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Good Food, Bad Food - Who Knows?

Note: To learn more about the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Program, visit or my website.

Do you ever look at certain foods and think they’re good or bad? Say, chocolate, pasta, hamburgers, or a salad? We went through that exercise recently in a training class I’m doing as part of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating program, and it reminded me of a Zen story about a Chinese farmer.

In the story, the farmer experience a series of events that his neighbors all want to identify as good luck or bad luck. But the farmer refuses to agree, saying instead, “Bad luck, good luck – who knows?” Sure enough, something “bad” led to something “good”, and vice versa.

To me, it feels like that goes on all the time with food “experts”. For instance, eggs. At one point, eggs were considered horrible, now they’re good. Or in earlier years, all fat was demonized, then some became good, and now people wonder if saturated fat is even all that bad.

The world of nutrition therefore becomes very confusing and almost arbitrary. Who knows, indeed, if a food is good or bad?

During the exercise in the training, though, I realized that someone did know. Me. That is, I know for myself, if I’m being mindful, how eating a certain food affects me physically. My decision of whether a food was good or bad, therefore, was not based on nutritional content or what others claimed.

Instead, my answer came from two things. One, did I think the food tasted good, and two, how did it make me feel physically. For example, one of the items we saw was a burger, fries, and a big cup of a mystery drink, presumably soda. I’m not a big soda person, but sometimes I like a little, so I considered that neutral. The burger and fries, though, if done well, could be very tasty, so on that front they were good – but only in moderation. Too much would sit heavily in my stomach and make me queasy.

But I can only answer those questions for myself, which is what makes the good and bad approach so tricky. It’s also why I love the AIH method of encouraging everyone to pay attention to their own body’s needs, so we can all make up our own mind of whether something is good or bad – for ourselves.

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