You’re more than just what you eat
We’ve all heard the old adage “You are what you eat,” but I think a lot of people take that statement to heart, and believe that how they eat defines who they are as a person.
I read a story recently about a popular blogger, Jordan Younger, who called herself The Blonde Vegan, admitting to suffering from orthorexia. Orthorexia, while not technically classified as an eating disorder by the DSM-5, is recognized by eating disorder professionals as an “unhealthy obsession” with healthy eating. Younger is the classic example of this disorder– she started eating vegan for her health, and in the beginning she felt great eating this way. Over time, however, she found that she was no longer enjoying food, she had a lot of anxiety about eating, especially outside of her home, and her health was no longer being served by a vegan diet. As a popular blogger and outspoken supporter of veganism, changing her diet meant having to grapple with questions about her very identity. In the end, she decided to start including some animal proteins into her diet, and had the courage to share this truth on her blog, which she has since rebranded The Balanced Blonde. Most of her followers were supportive, but others were extremely disappointed, and some even sent death threats (yes, death threats!).
This is obviously an extreme example of defining oneself based on diet, but I still think it’s worth discussing. Getting caught up in labels (healthy, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, clean, organic, etc.) can serve to disconnect us from our own inner wisdom that knows the best way to feed both our bodies and souls. Yes, some people can follow a prescribed way of eating (such as the ones listed above) and not develop an eating disorder like orthorexia. If you can find balance and pleasure in food by eating this way, then by all means, continue doing what you’re doing! Many others, however, find themselves restricting more and more while trying to follow these diets, until they spiral out of control and develop intense anxiety and obsessive thoughts around eating. If this describes you, then please know that you are not alone!
The bottom line is…you need to eat in a way that makes you feel your best, both physically and emotionally. This usually means having balance, and listening to your inner cues to tell you what to eat. This means many things. It means that when it’s meal time, you try to connect with your internal cues to see what type of food will satisfy you in that moment. It also means informally gathering data over time and figuring out what foods make you feel your best. And, finally, it means sometimes eating foods just because they taste good and give you pleasure, because that’s important for your psychological health and well-being too.
Your body doesn’t know labels…it just knows what it wants and needs. So maybe try stepping outside of that dietary box and turning inward to see what way of eating is really best for you. This might change over time, but if you’re in-tuned with your body, then you’ll never need instructions on how to eat well in order to feel great.