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Nutrition: Mindful Language Around Food

Mindful Language Around Food

As we move into April, we wanted to take a moment to step back and reflect on March, which was both National Nutrition Month and National Brain Injury Awareness Month. Many of us likely do not pay much attention to the language we use when discussing food, weight, or body image. And yet, words can have a profound impact on our perception of these things and overall mental health in the moment and going forward. When we use judgmental or hurtful words to describe the food we eat or the size of our body, over time this repetitive negative thinking can translate into feelings of shame, anxiety, and overall poor mental health.

Some questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Am I putting labels on foods? (i.e., “good or bad”, “healthy or unhealthy”, “cheat day”, “guilty pleasure”)
  • Would I say the same comments to a friend or family member?
  • How do I feel when I judge myself or others for what is on the plate?
Instead of saying or thinking this… Try this!
“You’re really going to eat all that?” Focus on your own plate. Others may have different nutrition needs or appetites than you.
“If I eat this dessert I will gain weight” One food will not cause weight gain. If that is a concern for you, try smaller portions.
“This food is so terrible for me” All foods can fit in a balanced eating pattern!
“I am way too stressed to even think about eating today.” Stress can impact our appetite by either turning it on or off, like a dial. Have small snacks to continue nourishing your body during stressful times even if you do not feel hungry. Your body needs energy to function!

While it may feel second nature to associate certain words or feelings with different foods as a result of our upbringing or what we see in the media, there is ultimately no need to assign morality or judgement to foods. All foods can be included as part of a balanced, varied diet without additional shame or commentary. Our bodies need nutrition to provide us with consistent energy to fuel us through the day and support normal growth and development. Rigid thinking, or a “black and white” mindset about what you can or cannot eat, may negatively impact your relationship with food and ability to nourish your body.

We encourage you to think deeper about your language surrounding food and how it can impact your mental health. If you believe you or a loved one may need additional support, consider contacting a Registered Dietitian or the National Eating Disorders Association.