• September 27, 2023

How I’m Redefining What “Healthy Eating” Means To Me

Bi-weekly Bon Appétit Associate Editor Christina Chaey writes about what she’s currently cooking. Pro tip: if you can Sign up for the Healthyish newsletterYou will get the ball before anyone else.

I read first Julia Turshen‘s incredibly honest essay about the liberation from diet culture months ago in a galley of her latest cookbook, Just Julia. I copied, pasted, and emailed the essay to myself, highlighting the lines I referred to most: “As long as I felt fat or what I thought was fat, it almost always was a way to describe something other than happy. Not only had I equated “fat” with “something other than happy,” but I also set up a neat, miserable binary file that would fit all of my feelings. “

I’m just beginning to figure out a way out of my own version of this binary: the internalized belief that what I do and don’t eat should define my worth as a person. This belief has been driving me for decades as I commuted between periods that I have characterized as “extremely healthy” or “extremely unhealthy”. There was seldom a middle ground.

I spent a lot of time this winter in one of my “extremely unhealthy” times. Between the continued isolation and the weather, I found myself at a low point and calmed down with homemade cocktails and loads of lasagna. I woke up every morning and made half-hearted promises to myself that I would go for a walk today, but then the day passed without a walk and I went to bed feeling like I wasn’t “healthy.” ”

In contrast, I was in one of my “extremely healthy” periods this week: I load up vegetables, whole grains, and beans while consuming hardly any sugar, alcohol, dairy products, meat, or refined carbohydrates. I read with tea in bed instead of snacking in front of the TV. I do a one-hour power walk in the morning and do my physiotherapy stretches before the very respectable bedtime of 10:45 p.m. I just dedicated myself to a routine that simply inspired me.

But as I have more and more days of sugar-free and alcohol-free bliss, my high spirits keep being replaced by the fear of knowing that this period will end sometime soon. I don’t know if it will happen tomorrow, next week, or next month, but at some point in the future I’ll make a decision (order too much shake shack, drink too much martinis) that signals my brain to start a chain reaction of neighboring, familiar habits . The lentil lunches, tea, and power walks are replaced with late night chips and too much takeaway until I’m fed up with all of that and come back to my “healthy” self.

I reread Julia’s essay while writing this newsletter, this time highlighting a different section: “I’m learning what it feels like not only to accept my body, but to understand that there is nothing wrong with it. To love it. To know that no matter how much space it takes up in the world, it’s worth it and I’m grateful to live in it. “These words are different – I’m not yet referring to them as I would like; They feel like a foreign language that I can almost, but not quite, translate. I still don’t know how to eat without feeling “good” or “bad”. What I do know is that I need to rethink what “healthy” means to me.

I cook the following these days:

Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Susie Theodorou

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