Healthy eating is no longer about grabbing a salad for lunch, drinking anything-in-the-house smoothies and staring blankly into the white space on a dinner plate as you take tiny bites of your chicken, hoping it will fill you up.
It’s not a case of munching on leaves and dipping carrots in humus anymore, or swapping your full-fat milk, to semi-skimmed milk and calling it a productive day (every little helps).
Now, healthy eating is an internet fad.
Healthy eating in the internet age is less about your general health, and more about finding the most abstract ingredients, creating a new diet to swear by and adding inverted commas to absolutely everything.
The internet is full of ‘creamy’ cheesy chicken, apple ‘donuts’, ‘chocolate’ granola bites and total lies. It takes the good bits of any meal and swaps them for ingredients you’ve never heard of and will set you back at least a million pounds.
People often argue that healthy eating isn’t expensive. But unless you enjoy eating the same leaves every single day, you best be ready to re-mortgage your house.
You’re going to find yourself scoping the internet and scrolling through Pinterest for recipes and then you’ve opened yourself up to a whole new, stupid and expensive universe.
You’re quickly swallowed by the world of almond meal, coconut alternatives for anything and protein powder in EVERYTHING. Carbs no longer exist and rice is made of vegetables, spaghetti with absolutely anything you can cram into a spiralizer and – of course – quinoa (which probably causes more hoo-haa over pronunciation of the damn thing than it does actually benefit us) rules the streets.
Not to mention there’s 101 diets to choose from. All of which are – of course – the best. Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free, the 5:2 diet, Whole30, whatever you choose, you’re probably wrong. Who knew healthy eating needed so many contradicting rules and regulations? It’s all such hard work.
And all of this could be stopped by just bending down and picking up a 27p bag of pasta – that you never knew was doing you so much damage – from the bottom shelf in ASDA.
And with Instagram, blogs and click-bait sites telling us ’10 easy healthy recipes for busy mornings’ – which are definitely only actually apt for the unemployed – we’ll now trust a recipe primarily based on its look. And if a meal doesn’t look neat enough to Instagram, how are we supposed to find it? Does it even count as healthy if it’s not set up on a pristine white worktop in the perfect lighting; a bouquet of flowers placed next to the plate with no kitchen items or spills in sight?
Apple ‘Donuts’ by a Real Life Person
Healthy eating is no longer a case of shopping all the greens and working on some sort of Ready Steady Cook schedule to make something tasty enough to eat. Now, you’ll need a good few weeks to plan your meals, find your ingredients and no doubt, order some strange food off Amazon. Only then, can you turn on the hob and get to it.
In the internet era, you’re no longer just fighting against the scales, the mirrors and your cravings for chocolate. Now, you’re fighting against everyone who’s ever wanted to lose a few of those extra pounds; you’re competing to see who can make the most aesthetically pleasing salad that probably looks better than it tastes.
So if you felt a bit shit about that chocolate bar you nibbled earlier, get ready for some more kicks to the old self-esteem when you realise you forgot to pick up some rice flour, hate avocado with a passion, and Lindsay from work has already posted her tea online. 16 likes and counting.
You see people’s meals and think ‘how the hell are you getting by on that food?!’ and start questioning your own portion sizes. You begin to wonder how these people actually cope with the extensive shopping list you’ll need each week. You finally conclude that maybe you’re the problem; and that you’re just not trying hard enough.
My Nintendo Wii told me I’d gained 5lbs in December. 5lbs over 4 weeks isn’t a lot (I assume), but gaining weight is a big deal to me, and I haven’t gained any since I was about 18.
So setting out meal plans and shopping lists to combat the extra podge that I can now see and feel on myself everytime I pass a mirror, I look to my trusted friend the internet. Not only finding unrealistic beauty standards that I stupidly aspire to match, but now unrealistic beauty standards for food, too.
And for a twenty-something girl packed with more insecurities than anti-oxidants, internet aesthetics are everywhere I turn. Whether it’s on blogs, in magazines, Instagram, health websites, everything has to look perfect. So when I look at my Apple donuts – which naively I made with peanut butter rather than PB2 (powdered peanut butter and water. Yep…) and see a mess on a plate, I push my self-esteem lower than it was before.
I don’t have a steady enough hand to place each individual sprinkle or chai seed or nut on an apple horrifically spread with peanut butter (honestly, I can’t explain the struggle) or in a straight line on a bowl of smoothie (why are we putting smoothies in a bowl and calling them meals anyway!)
And I’m trying to do the right thing: Usually, I don’t eat through the day. Sometimes, I’ll just have crisps for tea and that’s it. So I understand why I might be a little underweight and unhealthy at times. But by setting out meals, I’m eating more than I usually would. Which – as everyone knows – is the opposite of losing weight.
I’ve done exercise DVDs, Wii fit, Zumba and yoga. I’ve eaten peanut butter on apples and courgette instead of pasta. I’ve stood in the co-op genuinely reading the nutritional value of 1% fat milk in comparison to the 0.5g fat milk – as if that’s a competition that the dairy industry should be focusing on. And let’s not even get into milk alternatives…
And to be honest, I don’t want any of it. I don’t want to question my milk choices, or limit the cheese I have on my tea to 15g. I don’t want to spend my wage entirely on food or freak out at the idea of eating bread. And I definitely don’t want to make egg ‘breakfast cups’ to grab on the go each morning.
Stop putting vegetables in my milk shake and calling them cream alternatives
Forget blending up a banana and calling it ice cream
I don’t need a million herbs and spices in my meal.
Or to strain lean mince in a colander to reveal how much fat I’ve been eating secretly.
I don’t want to exercise till my knees hurt for the next three days.
And to be entirely honest, I don’t want to eat healthily all the time. Eating healthy means I’ll gain weight, and it also requires a lot more eating than I want to do. I hate eating anything that isn’t cereal, pasta or chocolate. And I feel like I’m the only one who hasn’t got the fitness bug.
And yet, despite my weight coming in at around 8st 7lb, and me knowing that to complain is ridiculous at my weight/age, I feel the constant pressure to look good, talk about food, find healthy recipes and hashtag the shit out of them.
I feel like without a diet to talk about, nobody really talks about anything anymore. And that people bond over their love for vegan cafes or forums on ‘101 ways to use avocado’. Where are all the sane people who still sit down for meals with a cup of juice without freaking out about the long term effects of said juice? Because I’d like to be friends with them, and give the internet a little break.
And if you’re wondering, apple ‘donuts’ despite my inability to make anything look good: They’re not donuts. They’re apples with peanut butter and sprinkles. And they still just taste like apple.