Wednesday, February 24, 2016

No Inspiration for #fitspiration: True Health Versus The Latest Fad Diet

Body Wraps, Whole 30, Eating Clean, Gluten-Free, Detox, Eat Healthy, Fitspiration, these are the words I see and hear on repeat. Some are very gimmicky. Some are trendy. Some are downright toxic (looking at you #fitspiration) and some are necessary (i.e. those who have Celiac Disease cannot have gluten). As it is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week I thought it might be good to have a little conversation about our culture's current obsession with "healthy eating."

One reason why I have enjoyed working at an eating disorder treatment center the past couple years is because our philosophy is that all food is inherently good. Rather than enabling the rigid black and white thinking that so many struggle with in treatment, we embrace food as a way to heal and a way to recover. Food was never the enemy. It is no wonder that in our culture so many are prone to fall victim to all kinds of dangerous dieting as they are constantly told through the media that “cutting back” is noble and disciplined. 

Dieting* and "healthy eating" trends in our culture are nothing new. They have been around for a long time. One of the first diets that received a lot of publicity dates back to 1863. It was called the Banting’s Diet. It was a low carb diet and bad foods were defined as sugar/starch, butter and milk. The diets have ranged from Graham’s Diet in 1830 where it was believed that exotic spices made one “lustful” to the Cabbage Soup Diet in 1980 where people believed it was best to only have this specific soup.** Then there was the Paleo diet that taught us to exclude all processed grains, oils, legumes and dairy. 

Never mind learning about our hunger cues, mindfulness, and healthy coping skills for emotions that are difficult to tolerate. No, we have always wanted a diet to tell us what we can and can't do. Never mind the fact that sugars and fats are not inherently bad and that sugar fuels the body and gives us energy. Never mind that cutting out fat will decrease brain development and cause severe brain shrinkage. Never mind that cabbage soup sounds really boring to have every day.  Never mind that exotic spices don't lead to sex addiction. Never mind that we are not cavemen and aren't built to be one. 

I hate to be a buzz kill about some of this stuff, but we need to talk about it. I know that when we don't feel good inside our bodies and within our souls, it feels easier to focus on something external. Restricting food helps decrease our anxiety. Big feelings are uncomfortable to hold and so obsessing about diets and eating clean is just easier. Not better, but easier than holding our real live hard feelings about our worth. 

When it comes to our bodies, there is no "one size fits all". Results will always vary. How we feed and nourish our bodies will be different. There isn't a one-way cure to eating healthy. It depends so much on biology, genes, along with other factors such as if we have a chronic illness or a disability, or the type of resources and privilege we have access to.  We may have a disability that causes weight gain or we may be less able bodied, but that does not negate our worth or the fact that we all deserve to eat. Food is essential. This isn't a thing we can argue about or go without. I also know that diets don't work (again, sorry to be a downer). If weight loss industries were actually effective we would soon put them out of business as they depend on repeat costumers. Diet industries need us to feel like we aren't good enough in order to make a profit. (sidenote so many studies are funded by diet companies, so now you understand why the obesity crisis has been inflated***)

Here is what I believe to be not healthy:

  • Obsessing about eating healthy is not healthy.
  • Replacing meals with juice often is not healthy.
  • Avoiding meals because of your cleanse is not healthy.
  • Hiding your eating disorder behind your healthy eating is not healthy.
  • Working out constantly is not healthy (aka if you need to post a picture of yourself whenever you're at the gym or whenever you've done some reps, might be time to re-evaluate what health means to you).
  • Compulsively and obsessively weighing yourself is not healthy.
  • Believing there is only one body type that is healthy and attractive is not healthy.
  • Believing that being thin=healthy is soooooo not true or healthy.
  • Obsessively comparing your body or your nutrition to someone else's is not healthy.

Here is what I believe to be healthy:
  • Eating 3 meals a day with snacks and hydrating is healthy.
  • Getting enough sleep is healthy.
  • Having some kind of movement is healthy.
  • Celebrating food and enjoying food is healthy.
  • Showing your body you love it by feeding and nourishing it is healthy.
  • Eating a wide variety of food, colors and variations is healthy (getting your proteins, carbs, veggies, fruits, fats, dairy, basically the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and YES, calories you need).
  • Feeling your feelings is healthy.
  • Practicing your coping skills when you have hard feelings is healthy.

Our bodies are smarter than any diet or any healthy eating fad out there. Your body knows what you specifically need.  Rather than gluing our ear to all the trendy diets out there with the flashy colors and rainbow unicorn promises, let's listen to what our bodies want. No short cuts. No gimmicks. No toxic thoughts to "motivate" us. There will be more diets to come, they aren't going anywhere. But our bodies aren't going anywhere either and they need us to listen. After all, this is the one and only body we get, let's treat it with care, respect and kindness. Let's trust that food is good and it was never meant to be obsessed about. 

And chocolate is too good to hate. 

* Diet in Heather's terms: a restrictive food plan designed to get down to an "ideal weight", motivated by a sense of the body being incompetent/not enough as it is. I am not referring to a meal plan here or those who have specific food allergies or restriction due to pre-exsisitng health conditions. 

**Megan's Holt's History of Popular Diets 
*** I love Megan's BodyPosiPanda blog and her advocacy for body positivity.


  1. YES and AMEN!!! I have started a "why you don't need to whole 30" post several times and just couldn't find the right way to finish it...but I agree with pretty much everything you said!

    1. Oh my goodness I would SO love to read anything related to whole 30 and why we don't need it. Actually could be a great list! Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

  2. Yes! Well said Heather! What a fabulous post, I so agree with every single word. So many Wonderful points brilliantly made angel. This post needs to be read, I'm off to share everywhere starting with pinning it to my health issues board. Well done dear friend, you rock! Sending heaps of hugs xx

    1. Thank you so much Rosie!!! Your encouragement means so much. Always a bit nerve wracking to write a post like this but saw it go up on twitter from you! That always makes me smile. oxoxo

  3. I came by from today's blogtember post and was going to comment saying I agree whole heartedly...and then saw that I commented on this post when you published it....I still like it ;)