Good, Not Harm
After already eating a sugar-laden yogurt and a piece of toast smeared with that totally amazing Justin’s Hazelnut Butter spread (“healthy” Nutella), my son asked if he could have a “treat” (read: sugary something). “No love,” I replied. “You have had enough sugar for today. Sugar isn’t very good for your body.” “Why isn’t it good for me?” he asked? I then racked my brain to think about what a 5-yr-old would be able to understand. “It’s just empty calories,” doesn’t really work when someone has no concept of what a calorie is. “Sugar will make your teeth fall out” might make him panicked about his next trip to the dentist. And “sugar might kill you” is terrifying for all of us…definitely not appropriate for a 5-year-old. I finally landed on, “we try to put things into our bodies that make us strong…things that give us energy and help us grow and make our bones strong and help us learn things.” Yes, I punted the sugar question, but in retrospect, for good reason.
At work we talk a lot about strengths — and helping people focus on getting better at the things they’re naturally good at instead of trying to fix the things they’re not as good at. Grounded in positive psychology, this frame is designed to optimize for fulfillment versus treating problems. It centers on health instead of illness. And no surprise — accentuating what’s right is way more inspiring and motivating than fixing what is wrong. It’s more inspiring when it comes to work and relationships and behaviors…food included.
Since trying it out on my son, I’ve started using similar reasoning with myself when I’m thinking about making a not-so-great choice. Rather than focusing on deprivation…avoiding certain things…I’m trying to get in the habit of asking myself what nutritional value that piece of chocolate or almond croissant has. Is it giving me vitamins and minerals? Protein? Fiber? Am I getting my daily dose of calcium? Or is it empty? Armed with that information, I feel more like I’m making a conscious choice. Yes, I might still choose the [empty] croissant sometimes (after all, they’re DELICIOUS), but I’m more likely to follow it up with something nourishing later in the day. This simple re-frame is giving me less guilt and more enjoyment, and it’s helping me “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk” with my family.
If you like this idea, try asking yourself this one simple question before making your meal choices: “How will this food nourish my body?“ It beats “sugar will kill you” every time.
P.S. For some vitamin inspiration, bust out your blender and check out this post.