Being a Nutritionist I have got used to the fact that everyone assumes I eat healthily all of the time (not true by the way, I enjoy Ben and Jerry’s as much as the next person!), and I generally am not chastised for choosing salads when I go out for a meal, or for having lunches filled with vegetables. However, for a large majority of the population eating healthily is often met with a lot of stigma and negativity, despite the benefits being well known to all.
It came to my attention recently when chatting to a nutrition client of mine who has recently changed her diet for the better. She mentioned to me that, despite being 4 weeks in to her new lifestyle, and making good progress in terms of body shape, health and fitness, she was yet to tell most of her family and friends of her journey. She told me that she would rather keep it a secret so she didn’t get teased for preparing her meals in advance, or for paying for nutrition advice, adding that a lot of her friends ‘wouldn’t understand or see the point’.
Despite the recent health movement that has been accelerated with the rise of social media influencers preaching nutrition and fitness; as a British public I think there is still a way to go in accepting healthy living as the norm. We are still very guarded when it comes to baring our eating and gym habits. We will publish photos of gorgeous fulfilling salads on Instagram, but when it comes to ‘real life’, we can still feel shy to choose a healthier option in a restaurant in front of our friends.
But where does this come from?
I think a big part of ourselves is worried to tell people that we are eating healthier or dieting as we are afraid to fail. We think that people will expect us to look fitter and more like the models we see on Instagram daily, and we feel that we cannot live up to those expectations. There is the added fear of being judged. If people think we are on a health kick, that when we do have a slice of cake everyone will be on our back about it telling us that we are sabotaging our diets and assuming that we are not serious about it anyway.
So what is the answer?
There needs to some realisation for the population in general, that we can eat healthily most of the time but that one slice of cake occasionally is not the end of the world, and can help to create a balance that will keep you mentally on track. I think that there needs to be honesty between friends and family in terms of lifestyle choices. It could go a long way, explaining to close ones why you have chosen to change your diet or start going to the gym more. There will be more of an understanding behind why you choose the lower calorie option in a restaurant, and they are less likely to tempt and tease you with treats and junk food. You may find that they are more supportive than you expected, and who knows, you might even convert them to a healthier way of living!