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Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Healthy Eating Minefield

All those people who say healthy eating is easy need to get off their high horse. In my experience, healthy eating is complicated, and especially if you've ever struggled with disordered eating, and/or mental illness.

Healthy eating is a veritable minefield of wrong choices, mistakes and scary limitations. First, scientists can't even agree on what's healthy. We're constantly being told that yesterday's choices are no longer healthy. We're told it's as simple as "x calories in" = weight loss, but weight loss doesn't necessarily equal healthy.

I'm trying to do the right thing, by my body and by my mind, but it's so complicated. Am I doing it right when I eat salad for dinner? Maybe, but maybe I'm not including enough nutrition or maybe I'm not giving myself enough calories. Am I doing it right when I snack on fruit? Not, apparently, if you add peanut butter or nutella to that. Am I doing it right when I eat muesli for breakfast? Maybe.

The truth is, I'm so turned around right now, I have no idea whether I'm doing it "right" - whether the food I'm putting into my body is okay or not. I have no idea if I'm getting the right nutrients, the right calorie number, the right anything.

I know what I like and I know what I don't like. I know that it's winter and I want warm food, but the tasty-healthy options I know of aren't warm - they're cold things like salad or watermelon or neutral things like dried fruit and corn thins.

I also know I'm trying, and maybe that's good enough for now.

How about you? How do you go with healthy eating -- are you a natural or do you get as confused and mucked around as I do? Do you get upset when you make mistakes and choose options that aren't as healthy as you thought?


  1. The trouble I have with eating is that I have been so used to not eating, that it's basically a habit now. I regularly get to 5pm and realise that I haven't eaten anything all day. So my metabolism is screwed, and I have trouble with resetting my food clock. My idea of healthy is also skewed in that I grew up believing that if you didn't feel deprived of something, then you weren't eating healthy.

  2. God, healthy eating is COMPLICATED. Seriously. I was raised in and became really heavy into a very conservative Christian religion that emphasizes what they call "the health message", and it can get pretty hairy. Don't get me wrong-- it's like, the best thing you can do for yourself to get your nutritional life straightened out. All the functioning of yourself depends on that. But people get so freakin UPPITY and crazy about food choices, it's insane.

    I've had to make and rethink food choices based on circumstances, health circumstances (allergies, etc.), financial straits, and more, and what I've learned is that really, you just gotta keep trying your best. That's all. I mean, okay, you make a bad choice and then you realize it. So next time you can rationally think, "Hmm, this didn't go so well for me last time. Should I do it again?" You pick a choice, go with it, and learn from the experience. If you freak yourself out over whether or not you're "doing it right" or flawlessly then you're not even getting the benefit of the decisions that you're making. You'll stress your body out and make yourself sick and mess up your mind and emotions, and then what's the point to begin with anyway?

    My friends and family all tell me that I'm a "healthier" eater than the average person, but I've really gotten away from what I would consider to be healthy eating. Why? Because there are other more pressing circumstances that take precedence over made from scratch vegan cashew cheese, like whether I can stand long enough to make myself a frickin' sandwich today. Yes, one might be "healthier", but trying to achieve that would make me sicker in the long run. It's all about balance.

  3. I'm not sure I would actually be considered a healthy eater, but I am satisfied with how healthy my food choices are, so I guess I'll try to respond anyway. I tend to focus on healthier choices instead of flat-out healthy choices. For my purposes, nearly anything can fit into a healthy diet in moderation.

    Okay, peanut butter with your apple slices isn't "healthy." Reduce the amount you use, but still use some: it just got healthier. Choices like this help me feel balanced on the healthy eating issue.

    Re: nutrients, I usually just focus on variety of food and hope for the best nutritionally, but as a former vegetarian I know I'm not always good at getting protein (and that I feel like crap without it), so I make an effort to choose protein at lunch and snacks. And for this reason, things like peanut butter and cheese (that would not be considered "healthy" when added to everything) become pretty important to my diet in moderation.

    I was also, for a while, carefully logging all of my food, to get a better idea of what was going on with my overall nutrition. I'm hesitant to suggest that, given previous discussion of maybe going too far with weight loss, but if you're not sure about calorie counts and nutrients I think it can be really informative. I used MyFItnessPal (they have a website and an app, with a huge database of food). If you log meticulously, you get calorie counts and a little pie chart of your fat/protein/carb breakdown -- there are ranges that are considered "healthy," so you could do some googling to pick a target or talk to a nutritionist if you're super serious about it.

    I think once you find a healthy balance you're satisfied with, it does get easier to just maintain choices instead of always having to make new ones. Best wishes. <3