Just a wee heads up before we start, this column will cover topics like eating disorders and unhealthy attitudes towards food, exercise and bodies. If that’s not something you’d like to expose yourself to right now, I’ll see you next week, and as ever I respect your choice to consume the kind of media that’s best for you.

Now we’re getting stuck right into January and many people's new year’s resolutions are up and running, there is an abundance of advice and content telling us how to eat, exercise and live in the healthiest possible way.

Every platform I use has been flooded with information on how I can munch and move my way to a smaller body and a longer life.

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I'm no stranger to unhealthy attitudes towards food, and I know a fad when I see one so I'm usually quite good at weeding out the thinly disguised paid promotions for “detoxes” and meal replacements, but recently there's been an influx of people claiming an extensive education in food and health who all have conflicting opinions on what we should be putting into our bodies.

Health information can be a minefield of unregulated and unscientific content, especially on the internet, and it always seems to peak at the start of the year, when the resolutions start and motivation is at an all time high.

I looked at some blogs promoting “healthy eating” and was absolutely shocked at the level of fear-mongering there was around everyday foods.

White rice, bread and potatoes are apparently the source of all evil, while blending vegetables and fruits negates any potential health benefits or nutrients, and don't forget, animal products are either to be avoided at all costs or supposed to form the basis of your entire diet.

Proponents of each hyper-specific diet will tell you this is the best and only way to live a healthy life, and anything else will lead to ruination and a premature death.

The Herald: What's so wrong with pinching an inch? NothingWhat's so wrong with pinching an inch? Nothing (Image: free)

This kind of constant, confusing, contradicting advice is at best unhelpful and, at worst, useless and dangerous. Overly restrictive and complex diets aren’t easily sustainable and studies have shown that people who frequently diet can actually end up gaining more weight in the long term. This becomes particularly dangerous when we consider children and young people are getting exposed to this kind of constant messaging, but also those experiencing, recovering from or vulnerable to developing eating disorders.

Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterised by an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating, it’s what happens when a desire to eat “right” is taken to the extreme and becomes obsessive and negatively impacts someone’s life.

Perhaps most frustratingly of all, orthorexic behaviours can be found in people seeking treatment for other eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, and as such can represent yet another obstacle for the most lethal kind of mental illness.

It's not just people who struggle with eating disorders who can suffer from unscientific attitudes about “detoxing”, “purging”, and “clean” diets which forbid “bad” food, we can all be susceptible to this kind of fear mongering.

Calling foods “good” or “bad” can be misleading as the positive or negative benefits lie in the balance and interaction of nutrients within the human body.

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For example, even if you eat nothing but vegetables, you may find it hard to get many essential nutrients, or the necessary calories needed to maintain the function of your body and mind.

Fat has its place in a diet, salt and sugar too, and calories are not something to be feared or avoided. For so many years I've been hit with the message that fat is the enemy of a healthy diet, but in a biological level, a certain amount of fat is essential for the absorption of many nutrients, and the fat we consume provides the body with fatty acids which are essential, and that we don't naturally produce.

Another benefit of “bad foods” is the fact that food can be more than fuel. The creation and consumption of food can be a source of pleasure and enjoyment, not fear and anxiety. We only need to look at how often we use the terms “guilty pleasures”, or “cheat days”, in relation to food to see how far we as a society have stigmatised eating for fun.

An unhealthy fixation on health can prove counterintuitive as the stress associated with constantly worrying about calories and carbs can have a detrimental impact on the quality and length of someone’s life.

In our society we've come to equate thinness to healthiness, which is a reductive and often misleading way to evaluate someone's lifestyle. For over 160 years BMI calculations, weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared, has been used as a measure of obesity, and by extension, health.

BMI does not take into account various factors such as muscle composition and fat distribution, and scientists overwhelmingly believe solely using BMI as a diagnostic tool can lead to inaccurate and misleading results.

I’m not convinced that the people shaming others for their weight or diet even care about health, as under videos of plus-size creators working out or eating a balanced and nutritious diet, there are always a plethora of comments degrading them and debasing them for not doing more, more, always more to make themselves weigh less.

The Herald: Say no to bread? There's really no need for most folkSay no to bread? There's really no need for most folk (Image: free)

I'm told that putting on weight will ruin my life but I never get reminded that regularly failing to consume enough calories to maintain the proper function of the body can put a potentially fatal strain on someone's heart, or that under-eating can lead to an irreversible loss of bone density and calcium content.

One of the cruellest aspects of chronic under-eating is that for anyone hoping to conceive a child, reproductive capacity can be negatively impacted, even after recovery. Shaming someone for their weight is rude and unhelpful, and for many years now we've become too entrenched in seeing thin bodies as healthy bodies, in every instance without stopping to consider that weight is an incredibly complex and nuanced concept best left to people who have the full context of the situation.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet, everyone has their own individual needs and goals. Exercise, too, isn’t something that can be boiled down to a prescriptive methodology, whatever movement is enjoyable is more likely to be sustainable.

Plenty of people will start a gruelling routine of daily exercise and restrictive dieting, only to put down the salad and hang up their trainers before the end of January.

You are much more likely to keep to a routine if it’s something you enjoy, and sometimes incremental change is the most beneficial.

“Healthy” doesn’t just look like toned abs and a trim bahookie, there is more to it than even the physical or aesthetic that we've been taught to value above all else.

Feeling good in yourself, having a healthy and balanced relationship with food and with exercise, feeling confident and comfortable with your body and mind as a whole, is much more important than a number on a scale or a measuring tape.

Nobody reads out a BMI or waist size in a eulogy, you were not put on this earth to constantly worry about fitting into jeans or toning up anything that jiggles. This year when it comes to healthy changes, I think we might benefit from resolving to be a little kinder to others, and to ourselves.