Stop Eating. Everything is Bad for You.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Jul 30, 2012
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I read an article today warning consumers to be on the look out for rice syrup as a sweetener.

Apparently, rice syrup is bad for us too.

Conventionally-grown vegetable and fruits are bad. Organics might be bad too. Meat’s bad. Dairy’s bad. Soy’s bad. Grains—especially glutinous grains—are bad. Water is…also bad. Tap water is full of pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Bottled water isn’t any better. Juice is bad. Milk, oh we covered that. Milk’s bad. Soda…does anyone not know that soda is bad? High fructose corn syrup is bad.

I think most people agree that avocados and kale are good for you, but I’m getting scared to read anything more. If avocados and kale turn out to be bad, I don’t know what’s left for me.

And beets. I like beets too and so far, they are still on the okay list (as long as they are organic).

What the hell are we supposed to eat?

We are an obese society overwhelmed by food rules and regulations.

(We are also a highly sexualized society that doesn’t know real pleasure. I think there’s probably a correlation, but that will wait for another day.)

I love Michael Pollan’s take on it:

1. Eat Food: actual food our grandparents would recognize as food

2. But not too much: duh.

3. Mostly plants: duh part two.

So why do we get wrapped up in all this? Why the obsessiveness? Where is the balance?

When I was in my teens and 20s and immersed in dieting and disordered eating, my food rules became pretty elaborate. The constantly evolving strategies of what I would and wouldn’t eat defined me and occupied much of my thinking and time. Then, as I worked towards true health, I found that I had to let all of them go and start from scratch.

Still, it’s tricky. I have to eat gluten free (Celiac) so there’s rule number one. I am experimenting with a move from being vegetarian to vegan, for ethical (and curiosity) reasons. Rule two. And then other rules start creeping in like “avoid rice syrup” and “skip excessive packaging” or “buy local and seasonal” and they just keep coming.

So what do we do? Do we accept that we should devote a large portion of our time and thinking to obsessing about our food? Doesn’t seem healthy to me. Do we treat food as both fuel and celebration instead of friend, foe or all-consuming hobby? That gets my vote.

Let’s simplify.

We don’t need ten million rules about how to nourish ourselves. I don’t want to hear what’s “bad” this week. If it’s a whole food, it’s probably better than something in a plastic bag inside of a box with an ingredient list a mile long—even if it is gluten free, vegan and doesn’t contain rice syrup. I like Michael Pollan’s three rules. I think this is another great one:

I’ve reduced mine down to one:

Choose foods that nourish me (body and spirit) and do as little harm as possible (including to myself).

If you could reduce it down to one, what would be your food rule?


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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on and Barnes & She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


40 Responses to “Stop Eating. Everything is Bad for You.”

  1. Ali says:

    Great post Kate. As a health coach that guides people to do what works best for them, I can tell you that most diets and advice don't factor in the mental factor most all of us have about eating what's "good", "bad", etc. That adds in a whole other dimension! I love how you had to abandon all the rules and come up with you own. That is the key! By becoming your own expert, you lose the stress, guilt and need for outside approval.

    Fortunately we live in a time when so many authorities (i.e. churchs, educational institutions, government, etc) are proving to be far from perfect. While it is scary, it's a catalyst to trust ourselves and understand nuance. The human body has a remarkable intelligence…it's all about becoming acquainted with it.

    And lastly, there was a post on a popular blog awhile back on how green smoothies can be bad for you. But I haven't see anything on beets yet 😎

  2. shaydewey says:

    Raw Kale can stop your thyroid from producing and make you hypothyroid and gain weight.

  3. Robert_Piper says:

    Kate, this article is awesome!

  4. Wahhhhh! So sad!

  5. __MikeG__ says:

    Not sad. From what I have read this is only a problem for people with thyroid problems who eat large amounts (i.e. humungous amounts) of cruciferous veggies. People with healthy thyroids can eat as much kale as they want.

  6. Whew! Glad to hear it. (I wasn't going to give up my cruciferous veggies anyway.)

  7. CarolynGilligan says:

    Kate, I freakin' love this article! So sick of hearing about "bad" foods. Sick of bad and food being in the same sentence. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Sweet_Kitten_Candy says:

    Ha ha ! Funny!
    Maybe the first step is to accept the fact that there is no way to completely avoid bad things…and then , well , just relax and enjoy your meal.

  9. Me too, Carolyn. Thanks!

  10. Sara says:

    My rule? Eat well.

    Eating with joy is the first step. As a culture, we have moved away from sharing meals with our families, from understanding the worth of our food (to our bodies, to those who make a living producing it). Eating has become another skill to perfect…

    And while it is important to be knowledgeable about all the health issues (eating too much, too little, unbalanced, too many chemicals, not enough nutrients, ad nauseum), when eating becomes another chore, the true concept of nourishment is lost.

    And per your article, let’s add some common sense into the mix!!

  11. Radha says:

    Try to cook most of your own food, at least that way you know what is in it. I also have the luxury (right now) of working part time, so I do all of the cooking for my lovely hardworking guy. It has changed my perspective on eating because I now have the time to try to mindfully prepare the food as an offering (to my body, to my partner, to the universe), and it makes you think twice about the quality of what goes into that offering.

