Good Carb/Bad Carb

If you have attempted any kind of diet ever in your life, if you have ever watched a TV program where diets were mentioned, if you have ever spoken or interacted with anyone who has ever considered going on a diet, then you have heard the terms “good carbs” and “bad carbs.”


Before I go into what this means if you’re trying to lose weight, I’d like to discuss our tendency in this culture to label neutral things as “good” and “bad.” The word “evil” is sometimes substituted for “bad,” but that’s normally used to refer to other human beings (sad face). There are no “good” and “bad” foods, however, unless by “bad” you mean spoiled, rancid, poisonous, or something one is allergic to. Rather than get into the whole psychology of “good” and “bad,” it’s more helpful to view food as either supporting your goals or working against them. Fortunately, no one food is going to destroy your goals.


The average person who is unconcerned with their health is probably just trying not to gain weight. Luckily, our natural physiology is designed to keep us the same. Our bodies don’t want to change. They just want to survive. Our bodies don’t watch TV or look at fashion magazines, so they don’t know what we’re “supposed” to look like. All they know is that you have a certain lifestyle. Our bodies configure themselves in such a way as to make our lifestyles easier to achieve, and survival more likely.


meFor example, let’s say you had to start walking to work every morning because your car broke down. After the first day or two, you would notice yourself feeling hungrier. This is because you’re burning more calories than normal. You will also find yourself sleeping better because your body needs to do more repair. You might lose a few pounds at first, as long as you don’t overcompensate by overeating. Eventually, though, your weight would stabilize – probably only a pound or two lower than your previous weight, if that. Remember, your body wants to stay the same, so it’ll make you want to eat more in order to stay at the old weight. But let’s say you did lose a little weight. After that, your body would find a new set point at this weight. Your body would then hang out at this weight, and refuse to go any lower – UNLESS you were to do something else, such as start walking faster, take another walk at lunch, or change/reduce your food. Your body works WITH you, not for you and not against you. It responds to whatever you choose to do, while privileging survival and efficiency.


So, this brings us to the idea of good and bad carbs. There is no such thing. I know, I know! What about doughnuts? Aren’t doughnuts a bad carb? Well, doughnuts consist of large amounts of simple sugars. Simple sugars stimulate large amounts of the hormone insulin. Insulin’s job is to take all that sugar we dump into the bloodstream and take it where it needs to go in the body. If you’re really active, that sugar (glucose) might go to the muscles and/or liver. If you’re sedentary, more of it will go toward fat stores where it’ll hang out until you need that energy. If you’ve been overdoing high-sugar foods for a long period of time, your cells might have become “immune” to sugar. You’ve overwhelmed your body’s natural responses, so insulin won’t be able to do its job properly. This condition is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance precedes diabetes, which is a serious condition. Insulin resistance develops over time, though. It isn’t caused by a single doughnut.


So, you see, it’s not the doughnut’s fault. The doughnut is not bad. The doughnut is not a bad food. And you are not bad because you want it. As humans, we have inherited certain proclivities. One of these is a desire for energy-dense (i.e. sweet and fattening) foods. However, the doughnut will cause your body to react in ways that could begin the process of undermining your health and well-being. Eating the doughnut will make you want more doughnuts, and other foods with similar qualities, in the future. As I said earlier, our bodies work WITH us. If we make a lifestyle choice, our bodies start making those choices easier. Our bodies don’t judge our decisions. So, if you choose to have a doughnut every day for breakfast, your craving for such foods will increase. Your body will prepare to release larger amounts of insulin, resulting in increased fat storage. Eventually, your body’s condition will reflect your choices.


This is just a brief overview of a large topic. The main point I wanted to get across is that labels such as good and bad are not appropriate when it comes to food. Food is neutral. No one food, as long as it isn’t laced with poison, is bad. However, our habits can be labeled good or bad. A habit is a consistent behavior that leads us toward a certain outcome. A lifestyle is a cluster of habits. Good habits lead us toward the goals we have for ourselves. And our goals reflect our deepest-held values. Bad habits, however, prevent us from achieving those goals. They prevent us from having integrity with our own personal value system. If you have no goals, then whatever lifestyle you have now has led you, or is leading you, by default, to a certain outcome. Health is created or destroyed over long periods of time. And it is not always visible to the eye.


So, don’t be mad at the food. Just acknowledge that you’ve been on autopilot, and that you may or may not be happy with what autopilot has gotten you.


But, as long as you’re still breathing, it’s not too late. Sign up for coaching if you need a little help. Design a life that is purposeful, something to be proud of. Please contact me through this site for more information.


Have a beautiful weekend – and a “good” one!


Peace and love,


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