When I was a teenager, I associated the word ‘healthy’ with stick thin women, eating grapefruit, cutting out wheat and exercising every given moment of the day. That thought pattern didn’t shift until I started re-educating myself on what a healthy diet was and how to exercise right for my body.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what background you come from, we all have our own definition of what ‘healthy’ is and what we see as optimal. Maybe for someone being healthy is about losing weight, or gaining weight, maybe it’s about exercising more or less, cutting out junk food, de-toxifying your life, harnessing loving relationships, getting rid of toxic relationships or maybe it’s getting more sleep and stressing less. We all have our own health goals and our own opinions as to what healthy should look like.
I was so confused as a young girl – there was so much conflicting information out there and it seems to have become even more complicated now! One minute there’s an article saying that eggs are bad for you, then the next minute they’re suddenly the most amazing source of protein ever! One documentary says veganism is the only way, whereas another person says paleo is best. There’s hot phrases like ‘gluten free’, ‘dairy free’, ‘refined sugar free’ (yes, I know I use all of them!) and not to mention superfoods, greens powders, health powers, protein powders (again, I’m aware my pantry is also stocked with them!).
Being healthy isn’t about joining a weight loss group that bases your food choices around points – don’t even get me started on that! It’s not about following the latest fad diet trend just because Queen B says it’s what she does. It’s not about restricting or over-indulging – in fact, it’s as simple as eating nourishing foods for your body to help your body to thrive in a way that’s optimal for you! It’s about you, NOT the latest diet trend, food craze, superfood or calorie counting app.
There is no such thing as a good food or a bad food. Food is just food. Some foods may be better choices than others, some may have more nutritional content than others, some may taste better, have a higher calorie content or cause more bodily reactions than others, BUT that shouldn’t mean we can start glorifying or demonising these foods. Any food eaten in excess can potentially be problematic for our body, so it’s not about saying one is worse for you or better – it’s all about moderation and choosing healthier options when they’re available to you. Just because eating an excess of refined sugar has been linked to health problems, doesn’t mean we should all of a sudden become fearful of it – likewise, just because kale is raved about everywhere doesn’t mean we should all start living off it.
Moderation is key, happiness is key and enjoying what you eat is key.
One minute someone is saying we SHOULD be eating this and we SHOULDN’T be eating that and what we are left with is a whole load of conflicting opinions (not facts) that can potentially harm our relationship with food. Again, if you’re thinking you ‘shouldn’t’ be eating something, you’re creating a fear-based relationship around that particular food and surely that in itself can’t be healthy? If you hear someone say those two words, most of the time that information has formed from their opinion, not scientific evidence. Opinions do have validity but it’s important in this instance to think about what suits you and your body.
If it suits you to think of ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’, then by all means keep using those words. But from my own experience and from working with so many beautiful women, those words seem to harness a negative relationship with food. Remember, just because someone says you ‘should’ become vegan, doesn’t mean that’s the healthiest option for you. Just because someone you follow on social media says you ‘shouldn’t’ eat gluten, doesn’t mean that you should all of a sudden cut out bread from your diet. It’s about personal preference and what works for you.
I touched on health powders briefly, but I just want to quickly mention them again. I’m a huge fan of health powders – I personally love them in my diet as I think they’re a great way of adding even more nutrients into certain meals and snacks throughout the day.
Do I think that everyone needs them? Absolutely not!
Do I think they’re essential in your diet? No way.
I like them but that doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend hundreds of pounds on ‘superfoods’ and health powders. If you don’t like the taste of protein powder, then why on earth buy it! You’ll get the same benefit from having two scrambled eggs!
This is something else that has complicated ‘healthy’. All the marketing around these superfood, health and protein powders. If you’re on social media, watch the TV or listen to the radio, then I’m sure you’re aware of the range of health foods that are out there. In fact, marketing in supermarkets has even led us to believe that the ‘free from’ section is somehow healthier than every other isle in the supermarket. Spoiler alert – gluten free bread isn’t necessarily healthier for you (unless of course you’re coeliac), it’s just bread but without the gluten! Again, it is totally dependent on who you are, how your body assimilates food and what makes your body thrive. For me personally, I feel 100 times better if I avoid gluten but that doesn’t mean that gluten is ‘unhealthy’ for me.
Be careful when looking on social media and scrolling through your Instagram page. If one person says that a certain ‘health food’ is the best thing ever then that’s great! That’s their opinion. It doesn’t mean you won’t be healthy without it. It doesn’t mean you’ll be healthier with it. It just means they like it for their body and maybe it will add something more to your diet or maybe not. One of the key things I want you to think about is preference and what works for you.
One last thing that I think has really complicated the word ‘healthy’, is social media. It’s no secret that I get caught up in comparisonitis ALL the time. In fact, it’s something I’m frequently catching myself doing and am constantly learning different ways to prevent myself from falling in that trap. I follow so many nutritionists, health professionals and dieticians as well as health coaches, personal trainers and life coaches. One day one person will say one thing and the next someone else will contradict them. It’s so confusing and I’m constantly getting lost in all of that noise.
Getting caught up and tangled in the whole web of ‘healthy’ can be daunting, overwhelming and way more complicated than it really needs to be. Get back to basics rather than focusing on the latest food trend or diet. Get to know the basics of food – the nutrient content of food, the macronutrient densities, the benefits, your daily energy needs, what foods make you thrive and what foods leave you feeling drained and then base your food choices around that. Choose fresh, organic, preservative free, additive free, whole foods whenever you can but don’t beat yourself up for having food that isn’t. Just because you don’t eat organic doesn’t all of a sudden mean you’re unhealthy. Just because you don’t own spirulina powder doesn’t mean you’re missing out on antioxidants – eat a bowl of leafy greens and you’re good to go.
It’s time to respect that we all have our own opinions around what ‘healthy’ is and that it’s OK to have those opinions. It’s OK to share those opinions.