Why am I hungry all the time? It’s a question I find myself asking too often. I’ll admit, sometimes it’s because I’ve been restricting myself. Instead of listening to my body, honoring my hunger, and eating intuitively, I only allow myself to eat what seems right and “healthy,” and in the “correct” portion size. I’ve already had two grilled chicken tenders and they say meat should be measured by the size of your palm, so I should not (or really cannot) have a third one. But I am still hungry. It’s a frustrating feeling, but it doesn’t have to be.
Toxic diet culture
I think sometimes we simply don’t know how to feed our bodies (and minds) well. At least, I know I didn’t, and I still struggle with this sometimes. But it’s hard to know what “healthy” means and looks like in a culture full of quick-fix fads, “yo-yo” dieting, and an overall toxic “diet culture.” As a culture, we unconsciously equate thinness with wellness and weight loss with effort. Thin equals healthy and desirable, fat equals unhealthy and undesirable. Losing weight equals accomplishment and gaining weight equals laziness. Except that it actually doesn’t. Weight loss can certainly be a byproduct of a healthy lifestyle, but it’s not necessarily an indicator of one. Many have a skewed perception of what it means to be “healthy,” and a lack of education surrounding truly healthy habits.
“Good” vs. “bad” foods
We are bombarded with messages all day, every day telling us about the “good” versus “bad” foods, “cheat” days, and exhaustive exercises that will either make or break your beauty. Messages like eat less or eat “cleaner.” I felt surrounded by this a lot in college, and the comparison game on a Christian campus certainly doesn’t help this cause either. Lost and lots of good, single Christian girls in the same place looking for a good Christian boy among the few options makes for an unhealthily competitive and comparative environment.
When I started college, I also remember my determination to not gain the “freshman 15” as well. I found myself thinking so many times that I needed to earn my food by working out. Exercising became a punishment and eating was my reward. After failing at this and walking through a season of depression filled with comfort eating and weight gain, my intrusive thoughts and restrictive, punitive habits from high school came back with a vengeance. I ate too much “junk” food today, now I need to either do another workout tonight or restrict myself tomorrow along with a harder workout to make up for it. Instead of honoring my body by feeding it the nutritious meals it needed, I tried to restrict my way back to my old body I deeply desired. And it never worked for long.
What is “healthy”? intuitive eating & rest days
I’m no nutritionist, but if we all honored our bodies by honoring our hunger and food cravings, as well as our body’s cries for days off from working out, we’d be not only happier but healthier. Instead of “good” versus “bad” foods and cheat days, we need to practice intuitive eating. This focuses on promoting healthy habits and behaviors, better body image, and an overall healthier relationship with food. The focus is not on the scale or restrictive diets, because these really are not long sustaining or practical. We need to chip away at diet culture rules that tell you what, how much, and when you can eat. We also need to regularly give the gym a rest and allow our bodies to recover. Here’s why.
- All foods are fuel and necessary for our bodies
Every food provides the body with nutrition and sustenance, no matter its categorization. There no “bad” foods!! Diet culture tries to say that you need to avoid certain foods otherwise they will make you fat. The truth though is that our bodies need protein, fiber, sugar and even fat to survive. It is certainly valid that some foods contain higher levels of protein or fat than do other foods. BUT people should be eating a variety of foods to get all of the nutrients and vitamins that their bodies need. We aren’t meant to eat the same foods for every meal. Varying food intake and eating in moderation means that eating a food high in sugar or fat will not negatively affect your health. Too much of anything, including the quote on quote “good” foods, can be harmful to our bodies. All food is fuel is for our bodies. No food needs to or should be “off limits” because there are no “good” or “bad” foods. All food is good because all food nourishes our bodies.
- Our bodies need to rest and recover from workouts
While rest days typically aren’t necessary for light cardio activities such leisurely walking or slow dancing, this is not the case when it comes to moderate or vigorous workouts. Rest days are essential for our bodies to recover and be the healthiest they can be. Rest days not only provide time for proper healing, but prevent muscle fatigue, reduces the risk of injury, improves performance, and support healthy sleep. It’s recommended to take a rest day every three to five days, depending on the intensity of the workouts. If you engage in vigorous cardio, for example, your body will need even more frequent rest days. You can also have an “active” rest day by doing some gentle stretching to help loosen up your body and muscles. Ultimately though, working out every day is not healthy for our bodies! Just as with everything else, rest is essential!
I have learned firsthand about the importance of eating a balanced diet and giving my body days off from the gym to rest and renew. I have found that my body does not function well without rest days from the gym. And a balanced diet is not one full of solely “healthy” foods, but a diet with varied food intake in which you get to consume foods you desire and crave! So when it comes to being “healthy,” make sure to drown out the noise of “diet culture.” It is so important for our body image, physical and mental health to understand and maintain a truly healthy lifestyle through balanced diets and exercise routines.
Hi there, I’m Amber! I am a newly minted college graduate from Messiah University with my bachelor’s in Public Relations. I’m a sister, daughter, soon-to-be aunt, friend, writer, athlete, life-long learner…but most importantly, I’m a beloved daughter of God.
I’m just a 22-year-old perfectionist from a small suburb that knows what it feels like to lose hope and to struggle with love, worth, acceptance, grace, body image, comparison, the list goes on. My passion is to serve and bless others, spread kindness, and share the love and hope found in both knowing Jesus intimately and walking through life with him. My prayer is that everyone may be filled with the eternal love, joy and freedom that only comes from a relationship with Jesus, so that they may overflow with love for others and glorify God in all they do. Read Amber’s other posts here.