What does "good for you" mean?
Someone mentioned to me, with regard to their relationship to food, that they "just try to eat things that are good for me" and I began to wonder about the meaning of this statement.
What does "good for you" really mean?
Is kale good for me? My first response is to say yes. Are peanut m&ms good for me? My first response is to say no.
I struggle to avoid defining foods as either "good" or "bad;" foods have a value, right? I mean, for all of my life I have been told that there are certain foods that I should eat and certain foods that I should not eat so, certainly, they must be assigned a value.
Earlier this week I listened to a podcast by a young woman who is recovering from disordered eating habits and a disordered relationship to food; she recounted her joy, after having been on a particular meal plan that eliminated fruit (fruit has sugar; sugar is bad; therefore, fruit is bad- right?), in returning home from the grocery store with bags and bags of fruit. She said that she piled all of the fruit on the counter of her kitchen and, admittedly, had no idea what she would do with all of it but she was so excited to have made peace with it.
I was once on a meal plan where all fruits were eliminated with the exception of green apples; bananas were allowed, but only immediately following exercise. I can tell you that I was highly motivated to go for a run every morning, just so I could have that damn banana.
Now, I return to the kale and m&ms dilemma...from a nutritional perspective, both of these items have value. They are different, obviously, in nutritional profile, but they both contain carbohydrate and protein; these are nutrients that my body needs to keep me going and fuel activities of daily life.
I enjoy both of these items...sort of. I really enjoy kale when it is used as a vehicle for an amazing dressing, like the one in this recipe (so good!), so does that mean that I enjoy kale or I enjoy salad dressing? Maybe a little of both; nevertheless, I eat kale and I consider it good for me.
Peanut m&ms, on the other hand, have always been a source of distress; I love them and I have also spent a lot of time restricting them. In my disordered way of thinking, this is a "bad" food and I either need to earn the right to eat it (like maybe on a long run day or after a race?) or not eat it at all.
Unfortunately, this type of restriction, for me, usually leads to a scenario like this: I have a bad day or I'm feeling especially badly about myself or, crazy, I'm just extra hungry because I've been restricting so much and I say "to hell with it all" and I go to Kroger after work, buy the bag that says "MEDIUM" on the front (bonus points if it's one of those bags that has an "extra 30%!" on the label) and, after my regular dinner, I eat the entire bag.
Sometimes I get too tired to finish and I end up leaving a few for the next day, but that rarely happens; it's always been all or nothing...once the bag is opened, ALL OF THEM must be eaten AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to rid my kitchen/home of this devilish beast.
Guess what I found out?!! When I tell myself that peanut m&ms are not "good" or "bad," simply food, and that I can have as many as I want, this incredible thing happens: I just eat some of them and go on about my day. I don't have to save them for after dinner, or bad days, or long run days, or while I'm watching The Bachelor. I can eat them all day long, if I want to, because it's just food. Period. It can be good for me, just like kale...only different.