Is it just me that thinks the world’s new obsession with health is actually pretty unhealthy? All I see when I scroll through social media is fitness page after fitness page with all the foods you should be eating (presented in a way I can never seem to get them to look I might add) and progress shots of people using certain weight loss schemes. It’s getting boring, and scary.
Why are we suddenly so interested in what we eat, how we train and how we compare to other people? I have to admit that I’ve even fallen into the trap myself. Now more than ever I find myself looking at the shape of my body and wondering which bits I need to tighten up or slim down. It’s hard when you’re surrounded by people on the health bandwagon – and clearly more dedicated to it than I ever could be – looking a certain way and noticing that that’s not how you look. You start to wonder whether there is something wrong with you. But I finally understand that there isn’t. I’m fabulous.
So after acknowledging that I had a bit of an obsession myself, I decided to cut myself some slack. I decided to stop looking in the mirror and over-analysing my body every time I got dressed, I decided to stop counting calories and overthinking what I put in my diet everyday. I decided to stop feeling guilt after indulging once in a while. I had to ask myself, what ever happened to everything in moderation? Does that not apply anymore? My mother is a size 8 at 52-years-old and I don’t see her making sure she eats two avocados a day while cutting out all things dairy and gluten. So I decided to take a leaf out of her book and stop obsessing about what I ate for a whole week just to see what happened and spoiler, I didn’t die- nor did I gain any weight.
On Monday it felt a bit strange to not have to hold back when I had the urge to eat some of my favourite snacks. As a barista I get pretty much free reign on my coffee order with absolutely zero fee, so I ignored my previous need to just have a small double shot lactose free latte and allowed myself half a shot of vanilla syrup (a whole shot is really just too sweet for me, I like to taste my coffee), in a small double shot cappuccino – and I wasn’t shy on the chocolate topping. The sad thing is, is that the whole thing was pretty liberating. Why should enjoying chocolate powder on my coffee make me feel so free? We should always feel free to enjoy the things we love from time to time. After the initial sadness this made me feel, it did make me excited for the rest of the week.
Now the important thing to remember about this experiment is that while I was allowing myself to enjoy food again and not limiting myself to no fun stuff, I also wasn’t on a huge binge. I wanted to not feel the pressures of societies need for calorie counting and good fats, but I didn’t want to destroy my body either. The best thing about it is, is that that was simply how I felt, not something I was forcing myself to feel. I can appreciate healthy foods and therefore felt myself still craving a delicious smoothie in the morning or a salad for lunch. But it suddenly felt like it was my choice again, not everybody else’s.
As the week went by my friends and family started to notice that I wasn’t as stressed out as I had been before. And to be honest with you, that was probably because I was sleeping better. Because I was allowing myself treats and not obsessing over how many carbs I should be eating a day, I was actually feeling the benefits of all those food groups too. I mean I know we’re not supposed to load ourselves with sugar, but you can’t deny the energy draining feeling you get when you’ve had none at all.
I even found that as time went by – after I got over the initial thrill of eating a muffin for breakfast or having a dessert after dinner – I naturally cut back on the bad stuff anyway. I think we don’t give our minds and bodies enough credit. I discovered that my body knew what it wanted and that giving it what it wanted wouldn’t hurt me at all, it actually benefited my sanity.
I think that as long as we eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly as they drummed into our parents when they were our age, then there is no reason for us to become overweight, unhealthy or unhappy. In fact, the whole unhappiness and dissatisfaction we have suddenly created around our appearance and diets is actually more unhealthy than treating ourselves to a cookie with our afternoon coffee.
Nobody knows how you feel about yourself inside, and I found that the way I felt in my body distinguished what I allowed myself to eat. For example, if I had something a bit more unhealthy for lunch, I’d feel ready for something green for dinner. I didn’t need to have someone drumming into me what I should and shouldn’t be eating, my body knows what it needs and when it needs it, and that’s what we should be listening too, not our Instagram feeds.
The more obsessed with health we become the more we start to imagine faults with our bodies that just aren’t there and by doing so we damage our own mental health. I know that it’s important to eat well and doing so will definitely provide benefits, but so what if tomorrow I have jam on my toast instead of half an avocado? It’s not everyday, so why should I feel guilty over it?
Overall, my week ignoring the obsessive need to improve my body and only consume Instagram approved food taught me that a) my body and mind have a pretty good idea of what they need and I should trust them more often; b) my body isn’t actually in need of change and c) the idea that a well-balanced diet with everything in moderation just isn’t enough anymore, is utter bullshit.
I strongly advice anybody who like me used to feel this guilt and obsess over their diet while judging their slightly more jiggly bits, to take a week out of the madness. Don’t go crazy and only eat doughnuts for seven days straight, but just allow yourself to eat more stress-freely. Swap that banana for a piece of banana bread if you feel like it, just keep it balanced and carry on drinking enough water and I promise you, it won’t effect your weight that much, but it will effect your mental state.