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This weekend you and your friends decided to go out and get some food. You ordered a chicken salad because “you want to eat something clean” or “because you want to be a good person”. One of your friends, instead, decides to order a burger. Would you judge her? Would you tell her she is a bad person for ordering a burger? No? That’s what I thought.

So why do you call yourself a bad person when your order a burger? Why is it that when you decide to have a pizza, a cookie, you automatically say you had a terrible week?

Listen, there are no good or bad foods. You are not a bad person for eating a burger with fries and you are not a good person for eating a salad.

Avoiding foods because you think they are “bad” it’s just unscientific. This can lead to restrictions, eating disorders, and general unhappiness surrounding food and social events.

When I started dieting for the first time, I would fear every single food that wasn’t part of my diet. Cookies, ice cream, cake, muffins, butter, milk, bread, cereal, etc were considered bad foods to me; and suddenly those foods became all I could think of because they were off my limits.

The only way to solve this issue was to eat those foods. But when I did, I would punish myself because those foods were ‘bad’ and I would feel super guilty about it. Does that sound familiar to you?

Can you see how harmful this is to your mental state and health?

Every time I had a cheat meal I would eat some of the foods I wasn’t allow to eat throughout the week. I would say, okay let’s have some ice cream and a burger for this cheat meal (which is not bad at all). I would feel fine until I started thinking how bad these foods were and I would start thinking how I was going to work it off.

However, I believe that thinking of certain foods as “good” is just as bad. Why? Simply because you could feel a sense of obligation to eat that food and you could limit the enjoyment of it.

Knowledge is everything here. Knowing how your body reacts to certain foods is a must. Avoid letting the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ labels take that away from you.

A good example of a food that a lot of people consider “good” is avocado. There are no doubts that it has a lot of benefits. However, a lot of people forget that avocado is very high in calories. Same thing with oils, nuts, etc.

If you eat a whole avocado for lunch you are easily consuming around 250 calories, 23 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of protein… and guess what? a Glazed Krispy Kreme Doughnut has less calories than the whole avocado. (Around 200 calories,  12 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of protein).

Is the avocado more nutrient dense/higher in fiber? Of course it is. All I’m trying to say is that you can have a doughnut and not feel bad about it! =)

Eating an 80% nutrient dense diet is a huuuuge factor in achieving overall health and balance, but understand that sometimes you can enjoy other foods and still make progress. Foods go in to your body processed as proteins, carbs and fats.

It is also extremely important to understand how to read the nutritional information of the foods that you eat. I always try to consume foods high in fiber, and rich in micronutrients.

I encourage you to see foods as how nutrient dense they are instead of how “good/bad” they are. See foods for what they actually are (protein, carbs and fats), if you start doing this, your guilt and stress will decrease drastically and you will actually enjoy the taste of the food and the sociability around food.

Also, get all variety of foods and take an 80/20 approach to your intake – 80% nutrient dense foods, 20% not-so nutrient dense foods.

That’s what flexible dieting is, being able to enjoy the foods you love in moderation.

So, next time you go out with your friends, don’t think that because you order a burger you are a “bad” person.