I know, it’s been a while since we last caught up but much like most people in the world, it feels as if 2022 has just flown by and now we find ourselves at the end of this chapter. With a society running towards health trends, crazy diets and a desire (sometimes unhealthy) to be “healthy”, we thought it would be prudent to look at what health really is and how we can create a healthier body, from the inside out.
As the holidays begin and people make plans for the new year, there is an overwhelming amount of pressure to change. Change your eating habits, change your exercise routine, change your goals. Although some of these changes may be necessary for personal development, we have to also assess whether these changes may be influenced by the world around us instead of our internal motivation.
A few days ago, I learnt about a relatively new eating disorder called Orthorexia. For those of you who have never heard about this disorder before, simply put, its an unhealthy way of eating healthy. Those who suffer with this condition become obsessed with food quality, place heavy food restrictions on themselves, cannot eat food prepared by others and even criticise what those around them eat. As you can imagine, this disorder negatively impacts your well-being and for many, causes malnutrition. The question is, what is fuelling this disorder?
Is it our need to fit into the mould of being healthy? Is it the desire to have people look at us and say “Wow! They really care about their health.”? Or, is it because we have become a dysfunctional society who places importance on the perception of health rather than health itself?
My answer: We’re dysfunctional. You, me, all of us.
Social media is plagued with brunch photos of avocado on toast, vegan meals and calorie friendly dinner options. It’s almost as if enjoying something seen as “unhealthy” is taboo. We want to be leaner, eat less calories, eat nutritional dense foods and of course, try to eat gluten, dairy, sugar and blah blah blah free.
But where does our well-being come into this equation?
At the beginning of 2022, I was advised to go on a very restricted diet for my allergies. As someone who has suffered with Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) since birth, it has always been a health condition that I have had to deal with. In 2021, I suddenly broke out into one of the worst flares I’ve EVER had. It lasted months with no end in sight. If you’ve ever suffered (or know someone who suffers) with a skin condition, you will know how it doesn’t only affect your physical health. My mental health and self-esteem were in the gutter. I hated going out in public because people would stare at me and make comments – it was horrible. So, when a doctor told me to use food to heal my condition, I thought it was going to be incredibly easy. Luckily for me, living gluten, dairy, preservative, sugar, hormone and sulphur free in 2022 was pretty easy. There are replacement products for almost everything so I slipped into the new diet fairly easy. I also love experimenting with different dishes so I dove right in and made the most of the new diet.
Did I notice a physical difference? Yes. Not just to my eczema, but to my overall health too! I wasn’t bloated, I lost some weight and my acne cleared up pretty well too. I was happy for the first few months…
And then it all changed.
I became obsessed.
I added more restrictions to my diet. I checked labels profusely. I bought my own meals to other people’s houses. I stopped eating out or only ate out at certain places and ate certain things. I became angry with the world for not catering to my “healthy” diet. As someone who has always enjoyed food and experiencing culture through food, I started dreading meals.
Yet, people kept saying things like “You look so healthy!”. Yes, I looked healthy but my mind definitely wasn’t healthy. It was a time of great confusion and anger – how could eating healthy make me feel so bad and disconnected to myself???
Something had to change.
Since then, I’ve started to eat more things I enjoy. I’ve kept things out of my diet that I know my body can’t handle (for the most part) and when my body feels like something “unhealthy”, I allow it. I eat when I’m hungry, I eat out and enjoy the experience and the people I am with, I appreciate food – be it healthy or “unhealthy”.
(Oh, and for the record, despite me ending my restrictive diet, my eczema hasn’t flared up drastically for months. So, you’ve got to ask yourself, was it really helping me cure a condition?)
The change of perspective has completely changed my view on food. I have stopped looking at food as a way to achieve health, but rather to contribute to my health and enjoy my life.
I no longer feel the need to only eat in a specific way, but rather to listen to what my body wants and needs. For example, my body needs a meal of lean meat and vegetables, but my body wants a sweet treat in the evening; so, I will honour those feelings.
In the new year, I beg you to stop researching new fad diets, suffering mentally over food and restricting yourself on what you can and cannot eat. I urge you to stop following people who encourage you to not enjoy food, encourage unbalanced eating and stop you from seeing food’s importance in your life. I implore you to listen to your body and honour what it feels.
Remember this, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Too much “unhealthy” food can lead to bad outcomes, but so can too much “healthy” food and restrictions.
You’ve only got one life and one body. Care for it in a way that is true to you. Listen to it. Connect with it and build a healthy relationship around food.
You’ll be thankful you did.
Till next time!
Love and light,
PS: If you, or anyone you know suffers from an eating disorder, please seek professional help. There are countless ways to help you overcome an eating disorder and we hope this article will inspire you to take the first steps towards a healthy relationship with food.