Monday, April 4, 2011

Motivation: Good, better, best

Let’s talk about food…and shame.

I try really hard to keep myself from labeling my food choices as “good” or “bad”. For so many people, there is so much shame and guilt associated with eating, and I have definitely found myself with unnatural feelings of guilt (and superiority) following a period of eating whatever foods I considered unhealthy (or healthy) at the time. But this kind of thinking always backfires. It messes with your head and just sets you up for failure in the end.

One of the strategies I use to combat this kind of thinking was actually introduced to me in a graduate school course on designing education programs in museums -- we were learning about effective teaching methods. My professor shared a philosophy that she used in her work and in her personal life: when it comes to making decisions, don’t think of your choices as good/bad. Think of them in these terms: good, better, best. You can make a good choice, you can make a better choice, or you can make the best choice. Of course, you want to aim to be the best; and when your decision isn’t ideal, reframe your thinking – it was a good choice, but next time you want to make the best choice.

What about thinking about food choices in the same way? Rather than feeling shame about eating a little too much dessert, figure out how you can do better next time. Don’t trash an entire day’s worth of eating because you had a slice of pizza – think about it as an opportunity to make the best choices at your next few meals.

This not to say that you have free reign to eat junk and say “Well, it was a good decision!”. It is just a way to remove the complicated emotions of guilt and shame from eating and give yourself a more logical way to view things.

So, what do you think….is this idea good, better, or the best? (See how nicely that works – I can’t lose!).


  1. Wow...this really hit home for me. I feel like I totally grew up with the good/bad mentality associated with food and had tons of guilt. I really love the idea of good, better, best. I really like your are a great writer! :)

  2. After I posted, I realized I wanted to note that this happens mostly with women. I don't think men have the whole guilt/shame thing with food...right? I don't know, next time my super healthy gym rat brother eats a piece of pie, I'm going to ask him if he feels guilty. His reaction should be good for a laugh.

    And you're so sweet -- thanks for reading! I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep up with a blog, but I'm really enjoying it! It is nice to be able to get some of these thoughts out rather than having them rattling around in my head all the time :)