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May 23, 2006

Good vs Bad

Goodvsbad_1 Although there are 11 definition entries for the word “good” as well as the word “bad”, I contend that these words have meanings that are so imprecise that they should be banned from use!

For example, what does “bad food” mean? What does “I was ‘good’ today” mean? In reality, nothing! Yet these terms can begin to rule our lives by making us feel constantly “guilty” for not being “good” but just being “bad.” But what does that actually mean?

A personal anecdote that has nothing to do with food: I recall working at an organization that had a very successful affinity credit card program. I was in charge of adding a benefit to the card, collision damage waiver coverage. Since the card product was held by people in all 50 states, insurance laws and restrictions in all 50 states had to be researched – but mostly there are just a few states that have very restrictive insurance laws, one of which is New York.

I read information that I obtained about New York insurance restrictions, and soon realized that it was far too complicated to answer my simple question. So I called the New York state division that handles insurance regulation. I got my answer, and continued my project. My immediate supervisor came to me later in the week, and told me that the department head (her boss) and the division head (his boss) were upset, that I should not have called the insurance regulation agency (there were no complaints from anyone, they knew about this because I mentioned it in passing). So I asked her “why? What was the problem?” and she stammered out, “Well, it’s just ‘bad’.” I replied, “okay, what was ‘bad’ about it?” and she said, “it just was.”

Now aside from the fact that you now know that I worked for someone not very skilled in expressing herself, can you see how useless the words “good” and “bad” are at conveying useful information?

So can food be described as “bad” or “good”? I say never. Apart from being virtually meaningless due to the imprecision of the language, food has no ability to impart moral qualities – can’t become “good” by eating vegetables or “bad” by consuming highly refined or processed foods (note: this link is to show the hysteria around food, not to be a guideline!).

Let’s say that milk or cheese, fresh from the farm with no rBGH or anything in the dairy that is not supposed to be there – isn’t that a “good” food? What if you’re lactose intolerant – now that’s “bad” food for you. What about lima beans, lima beans must be a “good” food, right? Except that they can make your throat swell and suffocate you if you happen to be allergic. Well, then how about chocolate, chocolate has GOT to be a bad food. Just recently “scientists reported preliminary evidence recently that cocoa and other chocolates may keep high blood pressure down, your blood flowing and your heart healthy.” Well that sounds “good” to me.

I suggest the answer is that we examine what we’re saying and communicating, not just to others but to ourselves. Let’s clean up our sloppy language, and it will help clear out our brain – banish “good” and “bad” from your thought patterns and replace them with “useful” or “not useful” – you’ll find that decisions are easier and come with a lot less “baggage” – but that’s another blog for another day.

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Posted by Gina V. on May 23, 2006 | Permalink


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Thank you for this!! I printed this out for my mother who I swear must have a copywrite on the term "bad food" and gets a dollar ever time she or someone else uses that phrase. I have heard it my whole life. "You can't eat that (fill in the blank, bread, chocolate, butter) it is BAD!!". While I was at Green Mountain for a month this year, I learned that no food is bad or off limits. Food doesn't have a moral context attached to them. All foods are fine in moderation. That simple change in my thinking help me banish binge eating those previously off limits foods and lose 45lbs in 6 months. Well said Gina!!


Posted by: ilene | May 24, 2006 7:36:09 AM

Great entry. I can't stand it when people describe foods as "bad", or even "evil". No foods can possibly be "evil"!

Posted by: | May 24, 2006 12:09:40 PM

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