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Conquer Your Weight

Episode #37: Food Morality

Show Notes

March 22, 2023

In this week's episode, we will discuss food morality. So often we describe foods as good or bad, or worse, we describe ourselves as good or bad based on the food choices we make. Talking to ourselves this way can be really damaging psychologically. We will talk about how to reframe our thoughts to think about food in a more objective way.

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Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: This is Dr. Sarah Stombaugh, and you are listening to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, episode number 37. Announcer: Welcome to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, where you will learn to understand your mind and body so you can achieve long-term weight loss. Here's your host, obesity medicine physician and life coach, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Hey everyone. Thanks for joining me today. I am recording today's episode from our brand new house. We just moved about one week ago and we are settling in. The office is still fairly unpacked though, so I am sitting here with my desk and a chair and a computer and a microphone. It's pretty sad, but I am excited to be recording this episode and sharing these thoughts with you. I have been thinking a lot about this concept recently, which is this idea of food morality. So we talk about food as if it's good or food as if it's bad, and then we take that further and we talk about ourselves as if we are good or bad based on the choices that we make. And so often this is really ingrained in our culture such that I don't think people even realize how often they are using this type of language. And so I will be having conversations with my patients and they'll say things like, oh, I was so naughty this weekend. I had a dessert. And it's like, wow, you just assigned a character flaw to yourself based on a food choice that you made. That's a really pretty big deal to be doing that, and not just as a single thing, but in conversation. When we listen for this, people are saying this over and over again, and sometimes not just about themselves, but about foods in general, and so we often have these ideas of what is a good food or what is a bad food, and we compare foods to one another, and if you think about foods in these categories of, you know, cakes and cookies and pizza and fried foods fall into the bad food category and vegetables and fruits and whole greens and lean proteins fall into the good food category. Then anytime we are eating one of those foods and we are identifying as, oh, I'm being so good. I'm eating a salad. Oh, I'm being so bad. I'm eating a donut. That can be really damaging. Psychologically, we're reinforcing over and over again that our self-worth is on the food choices we make, and in order to live in a world where we are in complete harmony with our food, we need to recognize that food is just food. It is completely neutral. It is not good. It is not bad. It is simply a package of calories and nutrition. Maybe there's not a lot of it, but that's it. It's just a bundle of calories, and when we think about it from that very fundamental place, we can be a lot more objective and how we approach it and thinking about how can we eat food in a way that we don't make it mean anything about ourselves. If you want to eat a slice of pizza, eat a slice of pizza without beating yourself up afterwards and feeling really guilty about it. If you don't want to eat a slice of pizza because it's not in line with your food choices, then don't eat a slice of pizza. But when you instead choose to have a salad, you don't have to go putting yourself up on a pedestal and thinking, oh wow, I'm such an amazing person because I'm eating a salad. There is nothing virtuous about a salad. It's just food. You can be proud of yourself, right? You can think about having a food plan, sticking to your food plan, making choices that are in line with that food plan, and that can all be excellent, and we can do all of that without using the language of good and bad and assigning that moral compass to our food. Does that make sense? I feel like I'm getting a little woo woo over here, but I think it's really important to pay attention to these thoughts we're having. Whether we are keeping those thoughts to ourself or whether we're voicing those out loud, when we're saying over and over again about how good we are, how bad we are, we can really start to internalize that and it's not helpful. There is nothing about being a good person or being a bad person that is going to help you along your weight loss journey, and so I want you to stop and spend some time thinking about that. I wanna give you a couple of examples too, so that you can think about how this might be coming up in your life, and then how you could reframe it to just remove the morality from it. So for example, you could say, or if someone said, the last couple of days have been better, so in this case, better means like better food choices. You could instead say, I've been more mindful of my food choices the last few days, or I was really naughty this weekend and I had a donut that is completely unnecessary to say. You can just say, this weekend I had a donut. If it doesn't align with your food plans, you can say, this weekend I had a donut and that was off of my food plan. But there's no reason that you have to be naughty. My challenge to you is to start paying attention to how this is showing up in your life. Do you find yourself having thoughts like this or saying things like this about your food and your food choices, or maybe even just listening out for other people? What are they saying? How is it coming up? Because it is so prevalent. Once you start paying attention, you'll be surprised how often people are saying it as individuals, how our culture is saying it. I even saw it on the side of my LaCroix can it advertises LaCroix sparkling water as I forget the exact language, but no calories, no sweetener, no sodium. Innocent. Innocent. That's such a strange word to describe food, like what does that make soda, guilty? Which is so interesting to reflect on. All right, that is it for today. Thank you so much for joining me. If you are interested in seeing me as a patient in my telemedicine based weight loss practice, I would love to have you. I see patients who live in Illinois or Virginia where I'm licensed to practice medicine. If you're interested in getting in touch with me, reach out to me on my website at That's S-A-R-A-H-S-T-O-M-B-A-U-G-H-M-D dot com. Thanks so much for joining me today. I'll see you all next week. Bye-bye.
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