Do you have a healthy vs unhealthy foods list? You know, the one that sits in the back of your mind to help you decide which cereal to buy at the grocery store, or what entree to choose off the menu.
What would your answer be if you asked yourself, Am I able to enjoy food in my life, or do I feel trapped, like I have to follow rules to be healthy?
So often we get confused and lose focus on what true health simply is. There’s so much information being shared by doctors, health influencers, media, family, and friends, it’s hard to keep up.
No doubt, it’s great to make health a priority, but it’s important to be able to recognize when healthy becomes unhealthy. Unfortunately, a pure desire for health can easily turn into chronic dieting, disordered eating, and eating disorders.
How are you supposed to take care of your body and its nutritional needs appropriately without it causing stress and anxiety? The good news is, there is a way!
Eating intuitively is healthier than any diet ever will be. We’re going to run through a few questions that come up with regard to healthy eating, giving you an entirely new perspective!
When Does Healthy Eating Become Unhealthy?
If food rules and guilt start to rule your life, then you’ve probably crossed the line where your actions and motives are doing more harm than good. You lose connection with your body and the joy of eating when dieting, restriction, and fear run the show.
Take a moment to observe and reflect on your relationship with food. Consider this list to determine if the drive to eat only healthy foods has become an unhealthy area in your life.
You’re following diets that are rigid and controlling.
You fear any foods not on your healthy list.
Eating foods deemed “bad” cause guilt, shame, and anxiety.
You avoid social situations purely to stay away from eating “unhealthy” foods.
You eat separate meals from your family or don’t allow anyone else to prepare your food.
Your choice of food is determined by nutrition labels, calories, and ingredients.
You find yourself with the “screw it” mentality and go crazy around food because you’ve already “messed up.”
You think about food a lot or daydream about what foods you wish you could eat.
You substitute “healthy” foods for “unhealthy” foods, like eating fruit in place of ice cream for dessert because you’re being “good” this week.
If any of these resonate with you, show yourself some grace and understand there is an opportunity for you to experience peace, freedom, and joy by discovering what true health looks like!
What Differentiates Healthy Food From Unhealthy Food?
This is the number one question that forces people to keep searching for the next food to add or subtract from their life in order to solve all their problems. It’s tempting to believe every new piece of health advice we hear is the final piece of the puzzle.
Depending on who you’re talking to, people swear that Keto, Whole 30, gluten free, or intermittent fasting is the only way to achieve your goals. If those work, why do we see more advertisements for new diets every single year?
The majority of society identifies what’s healthy and what’s not healthy through the lens of diet culture. This lens completely ignores one simple fact.
All foods give your body something it needs.
Yes, some foods hold more nutrients than others, but ALL foods contain at least one macronutrient or another - carbohydrates, fat, and protein, all of which contribute to our body’s health.
It’s not necessary to obsessively control every bit of food that enters your mouth in order to receive optimal nutrients. Nutrition isn’t heavily reliant on just one meal or one day of eating. It’s the culmination of what you eat over days and weeks and months. If you’re eating a variety of foods in general, it goes without saying that your body will obtain a balance of nutrition.
And chances are, that if you follow strict food rules and limit the number of foods you feel “safe” eating, you actually miss out on key nutrients that your body needs. Your “healthy” eating becomes unhealthy because you are stressed out mentally, and you aren’t giving your body the nutrition that it needs physically.
Healthy vs Unhealthy Foods: Intuitive Eating Is Your Answer
Intuitive eating is using a combination of your own body’s cues and messages in conjunction with your mind’s knowledge to feed yourself in a way that’s physically and psychologically satisfying.
You understand your body best, therefore no diet could ever tell you what foods or how much to eat nearly as well as you personally can!
The main worry that people face when first encountering intuitive eating is If I allow myself to eat all foods, won’t I only eat junk food all day? It’s basically telling me to eat as much of what I want all the time, I’ll just eat donuts forever!
Intuitive eating doesn’t mean eating whatever you want all the time, without thinking about your body.
Yes, true intuitive eating allows you to eat whatever you want with full permission. No foods are off-limits and there are no good or bad foods. There’s zero guilt associated with food when you eat intuitively.
However, you’re not giving up on nutrition and it doesn’t mean you’ll eat “unhealthy” foods nonstop. Intuitive eating does mean that you eat what you want while also thinking about what your body needs and sounds good.
As intimidating as it sounds to loosen the reins and give yourself freedom to eat all foods, you will reach a point where you’ll eat in a way that makes you feel your best!
As you continue eating intuitively, you’ll be able to experiment with what feels good.
If you ate sweets all day, how did your body feel afterwards?
Did you include a variety of food groups into your meals? What difference did that make in how you felt?
If you’re new to intuitive eating and have made the choice to say goodbye to dieting and restriction, your body’s natural response very well may be to overeat or go through a period of time where you do want sweets all day. THAT’S OKAY.
As you truly make peace with food, eventually your body will crave balance, variety, and moderation. Intuitive eaters enjoy donuts, salads, pasta, fruit, cheeseburgers, smoothies, and ice cream!
Eat in a Way that Uses Your Body’s Wisdom and Your Mind’s Knowledge
When you’re in the driver’s seat, eating intuitively, you’re able to choose the foods you eat that feel good physically and psychologically! You can combine your body’s innate wisdom and your mind’s knowledge to feed yourself in a way that suits you best!
Your body’s innate wisdom is following your body’s cues like you did as a child. Hunger and fullness messages are sent to us for a reason. We can use what our body tells us to guide us through all of our eating experiences.
Trust your body to regulate your food intake. If you’re craving certain foods, trust that your body’s looking out for you! Maybe you’re in the mood for salty foods because you need sodium or maybe you want watermelon because you’re dehydrated.
Your mind’s knowledge is using what you know about food to feel your best and treat your body kindly. We all know that fruits and vegetables have great nutrients for our bodies. Use that information as a way to show respect to your body!
Gentle nutrition is best to use once you’ve worked on healing your relationship with food. If you’ve come to a point where you’ve experienced more peace and freedom, incorporating nutritious foods becomes more enjoyable.
Heavily relying only on your body’s wisdom or only on your mind’s knowledge causes you to miss out on what each principle has to offer. Your body’s innate wisdom and mind’s knowledge can work together!
Don’t sacrifice your mental health just to chase after what others say is physical health. Use this new perspective to find freedom in eating for health!
Discover What Intuitive Eating and True Health Looks Like for You
If you've struggled with the concept of healthy vs unhealthy foods and need help navigating through this process, together we can discover how you can eat more intuitively!