By conventional standards, she is “beautiful” because she has a small, tight waist and thin legs. Everyone congratulates her on her outstanding “will power” for avoiding bad foods like pizza, chips, and ice cream.
Her body is starving for anything of substance. Her diet consists of vegetables, fruit, the occasional piece of bread, and small amounts of meat. Even though she is thin, her body is anything but healthy.
This woman could be anyone. It could even be you.
As we grow up, we are taught through many different mediums that thin equates healthy and more worthy of love than different or bigger bodies. When, in truth, “healthy” is completely dependant on our own bodies, lifestyles and environments. A healthy body weight or a healthy diet is completely different for everybody. It’s time to shatter those expectations and rules about dieting and healthy eating.
In addition to a healthy body weight, ensuring mental health is just as important.
The problem with a dieting mentality is that we convince ourselves that certain foods are “bad” and certain foods are “good”. This creates many problems for our mental health and, not to mention, loads of unnecessary stress. First of all, we tell ourselves that we can ONLY eat the good foods. On top of that, we make ourselves feel guilty or ashamed if we eat those bad foods.
Moreover, we try to compensate for eating these bad foods by restricting our food intake later, over-exercising, or shaming ourselves, which can lead to eating more bad food in the end because we have deprived or over-extended our bodies for too long. This is infamously known as the binge-restrict cycle.
The media tries to tell us this, too! Commercials shame “bad” foods and support “good” foods to make us feel guilty for eating anything other than the food they’re advertising. In turn, we convince ourselves that eating good foods is the only way we’ll ever be happy.
In reality, food is food. We have to stop assigning qualities to food based on their nutrition, despite what marketing agencies tell us. While a cookie may not be as nutritious or as healthy for you as an apple, a cookie may be exactly what your body needs, or craves, to make you happy and healthy. Having a cookie, or two, or three, is not going to shut your body and the rest of the world down. Breathe. Food is good for you and your body needs it to survive.
Removing the guilt associated with food is especially important for people recovering from an eating disorder. Finding peace and a balanced diet can be tough for anyone, let alone anyone struggling with a mental illness.
Your body is the ultimate judge. Some days you may eat two bowls of oatmeal for breakfast and still be hungry. A dieter would say you should only eat the oatmeal and nothing else for at least four hours. Yet, your body says it is hungry and, by listening to it, you have a third bowl, or a banana, and that is perfectly fine. Tomorrow, your body may be content with one bowl of oatmeal. That is perfectly fine, too.
Listening to your body’s needs allows your body to tell you what is good and bad for you. If shoving bowls of carrots and celery down your throat makes you miserable- don’t do that! Get your nutrients from other vegetables or a colourful salad. Maybe today you don’t feel like any vegetables so you have ice cream instead and that’s OK.
The bottom line is listening to your body. You could call this an anti-diet, but this method of eating- called intuitive eating- (which should just be called regular eating!) is a way to find peace with food, especially for anyone struggling with their eating habits.
So, go ahead, eat that 100-calorie granola bar. Eat two more if you feel like it. Nourish your body and mind!
by Jessica Ross