On occasion when I’m dining with people and happen to be eating something nutritious such as salad, brown rice or a plate of veggies, someone will tut tut about what a terrible hardship it must be to eat healthily all the time. Huh? Generally, I first correct them and tell them that every morsel of food that enters my mouth is by no means super nutritious. Then I (tactfully) ask where they got the erroneous idea that treating your body to wholesome food is some kind of hardship. This is one of those times I recognize right off that someone else’s words are more about them than about me.

For people who wish to take care of their bodies, remain relatively disease free, and increase life expectancy, eating for health is, well, hardly a hardship. It’s natural, it’s essential, it’s a given. It’s the way to get from here to there. Is bathing a hardship or brushing your teeth? Other than for people who are depressed, that’s unlikely. More commonly, these activities are ones we know we have to do. It’s the same with food if you have your head on straight. Far from being a hardship, it’s a delight to treat your body well, a gift you give yourself, an honor you bestow upon your physical being.

The folks for whom it is a hardship usually resent feeling they have to eat nutritious foods and should stay away from junk. They struggle to eat well because they’re fighting something within themselves, and their white-knuckle attitude attests to irrational beliefs about coercion and choice. Believing they must eat healthily, they are reacting against being told what to do from their history. Then there are the people who fail to make generally nutritious food choices because they believe it would be too much of a hardship. They imagine it would be a drudge and a drag rather than, more often than not, a delight. Again, the problem is in their heads, not at the dinner table.

What if you didn’t think eating healthy was a hardship? What if you viewed it as a glorious opportunity to do right by yourself? It’s your decision what attitude you hold about healthy food, that is, whether it’s friend or foe. Similarly, it’s your choice how you want to treat yourself. If you believe you deserve to care for yourself, you want to ingest foods that will keep you healthy. If you believe you don’t deserve to treat yourself well, you either don’t care what you eat or eat in self-destructive ways. In our society, most of us are fortunate to have access to healthy food. Yes, we might have to pinch pennies, but high quality options are there to be had. Rather than think of nutritious eating as a hardship, try considering it a privilege and see if that changes how you feel about your choices.