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The Definition of Healthy Eating

There’s no question that it can be difficult to define exactly what it means to “eat healthy”.

We are constantly being presented with a bazillion ways to eat healthy and optimize our health.

Every single year, more diets, health fads, and nutritional articles are being shoved in our direction.

Which overwhelms the majority of women when it comes to eating healthy.

This makes total sense.

How are we supposed to know what healthy eating entails, when it’s defined so variably in our society?

The short answer is that we need to redefine what it means to eat healthy.

In a way that is simple and doesn’t overwhelm us with useless information.

In this article, I’ll fill you in on the healthy eating spectrum and how you can use it to decide what healthy eating means to you.

The Spectrum

When women ask me what healthy eating actually means, I most often explain the healthy eating spectrum.

The truth is, we’re often trying to define healthy eating in a strict manner.

When, in reality, the concept of eating healthy is much more expansive and fluid.

This spectrum will allow you to not look at healthy eating so rigidly.

And will give you a higher level perspective on what it means to eat healthy long-term.

So, you can begin setting the foundations of food freedom for yourself.

Eating for Fuel & Function

On one end of the spectrum, there is eating specifically for fuel.

This means that everything you eat is with the intention of nutritionally providing for your body.

It’s what food you need to satisfy the nutritional requirements your body needs to be optimally healthy.

The goal is always to eat the “right” foods and to take the “right actions” with food.

I like to say that this is the way you’d eat if food had no taste.

On this side of the spectrum, there is no pleasure in eating. 

Food is purely functional.

A person who lives on this end of the spectrum is constantly incorporating new diets, binge-reading nutrition articles, and trying new health fads.

It’s also not uncommon for these individuals to have an elitist attitude towards food. 

To them, eating unhealthy foods is negative and looked down upon. 

Therefore, they define healthy eating as black and white.

Foods are either healthy or unhealthy, good or bad, etc.

Which causes this person to become a perfectionist around food.

Thereby creating a toxic relationship with food & body.

And, I get it.

While focusing exclusively on nutrition sounds like a noble cause, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

This is also where diets, meal plans, weight loss programs, and restrictive eating live.

Which is the way we’re taught to eat if we want to see results with our bodies.

This causes us to try and force ourselves into a healthy eating box.

In reality, to eat only for nutritional purposes, means you’re depending on willpower and self-control to stay on this end of the spectrum.

Which isn’t sustainable long-term.

Perfectionism and lasting healthy eating habits do not mix.

If this method of eating were sustainable, we’d all be perfectly healthy with zero effort.

Eating for Pleasure

On the other end of the spectrum, there is eating food for pleasure.

This normally means you remove all walls when it comes to eating healthy.

Which means you rarely pay attention to what you eat. 

And you also tend to eat in accordance with your emotional state.

On this end of the spectrum, providing for your body nutritionally isn’t on your mind – at all.

This is where emotional and unconscious eating patterns live.

Those on this end of the spectrum often have thoughts such as, “Life’s too short to worry about what I eat”. 

Nothing is intentionally eaten and your relationship with food is left on autopilot.

Food is often consumed sporadically depending on the emotional state of the person.

Which leaves you feeling very out of control when it comes to food.

Obviously, this is a sharp contrast to the other side of the spectrum.

Finding Your Balance

The truth is, you don’t need to create a vision board or write in a dream journal to find balance with food.

There is a strategy to doing this for yourself without the fluff.

Which is finding a healthy balance in the middle of this healthy eating spectrum.

This is a method I teach my clients that allows them to achieve true freedom with food.

Always remember to keep in mind both ends of the healthy eating spectrum.

One one end, you have eating strictly for fuel.

On the other end, you have mindless eating for pleasure.

In my experience with what works, you need to find that sweet spot in the middle.

The goal is to be in a place where you’re able to intentionally choose everything you eat.

Which means you’re paying attention and have such an in-tune relationship with your body that everything you eat becomes an empowered decision.

Whether that’s eating for fuel or eating for pleasure.

Basically, this means you decide to choose foods based on balancing the two sides of this spectrum.

You’re intentionally choosing foods to provide nourishment to our body nutritionally; however, when you want to experience foods you genuinely love you intentionally allow yourself to indulge.

You always have an understanding of the balance of this spectrum, and have mastered doing this for yourself daily.

So, you don’t live a restrictive relationship with food, but you’re still able to get the results you want with your body.

You need to find the balance in the spectrum where you’re intentionally eating to care for your body, while also enjoying the hell out of food.

What to Do Next

This spectrum is representative of what healthy eating actually entails.

Unfortunately, diets or weight loss programs won’t tell you this. 

Since this would mean you’d never have to spend your money on them – ever again.

If you can master this healthy eating spectrum for yourself, you don’t need a diet to come save you.

This method of eating healthy lasts for a lifetime.

Which is why you see some people who seemingly eat healthy effortlessly.

They’ve mastered this spectrum for themselves.

So, brainstorm this process. 

Which side of the spectrum are you living in right now?

The more you can dive into this process, the more you’ll be on your way to forming healthy eating habits that feel effortless.

- Kat Rentas

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Kat Rentas, Eating Psych. Coach

Hey there! I'm Kat. I'm a former yo-yo dieter turned eating psychology coach. I help high-performing women overcome yo-yo dieting & emotional eating so they can learn to eat healthy and gain trust in their bodies. Here, we focus on eating mindfully, ditching the diet forever, and gaining limitless body confidence. I've done this for myself, and now it's my mission to teach you how! You can read my full story here.

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