Being mindful of your diet and lifestyle should be a requirement for anyone who wants to live a happy and meaningful existence. Although, with the Instagram/social media posting culture it’s easy fall into an obsession with being too “too healthy”. While that doesn’t seem like a bad thing, being extreme in any direction doesn’t come without consequences – which is why it is important to find a healthy balance. After practicing a holistic/health conscious existence for over forty years I can’t imagine a life restricted to only eating something that fell from a tree, had medicinal qualities or was loaded with vitamins and minerals. While I try to make the best decisions I can about quality foods, it’s not good to be anxiety-ridden about the implications of what may happen if you have moments that are less than perfect. We are human after all…
So how does being too healthy sabotage your body?
Think of it this way: Imagine someone you know who was an alcoholic and has now been sober for some time while attending regular meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. The ex-alcoholic will often look at people who drink socially as being irresponsible even if they have a handle on their behavior. But are they really being irresponsible or just challenging the new belief system that the former alcoholic now has? The social drinker can most likely get through life while enjoying alcohol with little consequence because it’s a pleasure and not an obsession. The person who is sober, however, fights a daily battle to not think about liquor. It consumes them. To fight off their inclinations, they may become more religious, take up mindfulness practices, and then stand in judgment of their friends because, after all, they took control of their life and may feel their friends are simply carefree and ignorant. This addictive behavior mirrors the mentality of someone too health obsessed to the degree it’s almost a disease. There was actually a term coined in the late 90’s by Dr. Steven Bratman called “Orthorexia” which sums up this type of personality.
Benefits of a Healthy Balance
For them, “Superfoods” and “healthy habits” have taken the place of drinking. It’s not uncommon to even see a former alcoholic become a health fanatic since it’s swapping one destructive behavior for another (disguised as something positive). Much of this attitude is about control, discipline and achieving physical excellence. It’s actually quite similar to anorexia except fat is not the enemy. Instead, it becomes anything that’s not 100%natural. People unbending about their healthy lifestyle often stick to their guns about restrictive eating habits as a weight loss or anti-aging method but it doesn’t always work. Adding organic coconut oil to your coffee, making smoothies with hemp and cashew butter, snacking on chia seeds from an Amazonian tribe or special berries from Peru will not necessarily make you lean or live until 120.That’s not to say I don’t have a surplus of these foods in my kitchen. I just don’t make it the focus of my being.
The Way You Eat vs. Being Obsessed, Pinterest and YouTube Recipes Aren’t Always the Answer
Now let’s clarify that there’s a difference between being particular about the way you eat and being obsessed. I may come across as contradictory because many of my nutritional suggestions require giving up on certain indulgences and living a health conscious lifestyle. What I want to convey is that you work smart and not hard when it comes to your ideal body. If you are going to put everything you eat under a microscope, at least make sure the payoff is worth it. The worst examples I see of seemingly “healthy” meals are on Pinterest or YouTube. Individuals often post recipes that are seemingly intelligent because they contain no artificial ingredients. Often stay at home moms (or people who have struggled with their own weight) will spend hours in the kitchen like chemists conjuring up meals that would otherwise contain processed ingredients with their picks for more natural food swaps. Social media is the place that they share all their discoveries, but don’t run to copy those recipes so fast. Instead of making pancakes with regular flour, they’ll create a buckwheat version. How about a burger made from beans and walnuts instead of red meat? Or as a substitute for ice cream you can now make a non-dairy milkshake of raw cashews, organic dates, manuka honey and unsweetened cocoa powder. Many are calorie bombs, can disrupt blood sugar and most of these recipes that appear too good to be true usually are. Often it’s better to be a light eater (while using common sense) – than gorging on “health foods”. Again, the importance of a healthy balance means you are being conscious of your efforts most of the time while still enjoying your life.
“If you are on a quest to lose weight or nutrition becomes your only focus in life, you’ve just set yourself up for a heavy burden.”
Although I consult on nutrition for a living, if your life and social interests always revolve around food (even the healthy kind), you may not experience fulfillment. Now if you’re one of those individuals that has been told you have food allergies, gluten intolerance, celiac, candida, etc. then yes you should be cautious (especially if there is a serious health consequence to a slip up). If you choose restriction as a preference, be careful not to become a hypochondriac because that has consequences also. Deciding to go strict Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Fruitarian, or Raw Foodist and never flexible in any circumstance can pose a risk. What the health obsessed individual often fail to realize is that being disease free and having a great physique is not only a matter of pristine diet and exercise. The emotional aspect of daily life and lightness can’t be ignored. This is why you see people in areas of the world (particularly Europeans) who drink wine, eat what they like and still live long, healthy, lives. Why is that? A lot has to do with attitude, happiness, family and community. If you are on a quest to lose weight or nutrition becomes your only focus in life, you’ve just set yourself up for a heavy burden. If the reward for restriction was so great, or it was a guarantee you’d never get heart disease, cancer or anything troublesome, then perhaps there would be more gratification. Unfortunately, the consequences of an unhappy spirit will kill you faster than a little gluten or white sugar.
It Is Okay Not to Make Diet and Fitness A Religion
You should be able to enjoy to enjoy a cocktail toast with friends, a piece of red meat at a dinner party or a few bites of cake when you’re really craving it without feeling guilty. If you’re not up for exhausting yourself at the gym or at Soul Cycle there’s nothing wrong with taking a long, leisurely walk instead based on how you feel that day. Instead of living with the mentality of “No pain no gain” rather just go with the flow. Like you, I place a lot of importance on being healthy, fit and attractive. I have no shame in being pickier than others with my eating habits or exercising regularly, yet I came to the conclusion that it’s okay to be bending and not make diet and fitness a religion. You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to always be a Saint. Skewing your habits in a healthy direction most of the time lets you be sinful every now and then while still achieving lasting results. You’ll be much happier too!