Is food considered “good” or “bad”? “Healthy” or “unhealthy”? Should we change the definitions of words in order to make people feel better about the food they eat? Ronni and Brittany discuss the concept of “food neutrality”.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Ronni: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: Hi, Ronni.

Ronni: Hey, so I just recently heard this, interesting idea. I say interesting, I don’t know if it’s interesting or not, I’m trying to figure it out, but it’s called Food Neutrality. Have you ever heard that before?

Brittany: No, I don’t really understand what that cause neutrality just means like, not one way or another, just neutral. So, I don’t Yeah, I dunno what that means.

Ronni: So, I popped up on one of my social media channels and it was some video that was being through the Los Angeles Unified School District that was going to students, I think. And it was talking about, food neutrality. And they gave the example of, donuts and salad. Oh, actually, let me pose this to you as a question. So let’s start with which food do you think is better for you? Donuts or vegetables?

Brittany: Okay. You said was better for you. If I, were just gonna say better, and if you were to just say better, I would say donuts, but obviously better for us. 100% vegetables. I mean, that seems like a, that seems like a no-brainer, right?

Ronni: Well, I like how you actually you answered it way, that way because that kind of brings up if I was to just say. What food do you think is better, how would you, what would you think I meant by the word better? Do you think I would be meant healthy? Do you think? I would admit Tasty. What do you think it would’ve meant?

Brittany: I would 100% have thought it tasty. And I have a sweet tooth. So, if somebody says, if somebody says, what food is better, I’m gonna say, well, yeah, whatever. Like, I eat vegetables ’cause I have to, I have to force myself to eat vegetables. So, I’m on, I’m on team donut for sure.

Ronni: Well, this is gonna be an interesting discussion with you, I think then.

Brittany: But I know it’s not healthy. I know that.

Ronni: Well, no, but it brings up a good point. And that’s why when I first heard about this idea, I didn’t know what to think about it either. And so that’s why I wanted to talk about it because I’m not, I have pros and cons on this idea, but, so food neutrality, what that says, it’s this line of thinking that all food is neutral, which means that food is neither good nor bad. So, the video that I watched actually had this plate of donuts and someone came in and was like, oh, I have all these donuts. And someone said something like, oh, don’t you know, donuts are bad for you? And then the other person said, you’re making judgments about my food culture or something.

Brittany: I mean, I’m definitely not healthy.

Ronni: They’re not. And I think that’s what’s really interesting. So when we say better, or we talk about foods being good or bad, what is generally meant? So if you are someone that, if someone talks about foods being good, you think, oh, they taste good. So like you mentioned about the donuts, you would say, oh, this donut is good, it tastes good. Or other people might hear that and they think no good refers to whether or not it’s healthy and it’s healthy food. Good food means healthy food. So I think that that’s where they were going with this idea of food neutrality, that food isn’t good or food isn’t bad. Does that make sense?

Brittany: So, it’s a subjective thing.

Ronni: Yeah. Kind of. So, when you talk about like, is food good or bad? Do most people think that means the, like, nutrition of it? Or do most people think it means the taste or another way of looking at it is, like if someone holds out a plate of donuts to you and says, and then someone says, donuts are bad. But if you ate a donut still, would that make you think that you’re a bad person?

Brittany: Interesting. We’re getting all philosophical with food.

Ronni: That’s why it’s a very, it was an interesting idea. I’d heard of it.

Brittany: That’s interesting you asked that. ’cause I definitely, I will say that when I eat something that’s sugary or that tastes that I think tastes really good, my stomach usually doesn’t feel great after. And so I know I feel bad after eating only ’cause I think like, oh, this is gonna hurt later. I knew that I should have been eating healthy food, but I chose to eat, you know, a donut instead. So, it’s interesting though because then sometimes you think if you wanna build a really healthy relationship with eating food, sometimes you think like, okay, and I do this all the time where it’s like, oh, I ate that donut. Now I have to go eat cauliflower. Because I ate that donut. You know? So, I kind of see what they’re saying with, is some food good? Is some food bad? What does that mean? You know, I didn’t, it’s getting, this is getting real complicated for just a donut. Right? Yeah. That’s interesting.

