“Hi Sarah, I noticed myself feel a little virtuous after eating a healthy meal – it got me thinking. How would you differentiate between feeling good after a healthy meal because your body feels good or because you’ve eaten ‘good’?”
….“Virtuous after eating a healthy meal”. That line really sticks out to me as being the ‘crux’ of this topic and the key to the ‘answer’.
For a majority of my clients shifting their perspective of what ‘health’ truly means to them is where A TON of focus is spent.
Because I truly believe that what we ‘ought’ think health ‘should’ mean is a significant part of the reason why you’re crazy about food to begin with.
In other words, what you define as ‘health/y’ is the ‘problem’ underpinning those binge eating episodes, why stopping at just one brownie is so damn hard and the reason why you’d (much) rather break a bone than gain weight.
When we associate words like ‘virtuous’ – meaning having or showing high moral standards – with health, health inevitably starts to become a moral issue.
To consider yourself virtuous around food because you act in certain ways (e.g. drink green smoothies because you believe green smoothies are ‘good’, don’t eat cake, neither drink alcohol or eat sugar), is (news flash) not an indicator nor a precussor for ‘good’ health.
I’ve written a ton about how when I was considered myself extremely ‘virtuous’ health wise, because of all the things I was doing (e.g. juice cleanses, calorie counting, avoiding sugar/ gluten/ dairy etc), I have never felt more ‘unhealthy’- physically, emotionally and spiritually.
So here’s the bottom line: It sounds to me like you’re basing how you ‘get to’ and ‘should’ feel about yourself based on how “virtuous” you’ve been around food. In other words the measuring stick for your self worth (judged by yourself and others) is based on adherence to your ‘health’ morals.
While I don’t dispute that we all need to consider our health to some degree – and – while ‘good health’ might be of high importance to you personally, using health as a way of determining how you get to feel about yourself (and how you feel about others- a topic for another day) is something I urge you to strongly consider reflecting on (aka ‘quit it’).
I could wax poetic on how ‘health’ doesn’t define you (or others) as a person and how attempts at doing/ being ‘healthy’ doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel ‘healthy’. Your health values might not even make a significant difference to indicators of your ‘health’ (e.g. blood pressure, cholesterol etc)
Which leads to answering this part of the question: How would you differentiate between feeling good after a healthy meal because your body feels good or because you’ve eaten ‘good’?
If your definition of health and therefore ‘being healthy’ is about being ‘good’, ‘doing good’, eating ‘good’ food, then not only are you setting yourself up for a most likely date with rebellious eating in some fashion (more on that here), you’re basically imposing on yourself that this is ‘how’ you are good.
I’m good/ a good person, when and if I eat ‘good’.
…sounds toxic, with some very negative consequences should your choices around food not be ‘good’/ ‘good enough’
The simple answer here is it comes down to asking yourself:
Does this meal make me feel ‘good’ because by eating this meal I have done ‘good’/ reflects I am ‘good’, therefore I’m a ‘good’ person?
Does eating this meal make me feel ’good’ within my body, mind and spirit? i.e Do I feel energised, content, satisfied, well, happy, nourished etc.
There’s a big difference.
The best advice I have for you and anyone else pondering this question is to re-define your value as a person, which may well mean dropping the idea that you’re a ‘good’ person by default of the number of ‘good’ actions you make through your food.
Surrender to the idea that your plate determines your worth and your worth is determined by choices around food.
Work on discovering who you are, your what you value and what you stand for aside from and irrespective of ‘health’.
Read about mindful eating to tune into your bodies signals around what ‘feels’ good.
Re-define what it means to be ‘healthy’ ….which might mean eating a cookie, because hey- cookies can be soothing, enjoyable and certainly ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ for you…. because I’ll let you in on secret: Emotional satisfaction is a huge part of what it is to feel normal around food (i.e. for food to be no big deal, aka a ‘normal’ eater).
Something to think about this week.
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