By Kristen Donia —
Have you heard? Healthy is the new skinny.
There’s a lot of talk about body positivity lately (yay!) and sometimes people aren’t quite sure how to make sense of it all. If someone is happy with their body, does it matter how healthy their eating habits are? Let’s take a closer look.
At first glance this statement makes sense, but let’s unpack it just a little more.
Body Positivity is a judgement you make on your physical self. It can be a positive judgement or a negative judgement.
Nutrition is the supply of nutrients to your physical self to stay alive. This can be healthy, in support of your body, or unhealthy if it goes against your body’s ability to self-heal and maintain homeostasis, or balance.
As it turns out, these ideas of body positivity and nutrition are totally independent of each other. Let’s look at some examples.
Eats a healthy, whole food plant-based diet and feels totally bummed about not having the body she dreams about.
Eats a lot of fast food, drinks a lot of soda and feels really in love with her body, no matter what it looks like.
Has been a vegan for many years and loves the way that her body looks and feels from years of what she feels are healthy choices that are right for her body.
Indulges in dessert on the regular and her body is doing it’s best to process the constant sugar influx and she has put on weight and is feeling bad about her body image.
It’s easy to think that how you feel about your physical self is the only thing that matters, but decades of research shows that what you put in your body matters too. There are many online resources that offer information on healthy diet, but a good basic rule of thumb is fruit in the morning, vegetables and leafy greens as a part of your lunch and dinner…and water, lots of water. The human body is very happy with a well-balanced diet.
Our bodies are amazing and will always do their best to stay healthy and remain alive, no matter what we feed it. The human body can survive on a diet filled with refined sugars (soda, candy or other snack foods), fats (french fries or cupcakes), and red meat (beef or pork). The problem is that over time, not giving it what it needs, fresh, natural ingredients daily, can take its toll, and this can happen in a variety of ways.
Using the examples above, let’s discuss the long term effects of the girls eating habits:
Maddie’s whole-food plant-based diet is giving her body more than enough carbohydrates, proteins, fats, dietary fiber, and minerals. Her diet is actively reducing inflammation and detoxifying her body from the inside out. Over time, she will notice that her digestion feels easy, bathroom breaks are consistent, and her meals are energizing.
Dakota’s choices of fast food and soft-drinks are over-loading her body with excess fat, too much protein, and more carbohydrates than she needs given her lifestyle. This diet is forcing her body to store that excess energy as adipose tissue (fat) and over time she will feel sluggish, and her body will struggle to move food through her system without enough dietary fiber (found in leafy greens and vegetables).
Jannika’s vegan diet is like Maddie’s in a lot of ways. She is careful to get enough protein and vitamins from plants and her body seems to enjoy and flourish with it. She will also notice feeling light and energetic without being stuffed or overly-full of food. Her body’s digestion is functioning at a high level.
Andrea’s choice to indulge in sweets is pumping excess sugar (a carbohydrate) and fats. She will notice an increased craving of sugary sweets and potentially some weight gain. Over time, the excess sugar could cause problems with her teeth, her intestines and even her pancreas, which has to produce insulin to regulate the increased sugar.
Looking closer at this group of ladies, a sample of a variety of diets, you might have noticed that their eating habits are different than the way they feel about themselves. Being body positive means loving your body for what it is, your body. This means that you can love yourself when you’re short, tall, big, small, oily, dry, sunburned, and breaking out, because none of these descriptors define you. Your body is on your side, no matter what and it is ALWAYS doing it’s best to keep you healthy and strong, and you can always opt for gratitude instead of criticism. Try thanking your body for carrying you from place to place, or watch it heal itself the next time you scratch yourself. How you feel about your body matters, the language that you use to describe it, and what you think when you look in the mirror.
At the end of the day, or rather, at the beginning, upon waking, choosing a healthy approach to nutrition (and only you know what that is for your body) can help you feel better from the inside out. If you are feeling sluggish, tired, overwhelmed, try adjusting one thing in your diet and reflect in the coming days and weeks if that one shift helped enhance some part of your life. To feel stronger and more confident, making a healthy shift in your diet is a powerful step. What is happening and how you feel inside your body could inform any changes you might want to make in the future.
When you start to choose healthier food options for your body, your mind starts to feel empowered, making it easier to see that you and your body are on the same team! This can help you feel good about the body you have. We’re all made of the same parts just put together in a different way. We are all perfectly imperfect, asymmetrical, and uniquely lovable. Love yourself for who you are and love your body by nourishing it with healthy foods so it can love you back!