Monday, August 4, 2014
Intuitive Eating and the Pitfalls of an Overly Healthy Diet
A lot has been going on with me behind the scenes, and I thought I would share my thoughts. The last time I really mentioned my eating habits were posts about my return to calorie counting and my concern over gaining weight while training. While I think everyone is different, and you should figure out what eating style works for you, I see now that these were helping fuel my obsessive behavior around food. Calorie counting feels so amazing to me at first, and then it immediately turns into a battle. I stop listening to what my body says, and I focus entirely too much on the numbers.
I found my way to the book Intuitive Eating, and it has really opened my eyes to what a healthy relationship with my body and how I fuel it can look like. I wish I had known about this book when I was heavy into my ED recovery in high school, because I think it could have been very helpful.
I think the biggest thing I took away from this book is that I don't have to live my life constantly thinking I need to be any different than the way I am right now. I have really been working on that concept, and I think I'm at a good place. I wrote a little about this when I talked about dress shopping on my wedding blog, and I think this concept has been a long time coming. I have devoted so much time fretting on how I can ultimately change myself and I see how many other things I could have been focusing on.
While I was reading this book and swearing off diets forever, a few things were rippling through the vegan community. Two prominent vegan bloggers renounced their veganism for health reasons. I won't explain the whole situation, because Sam did it so well on this post on It doesn't taste like chicken, but I think the main thing I would like to express about the situation is how we have to have compassion for everyone, not just animals. I don't think anyone has a right to judge you on your diet, and a little compassion for other humans would help some of the attitude against vegans. I do understand that people "failing" on a vegan diet portrays this lifestyle as un-doable, but I think ultimately the portrait of the rigid, militant, mean vegan does worse for our cause than a few people that drop out.
I only bring it up to say that I can understand how easy it is to get limiting and restrictive when you start looking at veganism through the lens of health. There is so much information out there about what foods are good and bad, that it becomes very easy to start cutting things out. Eventually, you start eating an extremely limited diet and become fearful of food. This happens to me, too. While I think the Arbonne detox was a good thing for me, and I really like some of the things I learned, I really struggled when trying to decide what to bring back into my diet. I think I just needed to loosen up a bit and realize that if I had a sandwich or a cup of coffee, I wasn't going to destroy my health.
I don't want to throw Orthorexia around lightly, but I think there is a culture in the food blog world of these incredibly perfect diets. I think it's wonderful to spread beautiful, healthy recipes around, but I also recognize how we could be portraying an unrealistic way of living to our readers, and I fear that could only fuel some of us to ultimately feel guilty when we "slip up." Food shouldn't cause so much pain and anguish, but I know for so many of us, it does.
I am a work in progress. After reading Intuitive Eating and taking to heart the 10 principles, I have still been struggling. As you could understand, when you finally say to yourself, "No food is off limits," it can result in you eating a lot of foods you have been restricting for years. However, after a couple weeks of vegan junk food, I'm ready for salads again. I'm finally starting to hear my body and what it wants, and I think it's wonderful. I'm still working on listening to when my body wants to eat, but I think ultimately, having a strong relationship with my body and its hunger cues is the best way to live.
I am vegan for animal rights reasons, which is why I think it is easy to stay vegan. I think when people choose this way to live for health reasons, or to lose weight, they ultimately leave the community. I don't think we should be so harsh, though. Choosing plant based meals, even for health, and even only sometimes, still makes an impact on the world.
I bring all this up only to say that I'm sorry if I've focused on weight loss too much in the past. I think that was one of the driving forces for me to start the blog in the first place, over a year ago, but I ended up learning to accept myself just as I am instead. I think that's powerful. I hope that if you're struggling with your self confidence and body acceptance, just remember that the world is full of people of all shapes and sizes, and you're beautiful just the way you are. Fuel yourself with amazing, healthy food (most of the time) because it makes you feel good, and give your body movement, because it makes you happy, but also give yourself a little compassion too. You only have one chance at this life, and it's not productive to spend the whole time wishing you were something that you're not. Recognize that you are awesome and unique, and you might surprise yourself with what you can do when you start focusing on things other than weight loss.