Conventional diet culture tells us to be smaller; take up less space; restrict calories to lose weight; markets products that make us better people, as if how we already are isn’t good enough. I ain’t here for that.
But, what I’m finding is the Anti-diet culture movement is trending towards another extreme. One that says any thought about food or concern over calories is bad.
Intuitive eating proponents now disregard healthy choices to serve every craving or hunger pang. I see body-positive advocates shaming fitness culture, athletes and anyone passionate about exercise or cares about what they eat.
Now, I’m not saying that every anti-diet account on Instagram is in the wrong. There are TONS of people doing great work in speaking the truth about how we should respect our bodies. But why do we need to pick camps?
Why can’t I concerned with how much I’m eating every once in a while?
Why can’t I choose to eat intuitively while still being active in the gym?
Why can’t I be neutral about my body and fuel it with nourishing food without giving into every chocolate craving?
Why can’t I eat Paleo-based without it being considered ‘disordered’ or ‘restrictive’ eating?
Choosing specific foods over others in the name of health does not make you a bad person, just like how indulging for a day does not make you lazy and unworthy.
To care too much would seem orthorexic, but to not care at all is seen as “letting yourself go”.
Over the past few months I have struggled with knowing how much to feed my body: I know I need to be eating more to get my hormones back on track, but I don’t know by how much. That, of course, would require some sort of tracking…but that’s against everything intuitive eating teaches us, right?
It’s come to a point where I feel bad if I do track my food, but also feel like I’m not hitting the nail on the head if I don’t.
Social media has perpetuated these dichotomies of what it means to be ‘healthy’, as if our choices were just black and white. In truth, we live in the big fat grey area in between. The sample size will ALWAYS be n=1 when it comes to individual health. What I do probably won’t work for what you – and vice versa.
So here’s a thought: why can’t intuitive eating mean listening to your body AND knowing what it really needs?
I could listen to my body’s hunger cues all day, but I’m pretty sure I would just be back to under-eating, because I just don’t feel that hungry. However, I KNOW that I need to be eating more of the right kinds of foods, so I have to override those hunger signals sometimes.
Also, I eat for health. Yes, we could go on about how that one dessert with friends fuels your mental health – I’m all about accepting food as food and not restricting yourself. BUT there’s a fine line between not restricting your food and not caring about your wellbeing. One piece of chocolate cake isn’t going to kill you, but one slice every single day just because it’s ‘good for your soul’? You might need to rethink your motivations there.
Here are my non-negotiables when it comes to how I eat:
- Choose fresh, whole, properly prepared foods that come from the Earth.
- Think about what your body actually needs. Nutrients & nourishment > novelty & instant gratification.
- Eat in a way that makes me feel good inside and out. Pizza might be on my mind, but I know my stomach will regret it later. On the other hand, a green salad will probably leave me hella hungry in about 20 minutes.
- Find a balance between feeding your physical body and your spiritual soul.
- Choose experiences over the actual food. Enjoying time with friends doesn’t mean you have to eat like there’s no tomorrow.
A couple of years ago, this list would have looked like:
- Eat for performance; enjoyment can come later.
- Follow the meal plan and/or macro targets every day.
- If you’re still hungry, drink more water or coffee.
- Sugar is 100% off the table.
- Make all of your meals at home, if you can. Keep social activities involving food to a minimum.
It may seem extreme, but I had TOTALLY different goals back then. I was a competitive athlete, I thought my appearance and performance were my life.
Neither lifestyle is wrong or right – each just highlights a different season in my life. Sure, maybe the latter wasn’t great for my health in the big picture, but I needed to go through the whole process to figure it out for myself.
We need to stop making other people feel bad just because they choose to live differently from us. Everyone is at a different point in their health journey and maybe what they’re doing is what they need right now… or maybe it isn’t and they’re wrecking their body, but there’s no need to SHAME them for it. HELP them figure it out and empower them to find a better path.
If you’re judging other people based on how they eat or live their life, then I challenge you to question your own mindset around food and health. Is it them who needs help, or you?
I don’t believe in conventional diet culture, but I also don’t believe in anti-diet culture in the way some people talk about it these days. It’s a noble movement, but I think the pendulum has swung too far to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality.
I believe in choosing to live in such a way that works best for YOU and your goals right now; this will ebb and flow with life, as things change, but you should never be made to feel inferior just because you’re eating differently than how your friends, family or pop media are…ESPECIALLY if it is what is serving your health at the moment.