No, You Don't Actually Like Eating Healthy
Listen, pal. I’ll tolerate a lot of stupid phrases from the people I love. I’ll tolerate “I’m going to start working out 6 days a week starting tomorrow,” or “we’ve broken up for the last time,” or even, “Going out is so fun! Please get off your couch, we’re super worried about you.” But here’s what I don’t want to hear you say to me. I don’t want to hear you say, “You know what? I actually love eating healthy.” People say this gibberish, usually 100% unprompted, to my face, and I won’t tolerate it.
Somebody I love might say it after a workout; one where we decide to do something monstrous afterward, like eat a salad with dressing that is made out of puréed other vegetables. Somebody might say it after we’re talking about eating healthier, starting Monday, as we line up French Fries on a glass table or toilet surface and suck it through our mouth like we’re Leo in Wolf Of Wall Street.
And you know what? Perhaps I’m projecting. I say it, too, and all the time. My hands are bloody. Come out, damned spot! Coming from me, it’s ridiculous. You know what I’ve dipped my fries in? Oh not just ketchup, you jerk off. You know it’s more than ketchup. It’s a Frosty. Or Mayo. Or Vegenaise. Or just every condiment in the fridge. I’ll dip it in anything, bucko---just try me. I swear I'l do it. Yet here I am, sipping a smoothie and going “I actually think healthy food tastes good.”
OH EXCUSE ME, MISS HOLIER THAN THOU PRINCESS.
It’s nonsense. Utter nonsense. Here’s the thesis I'm getting at: healthy food is actually disgusting and if you say you like it, you’re a liar.
Still don’t believe me? Imagine yourself biting into a delicious meal.
Are you eating boiled and unseasoned spinach, rich with niacin and zinc? Are you eating fish, baked in the oven with just a whisper of lemon, bereft with flavor? Is it a green juice, the kind with no fruit in it? Oh! I know…it’s a small handful of almonds, eaten before you go to happy hour because you don’t want to mindlessly snack?
Is it not that? Oh, you’d rather eat a frozen pizza I dropped on the floor? K.
And before you say, "you don't know anything, you mountain troll. Eating healthy can be delicious!" Consider: there is a noted difference between healthy and healthier. Healthy isn’t rich slices of avocado, served smashed on a sourdough toast griddled in butter and topped with a yolk-y fried egg and some parmesan. It’s healthiER. It has its BENEFITS. And all of us like healthier options as much as junk food. I'll take most vegetables over a steak any day. But that's not what I mean. I'm talking full, 100%, so healthy you barely add oil to anything health. A house that smells like cauliflower farts all day. A diet that focuses on what you can't eat rather than what you can have. I'm talking about abstaining from everything.
The thing about eating healthy and not HEALTHIER is that it really is horrible. I want us all to drop the act and admit it. It's torture. It's not a way to live, It's akin to licking a garden, all around and in the dirt. Kale doesn’t just taste good on its own. You have to dump salt and oil on it. Just dump it all over that vegetable, which usually would taste like you are chewing on a crumpled newspaper. Food deserves to bring us nutrients, but it also deserves to bring us joy in some way, if we let it. We shouldn't be afraid of the joy.
But we pretend. Oh, how we pretend that chewing on carrots with just a tablespoon of hummus, gallantly and like Thumper the Rabbit, is the way we kind of enjoy eating sometimes. It's not a sacrifice! I like it when I do it!
Here’s my conspiracy theory on this one:
We eat healthy because we know it’s good for us. We tell people we like to eat healthy because it makes us look in control, it gives us a fleeting sense of superiority, and it also makes us seem kind of rich.
Boy, do we like the feeling of virtue one gets from eating a baked chicken breast or tofu bowl. That shit can produce endorphins that outlast even the most intense cycling class. Eating healthy generally makes us feel like we are sacrificing happiness for our bodies, and we sure spend a lot of time believing ‘looking and feeling good’ is ‘100% sacrifice.’ It's all pain and gain, it's something that comes with the effort it might take when we stop eating mac'n'cheese and we start getting real. We like the feeling of purity one can get after treating our body with real vitamins and minerals, the ones that come with zucchini noodles instead of pasta. But oh, telling people we enjoy it adds another layer to this: it means we hardly look at it as a sacrifice. It gives off an illusion. We can resist temptation. We are above temptation. It hardly affects us at all.
When I had an eating disorder, I used to tell myself I hated doughnuts and I hated Cheetos. I told myself and everybody else this lie because I thought I wouldn’t eat it if I said I didn’t like it. It kept me away from it. I thought this lie was beneficial--I liked pretending I was the kind of girl who didn’t like overly processed cheese snacks, who didn’t like eating that much at all, and who could move past the guilt of all those things. Needless to say, I couldn't, and I could almost argue that denying would make it worse. But when good foods are associated with guilt, we have to find the sainthood in the opposite. And that is the unflavored protein, laid nobly on a bed of unseasoned brown rice and no-salt vegetables.
It’s a lie. It’s all a lie. I’m not better than temptation, except when I fight it. And I am here to say it is always a fight. I am here to say it is hard. I am here to say it can be worth it. I like being healthy and eating healthy, I don’t think it actually tastes that good. I would rather have something else. It feels good to admit that. It feels good to not feel so virtuous.
The other thing about eating healthy it is it’s not CHEAP. It’s expensive. most likes spending money, especially if you don’t have too much of it, and to eat healthy, you often have to do that. Sure, you can get a boatload of vegetables and eat them out of the bag, but we all know that’s not what we mean when we say healthy. Nobody means that. Healthy means 8 bucks worth of cashews, or expensive vats of coconut oil, or 12 dollars for a container of hemp or flax seeds. It’s 5 extra bucks for rice or almond flour instead of unbleached flour. It’s 3 extra dollars for organic, for whole grains, for the unprocessed. It’s a paycheck. It’s an elite business. And sometimes, I can’t afford that. Sometimes I just gotta steam a sweet potato. Sometimes I gotta buy the 99 cent ramen and throw out the seasoning packet and add peppers and bokchoy and pray it’ll work. But steamed sweet potatoes are not what we talk about when we talk about eating healthy. We talk about supplements. We talk about money.
So here’s what I’m coming out to say: I don’t like eating healthy, but I like doing good for my body and I like seeming like I’m good at it, and I also want you to believe I can afford it. And that I think it's good to try your best sometimes, and eat healthy and good. But I'm saying it's okay to admit it's a struggle. And it's certainly okay to allow food to bring you fleeting moments of happiness. And you know what? It's also okay for food to...not bring you any happiness at all. Just balance it out.
That’s what I mean when I say I like eating healthy. And you know what? I gotta say..I really do like my vegetables.