My Healthy Eating Was Actually Disordered Eating In Disguise, & I Know I’m Not Alone – GLAMOUR UK

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Truthfully, the obsession with shrinking myself has completely rewired my brain. Instead of retaining useful information on stuff like taxes or interest rates, it spends its time categorising everything I eat in accordance with the traffic light system on food packaging. Low-calorie food is green, medium-calorie is amber, high-calorie is red. I walk around the supermarket with ‘traffic light vision goggles’ when I’m doing a food shop, a bit like I’m playing a stealth video game, but for calorie-counting. This breeds a deeply unhealthy relationship with food, turning what should be a joyful and nurturing experience into one of guilt, stress and incessant negative self-talk.

I’m not trying to say that every person who counts calories is going to develop disordered eating habits or an eating disorder. But while my strange ‘traffic light’ system may sound like a pretty fucked up approach to food, I bet it’s something many of you can relate to. In fact, I’m willing to bet the M&S giftcard my nan got me for Christmas that if you’re reading this, your relationship with ‘eating healthy’ has been a little fucked up at some point too.

65% of millennials worry they have an unhealthy relationship with food, according to a study by Aviva, with 51% of 25-34 year olds regularly skipping meals in order to ‘keep their weight down’. That’s not to mention orthorexia which, while not an obsession with weight loss, is defined as ‘an obsession with healthy eating with associated restrictive behaviours.’ There aren’t any statistics on how many people have it in the UK, but as with eating disorders generally, it’s thought to be on the rise.

We’re not supposed to count calories. It’s not how we’re biologically wired. Babies don’t have an innate understanding of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food; they aren’t born being terrified of chocolate and avocados. They just know when and how much to eat and drink by listening to their hunger and satiety signals. This is intuitive eating; listening to our body and what it needs, free from the shackles of diet culture. I don’t need a degree in nutrition to know that when we count calories, we often avoid many healthy foods – sweet potato and squash (because carbs), apples and mangoes (because sugar), nuts and oily fish (because fat). But our bodies don’t care about the numbers on the nutrition label. They just want to be nourished.

So perhaps it’s time we rebranded what it means to ‘eat healthily’. It shouldn’t just mean eating a balanced diet, but having a healthy relationship with food too. Sometimes, this looks like eating a Pret porridge with a banana on top for breakfast, cross trainer optional. Other times, it looks like inhaling a drive-thru McFlurry (because I’m not sure strawpedo-ing one is actually possible), or ordering a bunch of Yard Sale pizzas with friends. Because ‘healthy eating’ should also be about the joy of food; not just its nutritional content.

For more from GLAMOUR’s Website Director and Body Talk columnist, Ali Pantony, follow her on Instagram @alipantony.

For advice or information on the topics mentioned in this article, contact Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity, on 0808 801 0677.

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