What is the Balance Between Healthy Diet and Not Depriving Oneself?

Lake with mountain behind it

While everyone would agree that eating healthy is good for your body, many people are confused about what healthy eating even means. Does a healthy diet mean you can never eat foods you like? Does it mean cutting out all “bad” foods? In short, what is the balance between a healthy diet and not depriving oneself?

Dieting Does Not Equal a “Healthy Diet”

In today’s diet-centric culture, the line between weight-loss-motivated “diets” and healthy eating has been blurred. Most people now associate “healthy eating” with losing weight, cutting out carbs (and other “fattening foods”), and ultimately depriving themselves of foods they enjoy.

Healthy eating for many has become all about saying “no” to the donut or pizza and “yes” to an apple or salad. Essentially, it’s become a weight-loss numbers game.

With “healthy” and “diet” so closely intertwined, it’s no wonder many people either give up on the idea of healthy eating altogether or constantly deprive themselves of foods they love in their quest to eat healthily.

But the truth is, healthy eating is not about dieting or weight loss. Let’s say that again. The goal of healthy eating is to give your body the variety of nutrients it needs to feel good, have energy, and maintain its proper functioning [1].

Why Depriving Yourself is Dangerous

In the name of eating healthy, many people constantly deprive themselves of the foods they want and enjoy, not realizing this can be a very dangerous thing to do. Why is it dangerous?

Labeling foods as “good” and “bad” or constantly saying “no” to the foods you want and enjoy can lead to excessive cravings, overeating, and binge eating. Deprivation can also cause you to dislike nutritious, “healthy” foods [2].

“The main problem with deeming certain foods ‘bad’ and then cutting them out, or restricting calories dramatically, is that it triggers a cycle of binging often and makes it so much more likely that you won’t stick with it,” says holistic health counselor Cassandra Bodzak in a Well+Good article. Bodzak goes on to say of deprivation-led ‘healthy eating,’ “It becomes a dangerous yo-yo that not only will make you miserable but can be really detrimental to your health” [3].

What is the Balance Between Healthy Diet and Not Depriving Oneself?
So how can you eat healthily and promote a nutritious diet (because we all want to feel our best and live a long, healthy life, right?) while not depriving yourself? Here are three ways to get you started.

Healthy Diet Means No Off-Limits Foods

Man standing against the wall“Move away from labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,'” says dietitian Chloe McLeod in a HuffPost article. McLeod goes on to say this: “A food is just a food. It might have more or fewer health properties, and your body might function better or worse on certain foods, but it doesn’t give them the moral high ground” [4].

In other words, reject the idea that some foods are “bad” and off-limits, and others are “good.” Instead, give yourself the freedom to enjoy any and all foods in moderation.

Educate Yourself

The next step is to learn more about your body’s nutritional needs. For example, many people assume cutting out carbs is great for your health. But did you know that your body desperately needs carbohydrates to properly function?

In fact, carbs should make up between 45 to 65 percent of your day’s total calories [5]. By learning more about your body’s nutritional needs, you will be better prepared to fuel and nourish your body with a balanced and well-rounded diet.

Practice Gentle Nutrition

We all know things like fresh veggies and fruits have vitamins and minerals in them to help us stay healthy. We also know our bodies need plenty of carbs and proteins to give us energy and help us feel great throughout the day.

Use this knowledge to gently guide your eating choices. This doesn’t mean you only have to eat fruits and veggies or protein-rich foods. Rather, mindfully incorporate them into your diet on a regular basis. Remember, it’s not about saying “no” to foods you enjoy, but rather saying “yes” to more foods that nourish your body, mind, and soul.


[1] What Does Healthy Eating Mean? Breastcancer.org. (2018, October 16). https://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/healthy_eat.

[2] Donuts in your cart. Owensboro Health. https://www.owensborohealth.org/services/community-wellness–education/nutrition-weight-management-/eating-well-columns/food-deprivation-backfire/.

[3] Well+Good Editors. (2017, September 13). Why food deprivation doesn’t work. Well+Good. https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/food-deprivation-healthy-eating-weight-watchers/.

[4] Steen, J. (2016, July 15). Why Treating Yourself To ‘Bad’ Foods Is Actually Good. HuffPost Australia. https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/06/23/this-is-why-treating-yourself-to-bad-foods-is-totally-okay_a_21400471/.

[5] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, April 17). Choose your carbs wisely. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705.

Sarah Musick PhotoSarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.

Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published July 10, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 10, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.