For the last four weeks I have been on a naturopath prescribed diet. I’ve been on this diet so that I can heal my hormones and finally clear up my skin. Being on this diet has done more than just help heal my body, it has also really shifted how I think about food and healthy eating.
I’ve struggled with food and healthy eating in the past. Swinging from restricting and calorie counting to binge eating and back again. In terms of what I can and can’t eat, this diet is probably stricter than the ones I used to start every single Monday. In the past I would have focused solely on the foods that I wasn’t allowed to eat, and would drive myself crazy with cravings for all of the foods I had decided were forever off-limits. I was consumed by the number of calories that I was allowed to eat and was in a constant battle to try and lose weight.
For the last four weeks I have not been focusing on the foods that I can’t have. I have not been counting calories. I have not been trying to lose weight.
Instead I have been immersing myself in the food that I can have and on how nourishing they are for my body.
There is a huge difference when you are eating to heal yourself, and not to simply change yourself.
In these last four weeks I have realised that I’m not a fan of the term clean eating. While I’m sure there are plenty of people who would describe my current way of eating as clean eating. I am not.
Clean eating is certainly a very loaded term. If what I’m eating is clean, than other food must be dirty. If what I’m eating is good food, and not bad food, I can feel better about myself.
Clean eating comes with a side serving of superiority. It means that should you stray and eat a food not considered clean, you will end up with the horrible aftertaste of guilt and shame.
To me, healthy eating isn’t just about what we eat. It’s about how we eat and how we feel about what we eat.
Food is just food. It is not good. It is not bad. It is just food.
What you eat does not make you good or bad. It shouldn’t make you feel guilty (while we’re at it – let’s ditch the term guilty treat too). And it certainly doesn’t make you better than anyone else.
Yes, some foods will nourish you more than others. Yes, some foods will heal your body more than others. And yes, we should gravitate towards eating more of those foods.
But what we eat doesn’t define us. What we eat doesn’t determine whether we have had a good or a bad day. It doesn’t dictate how hard we need to work out.
I’d rather have a few pieces of dark chocolate, savoured and enjoyed. Then none at all. Especially if that restriction involves me constantly fixating on how badly I want to eat that piece of chocolate. And especially if that self-imposed ban leads to a mindless binge on everything off-limits.
I’d rather enjoy the way that food makes me feel, then worry endlessly about whether 1400 calories is too many or not. I would rather fill my body with nutrient-rich and tasty food, then eat overly-processed but low in fat and low in calories food.
I’d rather have flexibility in my diet, than feel restricted, limited and unhappy.
I’m tired of obsessing over food. I just want to enjoy it. I want to feed my body food that makes it feel good. I want to eat in a way that makes me feel energised, nourished and alive.
How do I do that? I combine a big dose of self-love, mix it with some self-respect, throw in a huge handful of nourishment, and top it off with dollop of ease and enjoyment.
So yes, while some people would say that I’m eating cleaner than ever before. I, for one, am not.
Instead I would say that I am eating with more ease than ever before. I am eating in a way that doesn’t make me feel restricted. That doesn’t make me feel superior to other people. And that doesn’t leave me caught in a cycle of cravings and guilt.
Personally, when I stopped eating clean I started to enjoy and experience food in a way that I always hoped I could.