What is a “Bad” Food?
What is a bad food?
People have a lot of misconceptions of what exactly is a “bad food.” People will often think that if they eat bacon, then they are “being bad.” If they have fries, their skin will melt away from the trans-fat. If I eat a lot of meat, then I am a “bad” personal trainer. If I don’t eat what they expect from someone in the fitness industry, then they act all confused.
So what exactly is a “bad” food?
My answer is, it depends.
It depends on who you are, what your goals are and your personal history.
My whole life, I was slightly constipated. I never thought anything about it, because it was the “norm.” It took me a long time to take a shit. No problem.
In college, I ate lots of garbage foods, worked out, didn’t sleep well at all, drank entirely way too much beer and my sustenance was about 40% pizza, 20% cereal, 10% supplements, 10% “Fat Cats” and 20% alcohol. Not exactly, the standard fare for someone who was an exercise science major. I would show up to my 8:10 classes with a hang-over, ready to get my knowledge on and would have these other people showing up in full workout regalia, eating their kashi bars.
It was in college, that I discovered the body is a truly remarkable piece of work.
Honestly, after all the shit I put it through, it kept going strong. For years on end, I pushed my body past where it should not have been asked to go ~ 3-4 hours of sleep per night, 10-15 alcoholic drinks per night, 6 days per week, 35 hour work weeks, a full time college course schedule and being highly physically active.
Somehow, during this time I got a 4.0 during one semester, just to see if I could and learned a lot of interesting things. Nothing I actually learned in my Exercise Physiology or Biology classes made me respect the body more than the absolute annihilation that I put my body through, though.
During that time a “bad food” was anything that wasn’t calorie dense and hopefully protein dense. I didn’t have time to waste time chewing and buying foods that weren’t going to keep me feel full and allow me to stay “big.”
After college though, I suffered.
During my last year in college, I had taken a lot of antibiotics to get rid of my acne that I had for the past 10 years. It worked…sorta.
During my last semester in college, I was starting to get more canker sores. One at a time, that would take about a month each to heal. I chalked it up to stress and my “lifestyle.”
After college, with more sleep, “better” eating habits and a shitload less drinking, I continued to get canker sores. But I’m not talking about 1 small canker sore that lasts a week and hurts, but I’m talking about 3-4 dime-sized canker sores that hurt like a motherf’r every single time I moved my mouth and/or tongue.
Eating sucked. Smiling sucked. Speaking – why waste my words when it hurt so much? Basically anything that required me to move my mouth SUCKED!
The “Amazing Machine” had finally met it’s match and it was antibiotics and alcohol.
I was probably always slightly gluten intolerant, but it would’ve never been a full blown issue for me. With the addition of the antibiotics and the high intake of grains, my body became full blown gluten intolerant.
You see, the “good bacteria” in your stomach does more than help you stay healthy, they also help to digest foods, help to make certain vitamins and help to convert a small percentage of unusable thyroid hormone into it’s usable kind.
Replacing those “good bacteria” after being on antibiotics for 6 months with alcohol helped to create an environment that was not conducive to digestion or absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.
The lack of those substances, vitamins and minerals, caused the canker sores.
So at that point in my life, what were the “bad foods?” Pretty much everything.
Anything with gluten was out. So all breads, pastas, bagels, most cereals, cakes and cookies.
Any dairy because of the casein and not because of the lactose. The casein in dairy is also broken down by the same enzyme that breaks down gluten.
I believed that the antibiotics also caused a candida over-growth. This eliminated most simple carbs, such as white rice, potatoes or anything with sugar. This also eliminated anything that could cause the fermentation of “yeast” in my body, such as foods with yeast (gluten free breads and snacks) or vinegar, raisins or higher sugar fruits.
Since, the candida is also exacerbated by “leaky gut,” high mercury fish such as tuna was out, because the mercury could also exacerbate leaky gut.
With all of that said, my diet did a complete 180.
Forget trying to be “big.” I just wanted to be able to make a sentence without my mouth hurting. I was so confused as to what I could actually eat for the first 6 months, I dropped about 10 pounds because I couldn’t figure out what to eat. I was always hungry and cold. In other words, the solution (or really, my complete ineptitude to work out a solution) sucked.
Looking back on the experience now though, I think it was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had.
It made me look at nutrition through a different lens. No longer simply about Calories in, Calories out. When all of my canker sores, constipation and thoughts of rage subsided, I was truly relieved and highly confused. I had a LOT to learn about nutrition.
Since then, I’ve read so many conflicting reports, anecdotal evidence, highly science based evidence, that I think I’m finally just getting to the surface of the water to breathe through all of this nonsense that this field likes to promote and actually form an opinion that makes sense.
With that said, what are “bad” foods now?
