What does healthy even mean these days? I discuss why I was afraid to use the word and how I’m reclaiming it.

What does healthy even mean these days? I discuss why I was afraid to use the word and how I'm reclaiming it.

For the longest time, I tried pretty hard to refrain from using the word “healthy” as a descriptor for my blog and my recipes. Why? I did this because I didn’t want to be associated with diet-culture, which seemed to have stolen the word. Diet culture likes to label foods or recipes as “healthy” if they’re low calorie, low-carb, substituting grains for vegetables, or free of “refined” sugars. It often labels things as “healthy” if it correlates well with weight loss and thinness. I have also often seen the word healthy being used interchangeably with “clean” when describing foods. These are just a few examples, but you get the point.

Side note: How many times do we have to repeat that foods aren’t “clean” or “dirty”? They’re just foods.

Now my stubborn self, not wanting to be associated with diet culture values like weight loss and “clean eating”, pretty much banned myself from referring to anything as healthy. Whether it was a recipe, a workout, an eating pattern or a wellness tip on my site. I also didn’t want anyone who may be struggling with their relationship with food or trying to ditch diet culture to feel influenced by my use of the word if they saw it on one of my recipes, my social media or something like that.

The Definition:

What I didn’t take the time to consider is that there is nothing inherently wrong with the word. Consider the definition. To describe something as healthy means that it is indicative of, conducive to, or promoting good health.

If we look at it that way, then food doesn’t have to some expensive, sugar-free, grain-free, or void of calories product in order to be considered healthy. Simple fruits, vegetables and other whole foods are healthy. Having the flexibility in your diet to eat ice cream sometimes is healthy. A workout doesn’t have to be “fat-blasting” or ultra high intensity to be healthy. Your lifestyle doesn’t have to be perfect or look like anyone else’s to be healthy.

You can create your own version of “healthy”.

It took a lot of reminding myself of this to realize that we can reclaim the word from diet and wellness culture. Healthy can be whatever we want it to be and it doesn’t have to fall within some restrictive, expensive, obsessive box. Pretty powerful stuff, huh?

What healthy looks like to me:

I could go on forever, but I’ll give you some examples. To me, healthy means so many different things.  It means eating lots of fruit and veggies, but also having days – or weeks – where vegetables aren’t a priority. It’s being able to order whatever the heck I’m in the mood for at a restaurant and enjoying it to satisfaction. It means having chips in the house because I can eat them if I want them. It looks like reducing my animal consumption, food waste and waste in general for the health of our environment. It means engaging in exercise that I find fun, like soccer, spin class, and a mix of yoga + weights. It also looks like taking rest when I need it or if I just get too dang busy that day – and not stressing out when that happens.

Healthy to me looks like trying my best to stick to a sleep routine during the week, but sometimes staying up a little later than usual for the sake of living my life. It means finding ways remind myself to drink more water throughout the day. It means setting aside ample time for loved ones for the sake of my mental health. It means keeping my mind strong, calm, and managing my stress and anxiety. 

Please be mindful that this may not look like your own version of healthy. This is okay. In fact, it’s wonderful.  I also want to recognize that often times health is affected by privilege and more often than not it’s determined by factors outside of what we eat and drink. If you’ve never heard of the social determinants of health, read this.

Reclaiming Healthy

As you’ll come to see, I’m taking the word back from diet culture. I think that you should too. I’m not afraid to use the word as a descriptor anymore because I’m tired of the tiny box diet culture has placed around what is healthy and what’s not.

Healthy isn’t a size. It isn’t a number on the scale. It’s not one food, one way of eating. It isn’t a certain amount of calories in or calories out.

What do you think? What does healthy look like to you? I’d love to know!