If you’re like most people who read my blog, you’re pretty interested in your health. You love to cook and you love to eat – and you’re fully aware of how eating can affect your health. You’re also pretty aware that finding balance with your tastebuds and your health can be difficult – but today I want to show you that it doesn’t have to be.
My healthyish story
I grew up in a very nutritionally-focused family. My mom is a former professional-level cyclist, and my dad was her coach. To them, fitness was (and still is) everything. So, I grew up with a definite understanding of concepts like calories in, calories out and what it took to be the ultimate picture of health.
Over time I’ve come to find that while I am very concerned about my health, I’m not the kind of person who can be into health 100% of the time. It’s just not me. I’m just way too into flavors and food.
I started cooking in my Junior year of high school with a copy of the Cooking Light cookbook, and I fell in love with it. It was a way for me to get creative and eat amazing meals right in my own home.
In college, I read The China Study and I tried veganism for a year to promote my health. But after a while, I just couldn’t grapple with the fact that I was saying no to things that would really, truly bring me joy. Saying no all the time just felt too restrictive to me.
But, I still knew that I had to eat healthy most of the time to really enjoy the benefits of both worlds – a healthy body and a healthy mind.
So, I came up with a concept called healthyish.
What is healthyish? Here’s my (in)formal definition:
Healthyish (adj.): a state of living that allows for the limited yet flexible incorporation of unhealthy components to simultaneously promote a healthy body and a healthy mind
Alright, cool. So what does that even mean?
By living a healthyish life, I have committed myself to eating healthy most the time. But I have also committed to allowing myself to enjoy, totally guilt-free, the decadent, less-than-healthy parts of life (mostly foods) that contribute to my happiness.
In practice, here’s what my healthy time, the 85%, looks like:
- I cook and eat at home
- I maintain a fully vegetarian diet that is also mostly vegan
- I eat whole, unprocessed foods
- I buy organic whenever available
- I never buy fast food
- I don’t drink alcohol on weeknights
- I run or ride my bike 5 days per week
- and I weight train twice per week
Here’s what the –ish part of healthyish, the other 15%, looks like:
- I eat delicious, decadent baked goods
- I enjoy cheese when I feel it will really complete a dish
- I usually order dessert when we go out to eat
- I enjoy a drink (or two) on the weekends
For me, the –ish parts are kind of like a reward for the healthy parts. I know that my hard work to eat and be healthy most the time is successful – I can feel it in my body and I can see it in the mirror. I also know that the ish parts are vital to my feeling mentally balanced.
To keep everything in check, though, I’ll make some changes to promote a healthier spin on something unhealthy. Most of the baked goods I make, for instance, are vegan. I like the challenge and I like knowing there’s no extra cholesterol (if I’m going to eat eggs, I want them straight-up on a plate with toast). I also use just enough cheese to complete the dish without going overboard. And I’ll use organic sugar in my cocktails.
Being healthy as a whole is so much more than being healthy in your body. For me, to be healthy in my mind, I also needed a bit of decadence and a bit of fun.
How can you start eating a healthyish diet?
The things that I said above that sum up to a healthyish lifestyle for me aren’t necessarily the things that will sum up to a healthyish lifestyle for you.
If you’re allergic to dairy or gluten, for instance, no matter how much you want to say “screw it!” and just eat some every now and then, it’s probably best for your body to forego these altogether.
So the way you find your balance with a healthyish lifestyle is going to depend on what you are able and willing to eat and what less-than-healthy components can help you feel more balanced without compromising all the work you put in to your health.
There are some things that will contribute to a healthy lifestyle for anyone. Some of these are:
- Eating the vast majority of meals at home
- Eating a variety of fruits and veggies
- Eating lots of fruits and veggies
- Cooking with whole grains
- Avoiding processed (read: packaged) foods
- Creating a meal plan every week
- Exercising most days of the week
- Listening to your body
These things should be what you are doing 85% of the time. The other 15% can be the things that don’t really contribute to a healthy body, but that contribute to a happy mind. Like ice cream with your kids every now and then. Or cheese on your pizza. Or a carby pasta when you go out to eat.
Your 15% is going to look different than my 15%. Take some time and think about the things that don’t necessarily contribute to a healthy body, but contribute to your happiness. Write those things down and know that, while you can’t have them all the time, every now and then is A-Okay.
What healthyish eating has done for me
Ever since I started eating and living healthyish, my mental outlook on life has really improved. I am able to eat whatever I want totally guilt-free because I know that 85% of the time, I’m not eating unhealthy foods.
This guilt-free feeling is so good. I don’t go to bed thinking, “man, I really shouldn’t have eaten that cookie.” I don’t get jealous of people I see eating that cookie and wishing it could be me.
Instead, I sleep well knowing that yes, I eat healthy most of the time, but I enjoy decadent treats every now and then. In a word, I eat healthyish.