  12. Rose says:

    Thank you for this refreshing piece Kate. I get so tired of hearing how bad this food or that food is :-/ I couldn't agree more with this simple, common-sense approach to eating well for life. Oh and btw I love your work Kate, please keep the great articles coming!

  13. @mikelevin says:

    Nice one, Kate! This reminded me of George Carlin's great Save the Planet sketch:

  14. Anthony says:

    I have 2 simple food rules:

    1) Eat a balanced variety of whole foods.

    2) Enjoy and be grateful for whatever food you are eating.

    3) Guilt and worry are not good for the digestive system.

  15. Anthony says:

    I guess that’s three 🙂

  16. lisa says:

    being mindful and listening to one's own body, we learn what is best for us and not what a the media or a study tells us. in school my holistic nutrition program taught us that we need to help people according to their own biochemical individuality. stressing over perfectionism is probably more harmful than just letting go and eating the best you can do at the time. it's about choices, learning how you feel and letting go of an all-or-nothing mentality. also, the 85/15 rule is a good one…do the best you can at least 85% of the time and what you do the other 15% will be pretty insignificant. thanks for the provoking article..i shared it on my facebook page!

  17. Simon Newton says:

    I'm trying to avoid moving onto breatharianism but if I listen to everything I hear I will be left with no choice.

    Oh, wait, the air is full of toxins and impurities.

    Guess I'll quit breathing too.

  18. waxbear says:

    Can you provide some documentation on this? I'd like to know more.

  19. Yes! Common sense has become far too uncommon.

  20. melodie says:

    I eat what I feel good about. I generally don't feel good about eating a whole bad of chips. I can tell when I've had too much sugar. For me it's a lot about trusting my body and listening. When I listen to my body I don't get stomach pains, I have lots of energy and I feel GREAT.

    I love the humor in this. It seems so silly to me to have so many rules about food. I get it when you have an allergy but I find for many people it's just a way to make them feel better than other people. I'm vegan, so I'm better than you. THIS IS NOT TRUE FOR ALL VEGANS. I have a ton of vegan friends who are chill with their beliefs. I've just run into some seriously stuck up ones too.

  21. When in doubt, eat sprouts!

  22. kevinschroder says:

    I only eat when I'm sitting at a table or on a picnic blanket.

  23. Mind Dumpster says:

    I loove your post! It is so in line with the book I just bought written by Katrina Love Senn: Losing weight is a healing journey, and her food rule is as simple as that: eat 80% of real food (the definition of which is as said in Mike Pollan's number 1 above), and the rest 20% we can eat lightly processed food (like organic pasta, olive oil etc). So everything else that looks fake (comes in a plastic bag with coloring as pink as my toenails) should be avoided 🙂
    Thank you for your post!!

  24. Jessie Paul says:

    Make your own, processed is baaaadddd………….

  25. Sara says:

    Stop listening to the food commentariat and listen to your own body. Make your own judgements about the food you put into your body and follow your own ethical commandments. These are different for everybody, and that's perfectly ok. My personal food ethics are hand made at home, seasonal, ethically grown meat, food grown and made with love. I am so not interested in what other people's ethics are: I am only interested in that they are thoughtful and considered with the food choices they make.

  26. tangy says:

    Try to eat a rainbow of fruits& veggies every day.

  27. Kristina says:


    Sure we have to worry about what food we put into our body, but proper hydration is vital as well. I feel much more energized when I am well hydrated and it also helps me make better food choices.

    Yet another great article Kate, I love reading your work!

  28. Tracy says:

    I like your rule. I'd also like to add a few ideas that I have on the subject:
    1) Pretending that everyone has the same exact nutritional needs makes no sense to me at all. We are all individuals in every way, nutrition is no exception. I have been fortunate in following my instincts.
    2) If exposure to viruses and bacteria build our immune system, I think it follows that we are building our body's immunity when we are exposed to other pollutants as well. I wouldn't suggest running around LOOKING for pollutants to ingest, but I can't imagine that living in a bubble would be helpful either.
    3) Anyone who says there is no such thing as comfort food is eating the wrong damn food! I love that you included food that nourishes your spirit. A friend once posted that we should only feed ourselves as a matter of fuel. I thought that was one of the saddest things I'd ever read.
    4) As with all things, moderation matters. I am a huge fan of several small meals a day, using smaller plates and smaller servings, drinking lots of water, including healthful foods, even if we sometimes indulge in "others."

  29. Jennifer says:


  30. ann says:

    really loved this article! as an ethical vegan of 15 years just coming to terms with the fact that i am (and have been) allergic to wheat…AND as i currently reside in france, all of what you'e written rings loud and clear for me…

  31. spiral_dancer says:

    This is such a common struggle and I know its one I have been grappling with for years. Although I definitely don't always abide by it, if I could come to any sort of conclusion about eating it would be this:

    Pay attention! Don't eat while listening to the radio, driving your car, or reading articles on elephant journal. Savor your food, appreciate it, and recognize what kind of affect it has on you….body, mind, and spirit…and life beyond the individual self (i.e. the world!)

    Thanks for the great article.

  32. […] Final Info: Do what feels right for your body, mind, and spirit. If you think it’s bad for you, it probably […]

  33. […] “I’m a yogi. Of course I have rules around food.” […]

  34. DreamRaider says:

    I like how you said you have 2… then wrote 3 rules. 🙂

  35. suzanne lehman says:

    Food that I have grown organically, would be the one food rule I'd reduce it to.