Why we need to stop ‘being good’

Muller Light yogurt

Back in 2017, I wrote a slightly preachy article about “being good” inspired by my time working in a corporate office. Not a day would go by without someone declining a biscuit or even milk in their tea because “I’m being good.”

I am still very interested in these limits we place upon ourselves, but now I have a dual insight as both a consumer and a content marketer.

If we need food to survive then how have we come to a place where we attach morality to it? Biscuits = bad, salad = good, etc.

And how do we escape these parameters placed upon us? Spoiler: I haven’t got the answers, I just want to shed light on how and why we make the decisions we do around food, and how we can make smarter ones.

What is ‘being good’?

If I had a penny for every time I heard ‘I’m being good’, I’d never have to work again. Back in my corporate office life, I worked alongside people of all ages and backgrounds – but one thing’s for certain, they were all ‘trying to be good’.

I’d get a sneaky side-eye or even a cheeky comment for tucking into a biscuit on Monday (a “being good” day). Then Friday would come along and the office would be full of takeaway pizza, cakes and more. What happened to spur us into the vicious cycle of being good?

Ten years ago, you were probably ‘on a diet’. Be it the Atkins Diet, Slimming World shakes, Weight Watchers, cabbage soup diet… the list is endless. In 2019, you don’t go on a diet… you simply ‘be good’. Moderation goes out of the window in favour of a deprive/binge cycle.

Taking it to a psychological level, this attitude makes no sense whatsoever. Below is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which was put forward by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943, demonstrating what human beings require as ‘basic needs’ for survival.

How has food, a basic human need, become something which people reward themselves for avoiding?

Unfortunately, this attitude is already taking hold in the national psyche. With 6.4% of adults displaying signs of an eating disorder, it’s more important than ever to change attitudes towards food.

I remember vividly receiving compliments for losing weight while at the same office job. Little did they know, I was dropping the pounds due to poor digestion spurred by crippling anxiety. I’d be lying if I didn’t enjoy the compliments, it’s always nice to be noticed – but why did my weight loss warrant a nice fuzzy feeling while it was doing more damage than good? Again, I have no answers but the sooner we start to question our attitudes, the sooner we can change them.

Decision paralysis

It’s all about being a smart consumer. A walk around my local ASDA demonstrates the attitudes towards the products we’re exposed to every day. Every time you enter a shop, you’re faced with more choices than your brain can possibly comprehend. That’s why we’re often drawn in by special offers, brightly coloured branding and misleading messaging.

In fact, research shows that the more choice, the less likely we are to buy. Retailers combat this by highlighting “special offers” at the end of aisles, knowing fine well that we’re unlikely to check whether this really is a good deal.

As you can see from my trip to ASDA, retailers prioritise the junk food, the products with a higher markup and those which they’re guaranteed to sell in bulk. Yet, in the next aisle, I’m guilted by yoghurt packaging!

As consumers, we can make better decisions. And as marketers and content creators, we can move away from using guilt and shame to trigger purchases. Just look at Innocent Smoothies – their products are healthy yet they rely on positive messaging to sell, and it works!

“Being good” is the gateway to something worse. And by commenting on what people eat, complimenting them on losing weight and encouraging binging on a Friday all play into the notion that food = bad.

Remember, an unfulfilled customer is a profitable one. So, have that biscuit and stop being good, once and for all.