(Content note: food, passing mentions of disordered eating, depression, vomiting, trauma)
What does it mean to “eat healthy”? Let’s narrow this down a bit.
What’s healthy food for someone with a wasting disease? What’s healthy food for someone with a history of disordered eating? What’s healthy for a marathon runner? A gymnast? A weightlifter? A couch potato who bikes on weekends?
What does it mean for a fifteen-year-old to eat healthy? How about a seventy-year-old? A five-year old? What’s healthy for a five-year-old who’s a super picky eater, even compared to other five-year-olds? What’s healthy for someone with morning sickness? Pregnancy cravings? Hyperemesis gravidarum (persistent severe vomiting during pregnancy)?
What’s healthy for a supertaster? A vegan? An autistic person, or someone with other sensory sensitivities? Someone with food allergies? Someone with a limited food budget? Someone who just doesn’t like vegetables no matter how they’re cooked? What’s healthy for someone in California, who has year-round access to fresh local produce? For someone in Chicago, who abso-fucking-lutely doesn’t have that? What’s healthy for someone in Bangkok? Havana? Paris? Memphis?
What’s healthy eating for someone with a history of food-related trauma? What’s healthy for someone who has strong cultural connections with the food they eat — connections that help them survive and flourish? What’s healthy for someone who’s finally giving up on dieting and is working to love their body the way it is? What’s healthy for someone with depression, for whom food is their only reliable source of pleasure? Or for someone with depression who struggles to eat at all?
Please. For the love of fuck. For the love of all that is beautiful in this world. Please, PLEASE, stop talking about “healthy food” as if it were a generic concept. Please stop talking about “healthy food” as if it meant the same thing for everyone.
There are only a handful of behaviors that are broadly healthy for most people. Eat some fruits and vegetables; move your body; drink water; don’t smoke; get a decent amount of sleep. And even these don’t all apply to absolutely everyone. See above.
If you want to “eat healthier,” think about what that might mean for you. Maybe question some unexamined biases you might have — about the supposed connection between weight and health*, for instance, or the assumptions we make about health and social class. Think about what health means for you. Do what works for you. And please, please, shut the hell up about the rest of us. Thanks.
*I urge you to listen to the Maintenance Phase podcast, or read “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon.