At what point does eating healthy become unhealthy?
I generally try to be a healthy eater. But being pregnant always seems to motivate me to be better about healthy eating habits. And recently, I joined this Facebook group that was focused on healthy eating. I was drawn to this group in particular because the focus was on having a healthy relationship with food, rather than advocating for any single diet or lifestyle.
At first, it was awesome. The group had something like 10,000 members. Yet somehow it seemed to be pretty drama-free (amazing for a group of 100 people, let alone 10,000!). The admins were super supportive and full of encouragement and great advice.
Then the trolls* came along. Of course, it’s inevitable in any online community. They just can’t resist. And I’m pretty laid back when it comes to letting that stuff roll off my back. But the thing that really struck me was that a lot of what these people were saying were things that I’ve heard and experienced with lots of people in my “real life”. They were spouting views and opinions about what it means to eat healthy that are very common, but that (in my humble opinion) are also very unhealthy.
*I want to be clear – it wasn’t what they were saying that leads me to call them trolls, it was how they were saying it. They were being very nasty and calling group members very ugly names. And I felt the admins handled it very poorly, so I left the group.
When Healthy Eating Becomes Unhealthy
When it is unnecessarily restricting.
In this Facebook group I mentioned, some of the trolls were berating group members for eating certain kinds of food. The crazy thing is that I’m 99.9% positive that none of these people knew the individuals they were berating. They were just jumping on anyone who mentioned that they ate something or shared their meal plan that contained something the trolls considered an “off limits” food. And of course the trolls themselves all had different ideas on what was off-limits, so as you can imagine, it got pretty heated.
For the vast majority of people, a truly healthy diet is a well-rounded diet. Cutting out entire food groups is dangerous and could lead to nutrient deficiencies. It is so important to be educated and aware of proper food substitutes when you decide to start cutting out certain types of foods.
Take note, the key word here is unnecessarily. Of course there are certain health conditions that warrant dietary restrictions. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about jumping on the latest diet craze and cutting out an entire food group because you read in a magazine or on a blog you could lose 20 pounds in two weeks.
I always keep in mind: most foods can be enjoyed in healthy quantities and eating too much of anything isn’t going to be good for you.
When it becomes an obsession.
Another thing I witnessed in that Facebook group was that some people tend to fixate on one aspect of their diet and can’t think of anything else. This actually didn’t have anything to do with those trouble-makers. It was something that many group members struggled with and the group admins offered advice on. So it was a good aspect of the group because it was a way of helping these people realize their obsessions were unhealthy and helping them see the bigger picture of diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle.
An example of what I’m talking about is someone obsessing over how to portion their meal so that they get the exact right amount of protein and carbs. Or obsessing over what vegetables to include in each meal to make sure they are “eating the rainbow”.
If making sure everything you eat fits within your healthy eating parameters keeps you up at night, you’re probably taking it too far. Of course it’s important to pay attention to what you eat, and it’s a good habit to plan ahead if that helps you stay on track with your goals. But it shouldn’t be the only thing you can think about.
When it steals your joy.
I can’t tell you how many times I saw negative comments in the group about people dreading family gatherings around the holidays because of all the unhealthy food. And honestly… that makes me really sad. I can totally understand wanting to maintain your healthy lifestyle through the holidays. But if your healthy lifestyle creates a rift between you and your family and doesn’t allow you to enjoy the company of the people you love, it has crossed the line into unhealthy territory.
I know there are people who believe that our food-related holiday rituals promote unhealthy eating. But I completely disagree. I talked about this in my post on holiday traditions, and I’ll repeat it here: I believe having special treats during the holidays can actually promote a healthy relationship with food. It makes those treats special, something we only eat once or twice a year rather than something we eat every time we get happy, or sad, or just plain feel like it. And having those rituals and traditions strengthens bonds between loved ones and can bring about great joy.
When it takes you to a place of judgment.
I have seen this so much in real-life, as well as online. People whisper behind others’ backs about how many cookies they ate at the cookie exchange or about the fact that they would dare serve macaroni and cheese at a gathering or about their weekly McDonald’s habit. I actually saw someone call another person disgusting in that Facebook group because the woman mentioned that she had a moment of weakness and went through the McDonald’s drive through. The name-caller didn’t say “That’s disgusting,” she said something along the lines of “How can you even find that appetizing? You are disgusting!”
When you decide someone’s worth or value based on their eating habits, you are judging them. When you decide whether they are a good or bad person based on their eating habits, you are judging them. Every person has a struggle, and for some that is food-related. That doesn’t make them any better or worse than you or me. It just makes them human.
I’m all about striving for a healthy lifestyle, especially since becoming a mom. But one lesson I want my kids to learn is that a healthy lifestyle is NOT all about the food we eat. It’s about living healthfully all around, including in how we treat ourselves and each other.
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