The word “healthy” is thrown around way too often. But what does it really mean? Does it mean:
- Eating foods that come from or roam the earth?
- You have low cholesterol?
- You work out 5-6x a week?
- You run marathons?
- You eat salad?
- You are skinny?
- You eat organic?
I wanted to figure out what this dynamic word really meant, so I decided to ask a few friends and clients. Here’s what I was told:
- “Healthy means you are in shape”
- “Healthy means you don’t have to go to doctors more than once a year”
- “Healthy means you eat fruits and veggies”
- “Healthy means you don’t drink 4 nights a week”
- “Healthy means you are not overweight”
- “Healthy means you take care of yourself”
As you can see, no two definitions are the same. The term healthy is completely subjective and personal. It often blends several elements of food, lifestyle, and habits.
My definition of Healthy
There’s no way to sugar coat it, when I was a kid, I was fat. After my father died, I used food as a coping mechanism for years, probably into my college years. Food went way beyond sustenance, it was a way of getting through the day. When I got to college and had a thriving social life and weightlifting career, I quit this terrible habit for some time. But in 2014, when I was diagnosed with clinical depression, my “eat to cope” habit was at its absolute worst.
As I got back to the gym and progressed in therapy, I finally terminated my “food as therapy” stage of life. Little did I know how much my eating would change. For as long as I could remember, I believed being healthy meant never eating “bad” food.
Then I started thinking and I had an epiphany. Being healthy doesn't mean you avoid food, it means you can control yourself around food.
You can gain weight from eating “good” food just as easily from “bad” food.
You probably have some old diet baggage
Whether you are dating someone new or trying a new way to lose weight, it's only a matter of time before some old baggage rears its ugly head. I’ve had clients tell me things that make my head spin:
- “I have to be low carb. It's the ONLY way I can lose weight.”
- “I have to eat Paleo, if you eat refined sugar it's really really bad for you”
- “I have to eat low fat, otherwise I will never lose a pound”
This list of “I have to” goes on and on and on. There is a huge problem with every one of these ideas, they are extreme. What happened to balance? How is it possible that 3 years ago, fat was “bad” and now it's the holy grail. How did we live before we started eating Kale? How did we hydrate before coconut water?
The point is, every couple of years a new fad will pop up. And I’m not saying they are good or bad. I for one love coconut water. But no one food or one idea is the “holy grail.” It doesn’t exist. But sometimes these ideas end up sticking in our brain as being something way more important than they really are.
A message to the Nutrition Industry & Internet Trolls
I am really sick of nutrition professionals and internet trolls professing perfection. None of us are perfect. Being a nutrition professional or having good nutrition doesn’t mean you don’t eat candy, chocolate, or chips, it means you can control yourself around your trigger foods.
Our most important job is to create skilled and controlled eaters, not an army of people with a week's worth of food in Tupperware in their refrigerators. That’s all well and good, but is unsustainable.
So, please, please, PLEASE:
Stop wearing your food quality like a badge of honor. It’s not.
Stop creating lists of “eat” and “avoid. It doesn’t work.
Stop creating diets that work in a bubble. No one lives in a bubble.
Stop labeling food as good and bad. It’s not true.
Stop telling me that doughnuts are not the same food quality as sweet potatoes. I know.
Stop splitting hairs. No one gives a shit about the differences between brown and white rice.
These are all masks. Masks to avoid what is really hard to do in the nutrition industry:
Teach your client to make a better decision.
Have a firm conversation and tell them what they are doing wrong.
Be honest with people, even when you know they won’t like what you are saying.
Paleo, Zone, or Atkins all have merit and are scientifically sound. Don’t mistake my point. But they don’t work over longer periods of time because they are a vacation from the way you are eating right now. And like any vacation, they eventually come to end and then it’s back to reality.
Once that diet is over, the only thing you are qualified to do is panic around food.
A message to everyone who eats
If you want to lose weight, stop dieting. If you diet, I promise you it will only be a matter of time before the weight comes back.
If you want want to lose weight and keep it off, you must learn how to eat. Eating is a skill and like any other skill it will require some effort. You don’t need to put in 8 hours per day or obsess about it, but you do have to be consistent. This is clearly the hardest thing to do especially when life throws you curveballs with work, school, or kids. It's never going to be perfect.
Your success on any eating program is 10% food/90% execution. And each one of us focuses our time 90% food/10% execution.
In other words, it is about what you do, not what you say you do, think about, or write down. Your body is the most accurate food journal you have.
The Hierarchy of Diet Reprioritization
If you want to reestablish a healthy relationship with food, drop your old baggage, and eat while having a social life, you need to focus on fixing one issue at a time. The hierarchy should exist as follows:
Step 1: Eating the right amount of food.
Step 2: Eating the right balance of protein, carbs, and fat.
Step 3: Everything Else
Your food quality and micronutrients are secondary to eating the right amount of food and right amount of macronutrients. Most important is executing those two elements every single day (hence why consistency surrounds the entire pyramid).
Once those elements are executed consistently, then things like micronutrients, food quality, glycemic index, food timing, etc. can be considered.
In simple terms, you can shop at Whole Foods, buy the best, organic, non-gmo ingredients, but if you don't eat enough, your body will never, ever change.
If it’s time for reprioritization, join me and the Strengthlete crew at www.strengthlete.com/#jump and let’s get started.