What is health?
As I outlined in my last post, despite what diet culture tries to convince us to be true, health is not dependent on what you eat, or what you look like.
To be healthy means to ‘be physically and mentally well.’
In order to recover from an eating disorder, or any form of disordered eating, it is essential that you let go of your thoughts surrounding what is ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy.’ When you treat your physical and mental self with kindness and respect, you will attract health. There is no diet or fitness plan that will get you there, and I’ll let you into a not so secret secret, having a gap between your thighs certainly won’t.
The irony is, my obsession with being healthy caused me to become incredibly unhealthy, for;
- I was at my healthiest when I was eating ice cream and chocolate bars whenever I wanted, without restriction because no food was off limits.
- I was at my healthiest when I was exercising from a place of strength and empowerment, not as just another tool to facilitate weight loss.
- I was at my healthiest, not when I cut all fats and sugars from my diet, and certainly not when I finally achieved that thigh gap I had been so obsessed with having, but when I was just living my life, not spending every waking minute worrying about how ‘healthy’ I was.
How we can all achieve true health
Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly is undoubtebly a contributor to a healthy lifestyle, but note the word balanced. A balanced diet has no foods that are ‘off limits’, because to be balanced means to consume all types of food, across all food groups. It means that you can eat a salad for lunch followed by a bar of chocolate because its just what you ‘fancy.’
It means that you can eat brownies and ice cream for dessert today, and a fruit salad for dessert tomorrow, because cravings change, and you listen to what your body wants. What isn’t balanced, and certainly isn’t healthy, however, is denying yourself of the foods you love out of a place of fear.
On the topic of fear, a common fear that people recovering from eating disorders have, is that once they start eating the foods they have deemed to be ‘unhealthy’ for so long, they won’t be able to stop. Speaking from personal experience, I can relate to this irrational, but incredibly intense, worry. I fear that if I eat chocolate, I will just want to keep eating it, and I will never again touch a piece of fruit. The fact is that, yes, maybe our bodies will crave the foods we have deprived them of for so long initally, but our bodies should not be underestimated. They are incredibly smart things and as our cravings balance out, so too will our bodies, and they will let us know what they want.
So, when you’re really craving chocolate, instead of making ‘healthy’ black bean brownies, just get some chocolate! It is the healthiest thing you can do, and your body will thank you for it.
I don’t want to stay in ‘quasi-recovery’ for the rest of my life. In 10 years time when I, hopefully, have children of my own, I don’t want to be more scared of eating a Mr Whippy by the sea than of drowning. I want to be recovered, or at least, in a consistent state of recovery, whereby I can live my life on my terms, without the unforgiving presence of an eating disorder.
So, as I recover from a relapse, I am challenging myself every day to go against all the nonsense my eating disorder tells me, and I am striving to remove the labels and, ultimately, the shame, I have attached to certain foods. I am eating chocolate and ice cream again, and realising that nothing awful happens to me when I do so. I am sitting down more and trying to be at peace with just being still every now and again, and realising that, again, nothing bad will happen to me for doing this.
And I am reminding myself of why I am doing this;
- I am doing this because I refuse to waste another second of what could be my one precious life, worrying about food and exercise.
- I am doing this because I want to live as a healthy female.
- I am doing this because I am on a mission to get to a place of true health.