Here’s some food for thought. Rather than questioning what we eat, perhaps it’s time we start questioning the narrow definition of healthy.
BY: VINCCI TSUI, RD
If you’ve heard of intuitive eating by now, you’ve likely heard that it’s basically about eating whatever you want, however much you want, whenever you want. After reading that first sentence, what feelings, thoughts, or questions come up for you?
Are you wondering to yourself:
Can I really eat whatever I want?
Is this too good to be true?
Won’t I just gain weight?
What is the catch?
To be perfectly honest and upfront with you, there is a catch. The catch is that we need to dig deeper into our intentions, and what we mean when we say “health”, and when we say “whatever we want”.
So let’s address the first important question: what is health?
In our culture, we’ve come to think of “health” as fit, lean, strong, young, able bodies free of any illness and ailments. Not only does our current definition of health place physical health above all else, it also puts “health” out of reach for many people. Those who are unfit, fat, weak, old, disabled are deemed “unhealthy”, or at least not a “clean bill of health”, even if they don’t have any apparent health concerns.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be that big of a deal if “health” and “wellness” were not the status symbols that they are today. It doesn’t help that we are constantly fed the message that our health is our responsibility. When we’re sick, we blame ourselves for not going to the doctor sooner, for not taking better care of ourselves, for not doing enough “prevention”. Now, keep in mind that we’re not implying that our lifestyle habits don’t have an impact on our health, but by blaming personal choice when someone is ill, we’re brushing aside any efforts as “not good enough”.
Moreover, we erase the impact of factors that are often out of our control, like genetics, socioeconomic status, and weight stigma, just to name a few.
Rather than having such a one-dimensional view and definition of health, let’s start to consider one that defines health based on a broader scope—physical, mental, emotional, social, financial. After all, we are all human beings with the potential to be deemed as equally good and worthy, no matter what our physical health status appears to be.
Similarly, our society has a very narrow definition of “healthy food” and “healthy eating”. We think of “healthy food” as fresh and natural, grown on idyllic farms with green, rolling hills, bright red barns, and ethically-treated animals. “Healthy eaters” are defined more by what they don’t eat than what they do, and they do so by “cleaning” their diets of sugar, carbs, fat, salt, gluten, and calories.
Given the way our society puts health on a pedestal, it makes sense that if you’ve been spending your life striving to be “healthy”, than “eating what you want” translates to a one-way ticket to Donutland and eating everything in sight that’s “bad” for you.
This is the scary part, because these automatic thoughts are a testament to the way these mainstream rules of meal plans, “eating healthy”, and being “good” have infiltrated our minds. Nowhere in this conversation does it allow for you to listen to that inner wisdom your body may be telling you. Perhaps its voice is only a whisper amongst the loud, negative self-talk. Maybe it’s too scared to even show up after years of being unheard or rejected. Or maybe it’s yelling loud and clear, but you’ve trained yourself to ignore what it has to say.
So what happens when we listen to what our body has to say and what it wants? Yes, the answer will sometimes be “unhealthy”, but again, that might only be when we use the narrow definition of health that our diet culture has taught us.
As living beings, we are wired to survive, and survival is not always that pretty, sustainable picture of health.
Sometimes, whatever helps us survive in the short term may not be all that helpful, but that’s OK. We’re all just trying our best to get our needs met, and it’s not always perfect. But the more we allow ourselves to trust our bodies, the more our body will trust that we will listen to it again.
So, can you eat whatever you want and still be healthy?
It might not look the way that you’d expect, but the answer is a resounding yes.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: JON TYSON
Vincci Tsui, RD is a former bariatric dietitian turned certified Intuitive Eating counselor and Health At Every Size(r) advocate. Based in Calgary, Canada, Vincci specializes in helping people untangle their messy relationships with food and their body, and works with individuals in-person and virtually through her private practice. Read more from Vincci at www.vinccitsui.com.