Do you Eat to Live or Live to Eat? A “Healthy Eater” Confession

Vegetables holistic health
I am currently a Health/Life Coach, Personal Trainer and Nutritionist and been in the industry for more than a decade now. You would think I must have had super healthy eating habits for quite a while, wouldn’t you?

Wrong! Read my story and see how you can “eat healthy” and still “live to eat”.

 “Eat to Live, don’t Live to Eat” – what kind of people is it about?

When I used to hear that phrase before: “Eat to Live, don’t Live to Eat”, I always thought that it was addressed to overweight people who spent too much time eating, or unhealthy people who despite their diseases that could be fixed with healthy eating would continue eating junk, or people who ate too much food in general compromising their health and other areas of their life, people who wanted to try everything and anything with the philosophy that you have only one life to live, so you got to try everything and that everything was mostly all kinds of foods from the best restaurants (or not the best) or from different travel destinations.

How I learned what “Live to Eat” meant.

I had a very good example in front of my eyes, when I was a kid, example of a person who was obsessed with food not in any good way. My sister, she had and still has (sadly) an eating disorder. Food is an issue for her this has been the case for years. She doesn’t know what healthy eating is, she binges when anything goes wrong in her life, she goes on some kind of starvation diet to get back to a certain size and feel good about herself, when she can’t take her extreme diet any longer she stresses out because of it, she binges again and makes herself throw up after. When she sees other people eating she judges them by their eating habits, she also judges herself every time she eats. If you happen to say anything about the food she was eating, she would blow up, start abusing you in some way in order to defend herself and divert your attention and start focusing on your problems.

Her whole life, personality, mood, and relationships with people around changes depending on the “food mode” she is in now.

If she is on her diet and feeling good about herself, she is super nice to you, ready to help, opened to ideas and gives compliments.

And if she is in her “binge mode” or just got out of it she is not somebody you would want to be around: she is often judgmental, loses her temper for no particular reason, gives out criticism about anything you do or say to make you feel bad, she takes it out on her children, friends and our parents.

I’m not sure when or why exactly that happened to her but I know I’ve been watching that since I was very young, I became conscious about it and realized there was something wrong about her behavior at the age of 10 or so.

And then I became a Healthy Eater who lived to Eat.

And that made me become super conscious about the food I ate.

I went to the other end of the spectrum though. I became someone who you would probably call Orthorexic – someone who has an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating, a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”

I wanted to make sure I’ll never be like my sister and I started researching and trying all kinds of diets, ways of eating, I was swallowing tons and tons of nutrition books, was doing experiments on myself, of course. At the age of 12 or so I knew exactly how many calories any food contained, how many carbs, proteins, fats, what it was good or bad for etc.

I used to annoy people telling them what they should be eating when they didn’t need or want my advice and they just wanted to enjoy their food (I do still sometimes annoy people J).

I was super conscious about my body image, trying to look and be the fittest I could (I didn’t really know what it would look like but nothing was ever good enough).

I ended up eating super clean and healthy most of the time and then binging, hiding food from my parents, eating at night while everyone was sleeping (never made myself throw up though, if I ate – it stayed in my body).

I developed a food obsession myself, my life was all about eating right and exercising like I was preparing for Olympics or something. If I didn’t eat right and exercise on any particular day – my day I felt like my day was a waste of time. I was afraid I would put on weight this day.

Because of that obsession and all the stress I put myself through I gained weight quite a few times (I could lose 5 kg and gain them in a week or less!)

I never thought of myself as a person who lives to eat but my whole life was about food! Just like my sister’s! It didn’t matter if I looked fit and sexy and healthy most of the time. I wasn’t happy! Most of my thoughts during the day were not about some amazing things happening in my life (and I was pretty lucky with my life and had lots of things to be excited about and be grateful for), most of my thoughts were about food and exercising, and how to lose the last percentage of fat, how to look the slimmest, how to impress more people with my physique, how to improve my diet even more, what’s wrong with what I ate today, where I’m going to eat today, what I’m going to cook, whether my food would be available where I was.

You know what my first thoughts were when I was about to travel somewhere? Oh, no, I wasn’t excited about the destination, new experiences, interesting people I will meet, beautiful scenery I will see, adventures I will have. No. Not at all. I was thinking where and how I’m going to get my food to stick to my diet and where I will exercise not to get fat. Can you imagine?

And yet, I wasn’t thinking that I was exactly living to eat. My whole life was about food!

Can you imagine how much energy and time I spent being obsessed about food and my body image?

Can you imagine how many great things and accomplishments I could have in my life if I was focused on something else besides my food?

“Eat to Live, don’t Live to Eat” – this is not only addressed to unhealthy eaters! Not at all!

That’s also about people like me (maybe even more so), the way I used to be till actually very recently. People who spend hours of their time planning out their meals, food shopping, who plan their days and lives prioritizing diet and healthy eating over anything else and anyone else, who might avoid going on an exciting trip or meeting amazing people and having great new experiences just because they are not sure that the healthy food they want would be there. Or people who say they don’t have time for a meeting with a friend or their new exciting hobby or exciting work project because they need enough time to prepare ideal meals and include 2-3 hours of training  a day in their schedules. People who reject amazing offer, opportunity, work or personal life related, just because the food they “need” wouldn’t be there.

What Eating to Live really means.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that Eating to Live doesn’t mean you have to eat or not eat any particular food. It means that your food should be means to an end not your ultimate goal and concern.

Your food should be your friend that supports your journey whatever that journey is. Your food should support your happiness and wellbeing, not steal from it. Your food should make your life more enjoyable and less stressful not the other way around. Food should give you energy to achieve your goals, to help you become the best you can, it shouldn’t steal your energy and focus. Food should be natural and nurturing like sleep: you want to sleep and get rest – you go and sleep, have a nap, you want to eat and give your body nourishment – you should go and eat the food that is nourishing for your body and soul, easy to get and prepare without stressing out about it.

And as I said, that has nothing to do with any particular food, food group, macro or micro nutrient, calories, fats and proteins in it.

It has to do with you.

There is a perfect diet for everyone out there, one that will make you Eat to Live, not Live to Eat. Your job is to discover that perfect match.


Photo credit: Jeremy Keith


  1. Emily

    Thank you for this! It’s excellent advice and perspective.
    I’ve been thinking a lot about this dichotomy lately and trying to think of where the balance point it.
    Really glad to read this, thanks again.

    • I’m glad I could help Emily. In my life I lost perspective so many times. Was trying to improve one part of my life with some “fix” just to find out the “fix” became my life causing more stress than anything. Only when I allowed myself to set my own rules it changed. Let me know how your journey is going and if there is anything I can help with.

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