Wednesday, 5 August 2015

What does "healthy" even mean?

Healthy living is having a moment this year. Suddenly caring about what we put into our bodies is Friends who used to roll their eyes at me for ordering salads are now raving about their spiralisers. I've found myself bonding with the most unlikely suspects about how omg amazing the NutriBullet is and the only way time you'll find me getting sweaty to big beats is at a Boom Cycle class.

But sometimes it's so confusing - what even is healthy anymore? Are carbs really that evil? Is butter really a carb?!

Healthy means different things to different people so it's important to work out what it means to you and how you can feel your best. I love cake and salty fries as much as the next Instagrammer but I know that eating these things all the time is not going to make me look and feel my best (80% of what I eat is totally unphotogenic and would not get anywhere near my precious Insta-grid). Recently I feel like I've found balance between subsisting on Special K cereal bars (hello, second year of university) and having and eating my entire cake: 

Green juices are great but girl gotta have her cake, too.
The 80/20 rule

80% of my diet is comprised of food that is actually good for me. The other 20% is what makes it onto my instagram feed - burgers, cupcakes, sweet potato fries... By eating nourishing foods 80% of the time I don't feel guilty about a slice of cake (or two!). Occasional treats keep me sane and happy (as well as social). Deprivation doesn't work and denying yourself things you love isn't healthy for the soul - please feel free to disown me if I ever give up gin and cake. Everything in moderation.

The Rebel Kitchen range does the best dairy free drinks - this one is meant for kids!


I haven't eaten dairy for about 8 years now. I'm not super strict with it and don't check every label but dairy milk, yogurts and ice cream are not part of my normal diet. For me, cutting out dairy helped me lose weight and cleared up my skin (I've quit the sneaky froyos as every time I used have it I'd get spots in exchange for spending £6 on yogurt - lose / lose). That doesn't mean that cutting out diary / wheat / gluten will have any positive effects for you - we're all different and our bodies respond in different ways. I have friends who drink milk by the glass and have perfect skin! Just because the latest trend is for wheat-free, meat-free, carb-free, sugar-free etc doesn't mean you have to follow it if it doesn't work for you.

Sound advice. (Barbican giftshop, fyi).
Eat Less Meat

I stopped eating meat earlier this year and honestly don't miss it. Yes, it's cut down on my choice of what I can have at restaurants and I do still eat fish and haven't started looking at the non-edible areas of my life yet so I'm hardly a shining example of vegetarianism (I hate saying that I'm a "pescatarian" as it sounds so pretentious and I hate labels and self-imposed rules anyway). I realised that I was eating meat because I "always had" and not because I actually enjoyed it. Even if you're a die-hard carnivore, going meat free a few times per week is healthier and cheaper and, for me, food doesn't need meat to taste amazing. 

Not anymore! (Another Barbican giftshop find)
Caffeine / Fizz

I used to drink around 5 cans of DC each day. That's a lot. I know. After I had my wisdom tooth out 2 months ago I stopped drinking Diet Coke and coffee and haven't even been tempted to re-start since. A week in I didn't feel any different but now I am so glad I've kicked my caffeine habit. No more 4pm slumps, far fewer mood swings and I'm actually sleeping deeply enough to have dreams (yes, they're either completely banal or moderately disturbing but yay - dreams!). I honestly thought that I'd be 50 years old and still glugging back the Diet Coke and that thought horrified me so much. Farewell to panics in foreign cities trying to track down those elusive silver cans (Lisbon, Kyoto, Taipei...) or paying £3 for a single can in the Aussie outback.


You don't have to run a marathon or join an expensive gym. Just do something, anything that you enjoy. For me, the marathon was a huge achievement but doing yoga has probably had the most beneficial effect on my moods and mental well-being. And I don't even need to wash my hair after doing it. If you don't want to get your downward dog on in front of strangers than I refer you to Yoga With Adriene.

So that's my little guide to feeling good. It's so easy to make healthy tweaks and eat in a way that your body will love without feeling deprived and eating boring foods. A lot of the time people don't even notice when I make healthy swaps in restaurants or that I'm not eating meat anymore. Trying to live in a balanced way in an ongoing challenge but I think it's one that I'm finally starting to get the hang of.

What does being healthy mean to you?



  1. Great post! Loving the mean girls reference. Yoga with Adriene is my favourite exercise at the moment. I think you are healthier than me but I try to have a similar vibe where I eat well the majority of the time so I can enjoy the cocktails and burgers!

  2. Such a useful post with some great tips. I'm currently trying to eat healthier and exercise regularly so this is really helpful x

  3. Love this Lily!

    To me, healthy is also all about finding a balance, so eating what I'm supposed to eat, not freaking out if I slip and going exercising everyday, even if it's only for a 30min swim.

    Now, if only I could drop the caffeine habit!

    - Elodie x

  4. Great post! I agree with you. To me being healthy is eating natural food most of the time and indulging in pizza or something like that when I go out with my friends. It's all about balance. I don't eat dairy either but I do eat meat. And I exercise: I run with my dog every day and do some 30 minutes of pilates. I also swim whenever I can. And I feel great

    Natalia | Lindifique

  5. I have never been a massive meat fan and have toyed with the idea of giving it up completely for a while. I just don't really like all the chewing! My husband is a big meat fan though and the only problem would be having to make two separate meals all the time. I think meals can become much more creative when they don't contain any meat.

  6. So true. Healthy is so specific to the person - which is why it's ridiculous when you hear someone dictating how you should eat/live your life in order to be healthy. Everyone's body, build and lifestyle is so different. What's right for one person may not be right for another.
    Personally I could never give up meat as I enjoy it and it fits into how I keep myself healthy, but I don't judge others for not eating it. On the other hand, I'm not a big bread fan as I find it doesn't fill me up and I feel very sluggish afterwards - but I wouldn't say I'm a carbophobe as I eat potatoes and other carbs.

  7. I love this post! I just try and find balance so that I can indulge at the weekends/ when I'm with friends without causing myself more problems with my diabetes control! I think plenty of fruit and veg is key although I have now got a DC habit!

    Maria xxx

  8. Great post Lily and a very good question! What is considered to be healthy really is subjective and one size does not fit all. I wish the media and the people that promote all of these faddy diets would advocate this more. For me balance is everything, it works for me, but it won't necessarily work for the next person.

  9. This is something I've been thinking about a lot recently. For me, feeling healthy is doing exercise, but I have a dodgy back and I haven't been able to go for nearly a month now. It really highlights the other bad habits I have as I'm not making up for them in any way! I cut out carbs big time a few months ago and really need to go back to it as that sorted my energy slumps almost completely. I also NEED to stop smoking. I'm on my bazillionth attempt at trying at the moment and my skin thanks me for it so much when I'm not chuffing away.


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