Ronni: That’s why I thought it was interesting. So I thought we could talk about it. And again, I don’t, I’m still kind of figuring out what I think about this because as you, you know, you kind of mentioned, if you eat a donut, then you might feel as though now you have to eat cauliflower. So in your mind, you’re thinking the cauliflower is some sort of punishment, like.

Brittany: Yes. Yeah, absolutely.

Ronni: I did a bad thing by eating a donut, so now I have to be punished by eating cauliflower. And if there are, if you know that’s kind of how you view food and you view food as some type of, like a reward-punishment system, then it might actually help to think of food in a neutral way. So, you know, if you’re feeling shame from eating food, then maybe this could be a good thing. And food neutral can help you, you know, lessen your stigma with food. So you won’t always feel like, oh, I’m so bad I ate this. You know, and feeling unnecessarily guilty. So it, yeah, it could be a good thing.

Brittany: It seems to me like balance is the key. Right? So, and that’s kind of the key to everything in life. That is the way the world works, where it’s, if you do one too much of anything, it’s not gonna be good. You know? There’s a philosopher like Jordan Peterson who talks about, you can’t have too much chaos, you can’t have too much order in your life. You have to have a balance of both. I think the same is could be said for, you know, quote-unquote good foods and, and bad foods. If you’re only eating donuts all the time, it’s probably not great If you’re only eating vegetables all the time, that’s probably good. But you know, your life, you know, you still need to have some joy and maybe, yeah.

Ronni: Your health might not be as good.

Brittany: Because of your mental health, like maybe every now and then, sometimes when I have a hard day, like I want to eat a dessert. You know, so you need, you need a good balance, I think.

Ronni: Well, so here’s kind of a similar thing, but, not food. Let’s think about exercise. Do you think that exercise is good or bad?

Brittany: 100% good.

Ronni: A hundred percent good. Well, but then think what if you exercise too much? Or what if you are a ballet dancer, but you are only doing, you know, like arm muscle leg or arm muscle, like weightlifting. So could there be some exercise that is bad for you?

Brittany: I mean, I guess, yeah, if you’re working out too much or if maybe like if I run every day, but if I had really bad knees and I ran every day and I knew that was hurting me like that probably wouldn’t be good. You know, if I knew that I was literally hurting myself every time I went running, you’re right. It probably, probably wouldn’t be the best.

Ronni: So those are some of the like pros I guess for, food neutrality, right? These are some of the good things.

Brittany: I know we’re thinking like, oh, could we use those words?

Ronni: I know was unintentional there. But maybe it is helpful to not think of food in terms of being either good or bad. But because I tend to be someone who, you know, likes to think a lot and ask questions, there was another part of me that thought, this also feels a little bit like we’re, I wonder if we’re like changing truth or confusing truth by changing the meaning of words. So in this video, and I know I’m not sure, you can’t see it, so you just have to listen to what I’m telling you is that, but at the end of the video, there was someone who was, they looked a little bit more unhealthy in their weight and they were talking about how, you know, there’s not a, like healthy unhealthy is not like there’s no such thing as healthier or unhealthy and it’s all just a matter of perspective. And I kind of got to thinking about that because we live in a very interesting time and we’re telling people, you know, we don’t wanna hurt people’s feelings. We don’t want to, you know, we want to affirm everybody and everything, but at some point, like if someone’s gonna eat a ton of donuts, you know, that’s unhealthy. And is it okay for us to say that that is unhealthy?

Brittany: I’m glad you brought this up actually. ’cause I have a lot of issues with what they call the body positivity movement. And I want to, make very clear, I think your worth as a person does not come from what you look like. It doesn’t come from how little you weigh how much you weigh how pretty you are or whatever it is. That’s not what it comes with. And you should never judge anyone based on that. But I do think it’s really important to be healthy, you know, as like, I come from a family where there’s been a lot of like cancer and look with covid, you know, things like that where it’s really put health into perspective. And I don’t think, while I do think we should all love ourselves no matter what we look like, I really don’t think it’s healthy for us to act like it’s okay to eat unhealthy. This is why when you mentioned food neutrality, I wondered if it was gonna go in this direction. Because you know, like I said, I like eating donuts, but I would never tell somebody that donuts are good. I know, I know that they’re very unhealthy and eating a lot of them would be very unhealthy. And I think we’ve gotten to a point where we’re scared to say like, Hey, that’s probably not a healthy diet and maybe it’s not our place to say it. You know, I’ve talked a lot about communities in other episodes, but I do think if you’re, you know if a family member or someone is being so unhealthy that you’re starting to worry about their health, that it is okay to say something.   because I don’t think that we should glorify, as they say, unhealthy lifestyles. When they’re hurting our health.