The foods that lower my energy. After suffering through continual fatigue for years, I don’t want to be tired. I always had energy and liked having that energy. So foods that lower my energy levels are out. And what foods are those, most of the same that I couldn’t have years ago, except now the rice, potatoes and tuna aren’t out.
The grains, the dairy still don’t make me feel good. Eggs are hit or miss. Some days they’re great. Others, they drain the life out of me. I also take supplements that help with digestion and the stomach lining, such as HCl tablets with larger meals, probiotics, a good multi and high quality whey protein.
So back to the original question of – what are “bad” foods for you?
What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to lose weight and can’t control your chocolate cravings? If so, then “chocolate” is bad – for now at least.
Do you have a ton of canker sores? Gluten might be bad for you.
Do you truly believe that the slaughter of animals for human consumption is bad? Then most meats are “bad” for you.
The bottom line, with eating, like with exercise, is that at the end of the day, YOU decide what is bad, from the foods you eat, how you feel and what your goals are.
Some people don’t mind being tired, such as I am when I eat dairy, and therefore will drink a gallon of milk per day to gain weight. Their goal is to gain weight and that’s fine.
The bottom line, what the science says is very simply this – Trans fat is bad.
Everything else, ehh, you can have it without too many issues.
So, what’s an inherently “bad” food? NOTHING.
Therefore, when you hear yourself judging someone on the foods they’re eating, please remember that no foods are inherently “bad.” Stop preaching to the masses that this one food is the devil and this other food is heaven on earth.
I don’t think, despite all that I’ve learned about foods, that I’ve ever recommended for someone to go “gluten-free” unless they told me they were trying to lose weight and couldn’t control themselves around bread. By getting rid of the bread, they cut out a lot of calories…and they lost weight.
As such, know your goals, know what you want and then structure your diet around YOU.
No food is “bad” except when it stands in between what you want from your life and your ability to control that food.
Also, if you have different goals, this may also narrow down your selection.
My four goals with food are:
1 – To have energy and feel good, throughout the whole day. Many people think that this comes down to the amount of food they eat. But for me, I’ve realized that the amount is less than the actual food. I’ve stuffed myself silly with sushi but didn’t feel bad afterwards or have a lack of energy. Give me a pound of mashed potatoes (without dairy) and some meat and I’m out. Sweet potato fries and chicken gives me energy. And by Sweet potato, I mean 3, large sweet potatoes. It’s not always the amount. It’s also the foods involved and how easily your body can break down and use the foods.
2 – Convenience. If I have to spend an hour cooking it, 20 minutes cleaning up and I still haven’t ate, it’s not going to be high on my list of things to continue purchasing/making, unless I have some free time and want to eat a nice meal. This means that I purchase most of my foods outside of my house, already made. The cafeteria at work provides an abysmal source of gluten-free options. This means that I eat a pound of dry ass chicken 5 days per week. This isn’t the cafeterias fault. Chicken doesn’t make me tired and I don’t have to cook or clean in making the chicken, so it fits the bill.
3 – To put on muscle. The hardest part was coming up with carb sources that wouldn’t make me “fat” while also promoting the first two methods. Surprisingly, juices fit the bill excellent. I don’t recommend juice, really for anyone, as they’re “empty” calories, but I don’t eat enough carb sources (there’s only so many apples, oranges and berries I can have/afford) to help me put on muscle, without it getting inconvenient (my second goal). Juice around my workouts and Chex cereal with almond milk work perfectly. Whey protein also fits this bill for foods that don’t make me tired, are convenient and help to put on muscle.
4 – Money. I definitely spend more on food than the average person. I eat mainly organic beef and fruits. The rest of the foods are “regular,” except for fatty foods such as butter, etc. This is the reason I eat the dry ass chicken at $4.80 a pound at work as opposed to the $3.00 per 4oz freshly prepared chicken breast at work. $4.80 a pound or $12.00 a pound. Not rocket science. If I need extra calories, nuts fit this dilemma for saving money quite easily.
So what are your two – three main goals when it comes to eating?
Your goals can include anything from health, setting a good example for your kids, to have energy, to lose weight, to save money but still eat healthy or to simply not feel deprived of anything, but still feel healthy? Pick your main one. Then decide what foods are “good” or “bad” dependent on that goal.
For example, say your goal was to not feel deprived of anything, but still feel healthy.
1st goal – Not feel deprived of anything. This method would be less about the foods you ate and more about the amounts or methods, such as counting calories, intermittent fasting, etc.
Go onto your second goal and so on. You don’t have to figure out EVERYTHING, but just get a general idea of what would help you achieve your goals. If you truly want to achieve those goals, then make the decision to eat the foods you’ve chosen (and amounts) for the reasons you believe in. Have a starting point.
This post was inspired by one of the greatest posts I’ve ever seen on the interwebs about what you “can eat” and the video at the beginning is amazing: Leigh Peele’s WTF Can I Eat?
I highly recommend reading it.