Today I’m talking about perfect eating, mental health and disordered eating.
For those of you who don’t know or may be new here, I have a degree in psychology (with honours…getting nerdy over here). I also have a history of disordered eating. Combine the two with Recognised Health and Nutrition Coach and you have a passionate educated voice hoping to inspire others.
Now my history of disordered eating was a far cry from ‘perfect eating’. You can read more about it here but I’m talking lollies and restrictive dieting, NOT kale and quinoa. Not the food you see me share on Instagram now.
I’m talking about perfect eating because social media is a great way to show you perfection.
Perfectly edited photos of perfectly healthy food.
The healthiest meals and the healthiest moments.
But if you are struggling with your relationship with food, seeing perfect eating all the time may be damaging your (mental) health.
Behind the highlight reel is balance.
Balancing the good with the indulgent and delicious treats you love. Like lollies and chocolate and wine. It’s about learning how to balance those delicious treats you love with the nourishing foods your body needs. It’s about finding your perfect balance.
Striving for perfect eating is not sustainable long term. It’s also becoming more commonly known as Orthorexia Nervosa, a serious eating disorder “characterised by extreme or excessive preoccupation with eating food believed to be healthy”. So much so that it impacts everyday life and wellbeing.
Quitting sugar may seem like a wonderful idea. But is it realistic? Can you quit sugar forever and ever and EVER? And never ever ever touch it again, like EVER? I know I can’t.
I also know that I don’t crave sugar like I used to. I don’t crave it because I know that if I want it, I can have it. Not ALL of it. But some of it.
Quitting processed, packaged foods and only ever eating fresh whole foods also sounds wonderful. In fact, I’m a huge advocate for consuming a variety of whole foods. But I’m an advocate for majority of the time. NOT all the time. Because all the time is not realistic.
Quitting meat, dairy, gluten (is there much else to quit) may also seem like the perfect way to achieve perfect health. In fact, there is even some pretty compelling research supporting a vegetarian lifestyle. BUT again, balance. Unless you are allergic or intolerant, balance is OKAY. It’s okay to not be perfect all of the time.
Eating organic foods is also a wonderful idea. Again, one that I am in support of. But one that I practice balance with ALL OF THE TIME. I never want to miss out on a meal with friends because the restaurant doesn’t serve organic food or because my friend doesn’t serve organic food. I never want to spend all of my brain power focusing on whether or not my food is organic. Buying organic food is great for so many reasons, but it’s okay to practice balance. It’s okay to buy foods that aren’t organic.
Serving your children home made food is incredible. The nutrition their wee bodies get from homemade whole foods is beyond what any packaged food can provide. But it’s okay to serve your children packaged foods some of the time. I do. As a parent, it’s okay to not serve a perfect diet to your children all of the time. Even if you are a health and wellness blogger. It’s okay to practice balance.
Balance is okay.
I live and breathe a lifestyle that supports 80% healthy ‘perfect’ living and 20% indulgence. I live that way because I know how damaging it is to restrict and deprive myself of the things I am surrounded with every day and the things I love to love. I know how damaging it is to miss out on social occasions because of fear. I know how damaging it is to live with guilt because I didn’t eat like I should have.
I also know how beautiful it is to cherish food, to savour sweets and wine and chocolate. To choose foods without guilt. To indulge without guilt or fear.
And I know that it’s okay to let go of the idea of perfection.
P.S. The featured lollies are from Ikea. They are mine. And they are amazing. That is all.
If you or someone you know is suffering from disordered eating please seek professional advice. The information contained in this post is for inspirational purposes only and does not replace professional tailored advice. www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/web-counselling