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3 Reasons Not to Justify Your Food Choices

I recently re-watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love, and I appreciated (again) how Liz eats with such gusto in the “eat” section. She points out that she’s done feeling guilty, and she’s certainly not apologizing for having pizza or pasta or anything else.

It was also a refreshing change from the way many people think or talk about food, sometimes myself included. If you have foods with a lot of fat or sugar in them, it often feels like you need to defend or justify those choices. You might say that it’s for a special occasion, or you’re treating yourself, or you’ve been “good” all day, so you deserve a reward of some kind.

But in reality, you never have to justify what you eat, and doing so can also cause problems. Here are three reasons why it’s best to simply have your food, without explanation.

Not their business

First, unless you’re eating someone else’s food or not leaving enough for others, it’s not anyone else’s concern what you eat.

In some cases, you may be worried about someone’s health or how they’ll act after eating certain foods. Maybe you know that eating fried foods, for example, gives your spouse heartburn, or that the piece of cake may cause problems with someone’s blood sugar.

It’s certainly fair to be concerned about someone in this way, but by and large, the person eating that food understands the situation, too. And they’ve probably decided they’re willing to live with it or risk the consequences.

But telling someone what to eat, even out of concern, is very tricky. Most of us might be tempted to eat even more of what we’re not “supposed” to have as a way of rebelling, and it can also make us resent the person who’s nagging us about eating.

So if someone you care about comments on your food choices, you don’t need to defend what you’re eating, but you can consider what they’ve said and see if you want to make a change. Otherwise, it’s just not their business.

Perpetuates cycles

Another problem with this urge to justify what you eat is that it perpetuates the idea that foods are good and bad. After all, you wouldn’t need to justify eating if there’s wasn’t some kind of judgment going on with the food.

This can keep you in negative cycles about how you think about food, and how you think about yourself for eating that food. If you think the food deserves judgment, you’re much more likely to beat yourself up after it. That, in turn, can make you want to turn to food again for comfort, which isn’t ideal.

Instead, remember that the food isn’t inherently good or bad.

It’s possible that your body doesn’t react well to the food, and you may want to avoid certain things because of that. This is unfortunate, but it still doesn’t make the food itself “bad” or something that needs to be justified.

Impact on eating patterns

Finally, if you feel like others are judging or criticizing you because of your food choices, this will not help you eat mindfully. In fact, it will do the opposite – you’re much more likely to eat mindlessly.

One possibility is that you’ll start sneaking food. If no one sees you eat it, they can’t say anything about it. In these cases, you’re also likely to eat the food more quickly, without paying attention to it, because you want to finish before anyone has a chance to find out.

This might also encourage you to eat for comfort, as I mentioned earlier. And when you eat for emotional reasons, you’re usually not eating out of hunger or making the best choices for your body.

And if you’re worried about what others will say about your eating – or even what your internal voice is saying – you’re not going to enjoy the food as much, which would be a shame.

Eat and enjoy your food

You have the right to eat what you choose, period. Other people may not understand or approve of your choice, but it’s not up to them.

So if you feel that urge to justify what you’re eating, don’t. Remind yourself that the food isn’t good or bad, so it doesn’t have to be defended. Then take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your food.


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