Has 'healthy eating' become just another diet?

Originally this was going to be a post on tips and tricks to get back into 'healthy eating' after a period of time when you feel like you had gotten off track. I was going to begin by talking about how it can be hard to take the first steps to start something again when you've had a bit of a break, weaving in a cheeky acknowledgement of the fact that I haven't blogged in quite some time. I thought that it would be a fairly straightforward and practical topic to write about.

But then I started to rethink...

When did we turn healthy eating into something we are either doing or not doing, making statements like "I'm eating healthy this week because last week was a total washout"? What if we stopped talking about healthy eating in such black and white terms that lead us to comments like "I've been so good/bad today"? What if instead we started to see healthy eating as simply the choices we make one meal/snack at a time, knowing that at the end of the day or week we don't have to look back and label it a healthy or unhealthy one? To not view healthy eating as something that you have achieved or failed at for a particular time period.

Does having the mindset of "I'm trying to eat healthy at the moment" suggest an unspoken set of rules where every time you make a choice going against them you've essentially failed and have stopped 'eating healthy'? Reality is just not like that. You haven't failed or passed. Ever. Each choice you make will meet a different set of needs and priorities based on the context of the situation. If in hindsight you feel like you should have made a different choice, it's an opportunity to explore the reasons why, and consider making a different choice next time. We make eating choices everyday and there is no right or wrong.

I'm not suggesting of course that we shouldn't strive to make healthy choices. This is a suggestion that we shouldn't turn the concept of healthy eating into a dieting mindset where we are either on the program or not.  Some of the issues with turning 'healthy eating' into a diet are - 

  • It begins to feel overwhelming and we push it further and further back ("I'll start next week, wait no it's my birthday next week, I'll start in a fortnight"). Remember that healthy eating can include a slice of birthday cake and a glass of wine. Healthy eating should not equal perfect eating.
     
  • Feeling like you've broken one of your rules when 'trying to eat healthy' can snowball into feelings of "well I've already eaten unhealthily this morning so I may as well keep eating that way until tomorrow when I'll start again".
     
  • We start to forget that healthy eating should include having a healthy mindset and attitude towards all kinds of food. 
Think healthy eating can only look like this?

Think healthy eating can only look like this?

Remember that healthy eating can also look like this!

Remember that healthy eating can also look like this!

Have you started to view healthy eating with a dieting mindset? Let's all remember that healthy eating should never mean rules and restrictions. If you are struggling to ditch the dieting mindset, you may benefit from speaking with an Accredited Practising Dietitian or other qualified support person to help you reconnect with food and find your own sense of balance again.