My healthy living philosophy and blogger responsibility

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I spent last weekend at a triathlon training retreat in Lake Tahoe.

(I'm on the far right!)
As the "food coach" for the group, I often find myself talking about my choice to be vegetarian.

After explaining where I get my protein (because I am ALWAYS asked about that), I am careful to point out that I am on a path that works FOR ME and that I do not have designs on converting anyone else. I believe strongly that everyone should find what works for THEM and that nobody should blindly follow another's path. I am a mentor to those for whom I am the "food coach" but only in that I am there to help them think through their challenges and to come up with food ideas. I am not a registered dietician (RD), personal trainer, or a doctor. I have a wealth of knowledge on nutrition and fitness because of my own interest in the subjects- my Bachelor's degree and post-graduate work are unrelated.

Blogger responsibility and disordered eating
Another blogger recently wrote about blogger responsibility (with regard to "healthy living" or food and fitness related blogs) and re-shared her response to an article accusing her and five other bloggers of potentially having a disordered relationship with food and/or exercise. Eek. I am writing this post to share my food and exercise philosophy and to make this very clear: Again, I believe strongly that everyone should find what works for THEM and that nobody should blindly follow another's (or my) path. Experiment, explore, talk to an RD or your doctor, work with a trainer- do what it takes to find what makes YOU feel good.

As for accusations that imply that "healthy living" bloggers (or non-blogging health foodies) are people who are obsessed with food and exercise (in a dysfunctional way), I have mixed feelings. In my experience, the blogs that I read are written by people who simply want to share their ideas and recipes and keep themselves accountable by publicly declaring their goals. I find others' blogs to be an excellent source of inspiration. I read a lot of food-related blogs because I love variety in my meals and I get great ideas from other health-minded people.

That being said, eating disorders (and over-exercising) are clearly very concerning. These things affect omnivores, vegans, and vegetarians indiscriminately. Those affected by this can be fixated on eating only "approved" foods or "perfectly" following a certain diet. Obviously self-discipline and consequences are not part of a healthy menu. Neither is a sense of superiority over those who eat differently with regard to one's success at attempting to live inline with a dietary ideal. Being vegetarian or vegan is certainly not a disordered ideal. Whether written in a blog or suffered in private, though, obsessing about food or exercise at the cost of relationships, happiness, or other life-nurturing things is not healthy.

My way
Healthy, as I define it, does not mean deprivation or perfection. I am not militant in terms of monitoring my food intake- I eat intuitively. I eat when I'm hungry. I stop eating when I'm full. I choose healthy foods (lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, etc.) most of the time and indulge in less healthy choices occasionally without guilt. I exercise to feel good physically and mentally, not to burn a certain number of calories.

I cook and create my own recipes because I love to eat and because I get bored very easily. I have high standards for what I choose as fuel for my body but not because I am following any rules. I eat what makes me feel good. I don't count calories. I don't strive to be skinny. I want to feel good- to have energy and to be strong. But living healthy is more than that; I also want to feel fed. Physically and emotionally. Sometimes that takes a run through the Eastern Sierra Nevada region of California while looking up at Mt. Whitney.

Sometimes it takes chocolate. It is what it is- I just go with it.

I know these things to be true FOR ME:
  1. When I am happy and relaxed my body works better.
  2. When I exercise regularly I am happier, I have more energy, and I feel strong.
  3. Meat, dairy products, and eggs are not necessary in my diet and by avoiding them I am significantly reducing my risk for heart disease and cancer.
  4. I feel great about my choice to opt out of consuming products that arrive in the supermarket by way of a process that is fraught with cruelty, pollution, and suffering. I feel good about this even if I'm not 100% perfect at opting out.
  5. My cholesterol is 60 points lower than it was 13 years ago when I was told that it was over 200mg/dL. The only thing that I have changed is my diet (even my weight is the same). I am on the right path.
Why do I write this blog?
I enjoy sharing my ideas and recipes. I hope to inspire others to try new things and to help them along with their evolution of thriving as so many others have done for me. I want to show people who are just starting to make healthy changes in their diet and exercise habits to see that healthy foods can taste great and that living a physically healthy life can also greatly enhance mental health. We all have an emotional attachment to how we live and how we eat and how we do just about everything. I am not writing to convert or convince. I simply want to share what I know from my own experience so that others might, on occasion, find a tidbit that makes a positive difference in their lives.

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