to that meal and I asked her if she could bring that same mindset to her other meals during the day and boy that was like a revelation to her. During our next session she talked about what a gift that was and she positively glowed when she talked about how much she enjoyed her meals - meals by the way that included nourishing, healthy food.
We don't have to save our pleasure just for desserts or sweets or for things that maybe don't provide as much nourishment or health benefits.
I get so much joy out of all of my meals. And if you don't experience the same, you are missing out and I encourage you to reevaluate what you are eating and how you can make it more pleasurable.
Steamed broccoli by itself doesn't float my boat, but man add some butter and salt and that's yummy. And the fat actually helps your body absorb the nutrients from the broccoli. That is a win-win that is brought to you by listening to your body and following your desire for pleasure.
And man you can add so many delicious things to vegetables to make them more enjoyable. Oil, butter, salt, cheese, cream, or things like nuts and seeds for texture and crunch.
I enjoy strawberries so much more when I sprinkle them with just a bit of sugar and let their juices come out. And no there isn't a health benefit to that aside from the fact that I eat more strawberries and I get more pleasure from them and the amount of sugar is pretty negligible.
So what I want you to come away with from all of this, is for one to definitely stop with the labeling or at least notice it, because you may not even realize you are doing it.
But more important is to make a point to savor and enjoy all of your food.
Make breakfast, lunch and dinner as indulgent and delicious as dessert. Savor and enjoy it all! Don't restrict your joy to certain foods.
Because you don't need to. You can feel joy at every single meal. And that will help you lose weight. When you get joy from the "healthy" meal, you don't need to overindulge with it's "less healthy" counterpart later on. When everything is a treat, you don't need to go looking for extra treats later.
And when it's all joyful it's so much easier to listen to your body. When chocolate isn't better or more scarce than broccoli, when they are equal in your minds' eye, then your body is free to choose one or the other based on what it needs rather than some BS perceived value of what's good, bad, more indulgent, or tastes better. You can't compare broccoli and chocolate because they are totally different foods and different experiences.
And ultimately you can both. You can have it all. Your body will tell you how much and help you achieve balance. You don't have to control or micromanage. In fact you must stop controlling and micromanaging because it does much more harm than good.
And like I said when you realize this with food, you begin to realize this with the rest of your life. You don't have to save your joy for your "free" time and hate your work life. You don't have to despise doing the dishes and only enjoy those moments where you can sit down and watch TV because that's the belief, the stereotype that you've been fed. You can enjoy it all. And I sincerely believe that's what you were put here on this earth to do.
Joseph Campbell was right when he told us to follow our bliss. When we do so we become happier, more capable, more loving people and it's from that place that we can actually evolve and grow and help people and truly lead the lives we were meant to live, the lives we want to live.
So hey thanks again for listening. I hope this helped you and if you want more, check out my free kickstart course at mindfulweightlosscoach.com/start that's START. Take care and I will talk to you next week.