Am I horrible if I want to eat healthy?
Some honest truths surrounding the guilt I feel being anti-diet, while also craving to still live a healthy life.
I feel this juxtaposition a lot in my life, particularly when I’m deciding on meals to cook at home. In my Very Online Life, I’m all about breaking up with my diet. I’m all about stepping away from the lies that toxic diet culture has made me believe for so long, and stepping into a healthier and less complicated relationship with food. Things you all know, of course.
And yet, when I go to choose what to cook for the week and I tell my husband I want to eat more of a Mediterranean Diet-esque meal plan, he hears “diet” and immediately thinks I’m going back on my word. That I’m lying to my followers in my Very Online Life by saying that I don’t diet at all, yet I’m following a meal plan that specifically has “diet” in the title behind the scenes.
For a while, I felt guilty about this. I’m the anti-diet girl and I have built my entire brand around that. Am I lying to my followers if I decide to eat this way? Is it bad if I choose this style of eating to stay healthy in my body?
If you’ve been following me for a while you know that we’ve talked a lot about the Mediterranean Diet and how it really isn’t that much of a diet at all. While some try to make it into an extreme diet (like the Green Mediterranean Diet which is abhorrently stupid), the reason this diet is continually rated the best diet for health overall year after year is because it isn’t restrictive, and it works for long-term health. It lowers disease risk while benefiting healthy weight management, and it’s full of those nutrient-dense foods that our bodies crave.
I’ve always been fascinated by nutrition. I’m intrigued by the specific science behind what food does to our bodies for the short and long term, and how our food plays a major role in our overall health. It’s why I write about it. It’s why I studied it. Maybe because deep down, I have a craving for taking care of the body I’m in. For so long I’ve abused this body into submission for what I wanted it to be—a particular weight or circumference, typically based on the standards of others around me. Yet now, as I continue to strip those tendrils of abuse out of my life, I find that I still have a deep desire to take care of this body well. And that means eating foods that make me feel good.
Being anti-diet doesn’t mean you’re anti-healthy.
I think it’s easy for us to paint this picture of “anti-diet” as being surrounded by all of those foods that have been deemed “bad” our whole lives. With the idea that nothing is off limits, this means that we can eat whatever—which is true! But I guess culture has also made us believe that if you’re anti-diet, then you’re anti-healthy as well.
So if you enjoy eating a healthy diet, does that no longer make you anti-diet?
I’ve struggled quite a bit with this idea over the years. As a person who loves nutrition, I take a weird pride in particular aspects of my diet — like if I reach 25 grams of fiber in a day, or if I eat 30 different kinds of vegetables in a week.
I also know that it’s important to keep your saturated fat count low, so as to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and chronic inflammation. So I keep an eye on those numbers as well, keeping my daily limit below 13 grams, as recommended by the American Heart Association.
I know that following the Mediterranean Diet helps to make these goals possible. Yes, I still enjoy red meat and sweets sparingly as the diet recommends. But if I’m being honest? I would much rather get a juicy burger out at a restaurant or enjoy a dessert with friends than eat these things on a regular basis at home.
Your anti-diet life should be what you want it to be, right?
I know everyone is going to feel differently about this, and I know not all of you are going to agree with me. And you know what? I think that’s okay. Because we’re all in our own process of healing from toxic diet culture, and sometimes being “anti-diet” needs to be a lot looser for others than what it looks like for me.
Maybe having number goals in any capacity is triggering, so counting fiber or saturated fat intake might not work for you. Or maybe having number goals is encouraging and it helps you to focus, and for a type A-b***h like myself, this is honestly how I best function.
In whatever way works for you, I think the main lesson I’ve learned is that it shouldn’t matter. Breaking up with diet culture means following a healthy way of living that works for your body and no one elses. Studies and research are all good for us to know, but it doesn’t tell us what your specific body needs. And that will look different for each and every one of us.
I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to take care of my body and having these types of goals because I know — for a fact — that this works well for me. I take a weird pride in how often I go number two because that means my fiber count has been awesome. I am elated when I wake up after a night out with friends and feel incredible, no longer letting the effect of drinking alcohol take control of my body’s physical health and my anxiety. I feel energized after moving my body during the day, and I feel incredible after eating a meal that was full of dense vitamins and minerals.
We can agree on what “dieting” is, and strive to break up with it.
However you decide to live your healthy life, I think we can all agree on one thing: Dieting is defined as “restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight,” and we collectively are working to break away from this cultural norm.
The difference in my new healthy life is that I no longer define my decisions around trying to lose weight or trying to look like everyone else. Instead, I choose meals that make my body feel good for the long term. I don’t restrict myself to only special foods, but instead, I have found a balance that works well for my lifestyle that includes all the foods I love.
So today, if you are like me and have felt any guilt about wanting to take care of yourself, I’m here to let you know that you’re not alone. We live in a weird world where trying to be “healthy” typically comes with a 21-day plan to lose weight and fix your life. But we’re not here to buy into a pyramid scheme or follow some kind of restrictive meal plan together. We’re here to take care of ourselves and understand nutrition from a non-weight loss perspective. And if you also feel a weird pride in how often you poo during the day, then hello dear friend, you are in good company here.
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