Ronni: So I guess, we did a podcast a while back and I was talking a little bit about how, for example, you can’t change the number two to actually mean two and a half and try to say that oh two plus two equals five. Because really the two means two and a half because you can’t change the meaning of that word. So in a part of me, I’m almost wondering if when we say good, do we mean good? Like good for you as unhealthy? And when we say bad, do we mean bad for you as an unhealthy? And if so, is it okay for us to continue saying that? Or should we change the meaning of the words healthy and unhealthy? Again, I don’t have an answer here. I just thought it was interesting and anytime which we’re changing the meaning of words, you know, I, a little red flag raises and I wonder what’s going on.

Brittany: I 100% think that you’re correct. I think we should always be worried when we’re changing the meaning of words. Because, you know, even, you know, we talked about like sometimes eating a donut, I keep using the donut example, but whatever it is that you like to eat when you’re, you know, having a bad day, maybe you just wanna like, you know, make yourself feel better thought even, even that is a bad pattern. ’cause then if you keep having bad days and you keep eating, you know, unhealthy things, and that can become, that can become a habit that’s not good for you to keep. And so I have an addiction to sugar and so that’s why, that’s why I like the donut. But I have to be really careful about that. ’cause I’m somebody that if I have if I go through a period where I eat a lot of sugar, I can’t stop. So then I just keep eating sugar and keep eating sugar and keep eating sugar. And it’s like, this isn’t good for me. And it’s not even just that it’s not good for me, you know, if I, you know, for like weight reasons, it’s, I can feel my body being like feeling very unhealthy when I do that. So I think we do need to be careful of changing the meaning of words. I don’t think it’s offensive to say this is not a healthy lifestyle if you’re only eating bad foods. You know, if you’re not eating vegetables, if you’re not eating a well-balanced diet. So you bring up a really interesting point that I think is on, is one of the most important or most interesting parts of this whole conversation is why are we trying to change the meaning of things? Yeah. Why are we saying, oh, well it doesn’t matter if it’s healthy or not, as long as it, as long as you feel good when you eat it. You know, as long as you feel okay because there are things that are healthy and unhealthy. Look at, you know, we’ve talked about corn subsidies. Both in the newsletter and on the show before. And that’s like, bad food can be linked to cancer. Bad food is linked to all these health problems. So you can’t sit here and say, oh, like you shouldn’t, if somebody, you know, weighs more than you shouldn’t shame them for eating, you know, ice cream or whatever. Yeah. But if that food is gonna give them all these health problems, then I think, you know, not shaming them, not being mean, but realizing that that’s not a healthy culture. So I think you bring up really interesting points.

Ronni: Well, I also just wanna say as we’re ending that, I think another important thing is that earlier you differentiated between worth and everybody has worth and value regardless. And I think that’s an important thing too. And so you still have worth whether or not you were, depending on what kind of food that you’re eating. But these are two different things we’re talking about. Talking about someone’s worth and then talking about, you know, whether or not a food choice is healthy or unhealthy. So, yeah, those are two different things.

Brittany: Absolutely. And that’s a great point. Cause again, that’s, it doesn’t matter what you look like, what you weigh, what you don’t weigh, that’s everybody. You know, you should love yourself and everybody has words. So that is a very important thing. This is health specific. So I think that’s a great point to mention and we will wrap it up there. Thank you for listening. Guys. Please remember to like and subscribe to the podcast and if you, you know, are part of the Facebook group, like let us know what you wanna hear about and give us some ideas for podcasts or something you wanna learn about. We love to hear that. So thank you so much, and Ronni, until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Ronni: All right, see you soon.