Good vs. Bad: Releasing the Morality of Food, Exercise, and Body Image

February 22, 2020
The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is a 2020 Featured NEDAwareness Week Partner.  The following is a YBIC National Eating Disorders Awareness Week post that highlights how the practice of yoga can be an integral component in the effective treatment of and on-going recovery from eating disorders and disordered eating. The shares included are from those who have first-hand experience with disordered eating or from those who are called to share their body acceptance journeys.

“I started a new diet this week.”

“I quit on my fitness routine.”

“ I just started running, again.”

“OMG why do I keep stopping my meditation practice?!”

Do any of these sound familiar? When it comes to the health and wellness world, you hear a lot about stopping and starting. I’d like to challenge that.

Your health journey—your unique experience—began at birth. There is no stopping and starting. It is a continuous, ever-changing path that all culminates into one, whole journey. This can relate to food, fitness, meditation, anything.

When you were born, you needed food to live. This fuel sustained your life until you began to have food in other forms. Birth is the beginning of your journey with food.

In my personal experience, I knew I was “bigger” pretty early on. I knew “bigger” was something I wasn’t supposed to be, which meant that I was wrong. I, as a human, as a girl, was wrong.

At the age of 13, I went on my first diet. THIRTEEN. As sad as that sounds, I knew then that I was “too big” and needed to lose weight. Looking back now, I can’t remember what diet it was. Maybe Atkins or Weight Watchers. What I do remember, is that the basis of this diet (and every diet I can think of) is focused on the importance of less.

Less carbs. Less calories. Less sugar. Less food. Restriction was the name of the game.

And, as the tale as old as time says, when I went off the diet, I lost all of the progress I had made. I gained all the weight back. I became bigger, again.

Starting and stopping.

What about more? More movement. More vegetables. More breathing. More LOVE.

But I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I lived in that on-again-off-again game for years while my body waited patiently for me to bring more love her way. I would find the latest diet fad, start it up, stop again, and this created such a poor view of myself.

Even though I would have never said it out loud, and maybe didn’t even realize it self-consciously, I measured my value as a person, as a woman, based on the size of my body. I would think I was a better person when I was smaller, and when I gained the weight back, I was a lesser person.

A few years ago, while reading It Starts With Food by Melissa Urban and Dallas Hartwig, I discovered a new perspective that changed everything for me and really helped me recognize the power of owning my own body image and journey. (Even though I was reading the book at the time for different reasons than I would now, it was still a very helpful part of my journey.)

Typically, you hear that a food is labeled as “good” or “bad.”

“I was good today! I didn’t eat any chocolate.”

“Ugh I was so bad today; I ate way too many cookies.”

This new perspective allowed me to release the morality and the duality around food. There are no good or bad foods, there are only foods.

You are not bad for eating chocolate. You are not good for eating a salad! You are just eating.

This sounds kind of obvious now, but throughout a lot of my journey, I didn’t understand that different foods affect different bodies, differently.

You mean the science of my body is going to react differently to the same food than it would to Jessica Biel’s?! But I follow her fitness plan religiously! (Until I stop . . .)

Each of us has our own unique journey and experience, and labeling food as good or bad completely disregards these special differences. Your relationship with food and body image is so completely normal based on your life experiences. When it comes to fueling your body, there is no good or bad, right or wrong. There is learning and trying and practicing. Every day is different. There is no perfect; only practice. 

Whether you’re practicing with what foods work best for your body, or what yoga style resonates with you, or how to bring more self-love into your every day, this is my best advice:

Take what works, leave the rest, and deviate as necessary. You are the expert in your own experience.

Photo credit: Madison Photography

Jordan Page

Jordan Page is a traveling nomad who takes her love of yoga with her everywhere she goes. She also believes you can learn a lot about someone from their Hogwarts House. After completing yoga teacher training in 2017, she and her husband converted a school bus into their tiny home in which they now live and travel in full-time. She has taught in multiple states around the U.S. and in 2019 she completed her professional coach training through iPEC and earned her CPC. Through yoga and coaching, she works to empower and inspire women to own the life of their choosing through conscious, purposeful intention. She is purposefully living, while not taking things too seriously. Follow her travels and learn more about how to work with her on Instagram.

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