By: Annette Sloan, Guest Blogger August 27, 2015
I am a former health teacher, and I have a confession to make.
Health teachers don’t have it all figured out. They don’t magically live “perfect” healthy lives, just by virtue of what they do. They are learning, evolving human beings, just like everyone else.
So here’s my confession: when I was a health teacher, I struggled with a deeply unhealthy relationship with food.
As I write these words, I’m aware that my former students may end up reading them. Students whom I loved deeply then, and whom I continue to love to this day. If you’re a former student reading this, I want you to know that I think of you often. And that this confession is causing my stomach to tie up in knots. I never meant to be disingenuous. I was doing the best I knew how to do at the time.
Here is my story.
image via ososisters.com
At age 22, I became the founding health teacher at a school that wanted health and wellness to be a strong part of its identity. During my seven years there, I taught hundreds of kids, created an award-winning wellness program, and brought in thousands of dollars to support student health.
However, as you know, I struggled through it all in my own relationship with food. As a professional health educator, I believed that I needed to set a ‘perfect’ example of healthy eating– so I set strict rules for myself about what I could and could not eat. After all, I was teaching kids that healthy foods were “good,” and unhealthy foods were “bad.” I needed to practice what I preached, right?
Except that I was miserable. My strict food rules made me feel deprived, which led me to secretly binge-eat “bad” foods – which led to guilt, shame, and self-loathing. After each binge, I recommitted to my strict food rules, promising myself that this time I would be strong. All the while, I took great care to present myself to the world as someone who was super-healthy.
People watch you when you’re a health teacher– so I had better put on a good show.
I am now 31 years old, and I’m grateful to report that I’ve healed my unhealthy relationship with food. I still work in the world of youth and health, but with a different approach. Today, I help young people to develop healthy habits that stem from a strong sense of self-worth.
Sure, you can force yourself to make healthy choices – but wouldn’t you rather naturally want to do so?
If I could go back to my days as a wellness teacher, three essential lessons I would teach are:
1) There is no such thing as “good” and “bad” foods. Yes, some foods are healthier than others, but when we think of food in terms of good and bad, we tend to unconsciously connect our self-worth with what we eat. No matter what you eat, you are worthy, just as you are.
2) Each of us is our own best nutrition expert. When you learn to trust your body’s guidance, you’ll find that you no longer have to force yourself to make healthy choices. Instead, you’ll choose healthy foods because you naturally crave their nourishment.
3) A little mindfulness goes a long way. When you take the time to slow down and really enjoy your food, your body does a much better job of digesting, metabolizing, and assimilating nutrients. Mindful eating is a serious game-changer.
The crux of it is this: the root of your motivation matters, a lot. Sure, you can force yourself to make healthy choices – but wouldn’t you rather naturally want to do so because you believe you’re worthy of feeling your best?
How do you make decisions about your health and diet? Tell us below!
Annette Sloan is a health coach and speaker on a mission to help girls and women make peace with their relationships with food – and with themselves. Her business, (w)holehearted, specializes in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. Learn more at www.healthyteengirls.com.
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