In today’s culture, healthy eating has become synonymous with dieting. In just one Pinterest search of “what is healthy eating?” I stumbled upon these top pins:
- How to eat clean and lose weight
- 100 calorie snacks
- One week of healthy meals to lose weight
- 7-day clean eating challenge
- Good carbs vs. bad carbs
- 300 no-track foods
Everything boiled down to calories, points, and weight loss. It raises the question: What is healthy eating if you strip away the diet noise?
Why Diets Don’t Work
As a non-diet dietitian, it’s my mission to take the “diet” out of healthy eating because diets don’t work. The $70 billion diet industry promises weight loss and health, yet fails on each of these fronts. In fact, 90 – 97% of people who lose weight through dieting regain it back within two to five years.
Furthermore, dieting leads to preoccupation with food, unhealthy body image, bingeing, and disordered eating behaviors — all undesirable outcomes. Deeming certain foods “off-limits” creates stress around that particular food. Frequent weigh-ins fuel an unhealthy fixation with the number on the scale (spoiler alert: this number has nothing to do with your health).
It’s no wonder that people are feeling more stressed out and overwhelmed by food. In order to return to the place where food can be nourishing, relaxing, balanced, and easy – we must define healthy eating through a non-diet lens.
Healthy Eating Is NOT
To clarify, healthy eating is NOT:
- Following a set of rules with only pass or fail outcomes
- Ignoring your hunger cues or eating as little as possible
- Eating super “clean” during the week so that you can binge eat on the weekend
- Labeling foods as “good” and “bad”
- Punishing yourself for eating “bad” food by over-exercising
- Counting macros, calories, or points
- Restricting sweets or avoiding sugar at all costs
- Eating 1,200 calories
- Skipping meals to “save up” for later in the day
True healthy eating is not synonymous with dieting or scarcity thinking. It shouldn’t be about eating less to shink your body. It should be about eating MORE to expand your capabilities.
Healthy Eating IS
When you remove the external noise from diet culture, you’re left with a blank slate to define what healthy eating means to you.
Through my own experience and helping others ditch diet mentality for food freedom, here’s what I’ve discovered to be true about healthy eating.
Healthy eating IS:
- Eating enough food so that you have energy to show up as your best self in all areas of your life.
- Supportive of your physical, mental, AND emotional health.
- Eating a balance of carbs, proteins, and fat.
- Enjoying a buttery, almond croissant without guilt.
- Saying “yes” to foods that taste good and make you feel good.
- Passing on seconds when you’re full. Getting seconds when you are still hungry.
- Establishing the foundation of a healthy relationship with food first.
- Eating a variety of foods from all the main food groups.
Healthy eating is embracing the messy middle. There may be days where you eat to the point of feeling bloated, get a headache from eating sugar, or lack vegetables on your plate. But that is OKAY!
You accept this as feedback from your body and store it as a learning experience. You zoom out and remember that your meal patterns over time matter most. Trusting and listening to your body becomes your default.
Quotes to Help You Redefine “Healthy” Eating
As you consider what healthy eating means to you through a non-diet lens, read these quotes for inspiration.
We define healthy eating as having a healthy balance of foods and having a healthy relationship with food.
― Evelyn Tribole, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works
Through body kindness, you will develop an internal compass for decision-making based on what’s actually helpful (as opposed to “good” or “bad”), what you care about most, and the kind of life you want for yourself. The universal body kindness question asks, Is this helping to create a better life for myself?
― Rebecca Scritchfield, Body Kindness: Transform Your Health from the Inside Out—and Never Say Diet Again
You are meant to have the option to comfort yourself with food. You are not a robot eating battery pellets for energy.
― Caroline Dooner, The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy
We have to get reacquainted with our own innate preferences. We must decide for ourselves what we like and dislike, and how different foods make us feel when we aren’t prejudging every bite we take. It takes its own kind of relentless vigilance to screen out all that noise.
― Virginia Sole-Smith, The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America
Good health is about finding what works for you rather than forcing yourself to follow the latest fat diet.
― Cara Harbstreet, Healthy Eating for Life
Which quote surprised or challenged you? Save the quotes that inspire you!
The Bottom Line
It’s time to define healthy eating on your own terms. Create your own healthy eating manifesto – one that includes trusting your body, gaining confidence in your food choices, and releasing black and white rules that are no longer serving you.
Journal it out. Create a vision board. Or make a Pinterest board. Whatever works for you, allow yourself to bring this new definition of healthy eating to life!
Looking for more support with creating a healthy life using the non-diet approach? Schedule your free discovery call today for support in mapping out your next steps!