Finding Healthy: It’s a long journey. You can’t be afraid to fall on your face

Have you ever looked up the definition for healthy?

Well, the first result is, “in good health.”

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In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a dietitian. I’m not a health coach. I’m not even NASM-certified yet (dragging my feet reaaaal hard on that one). But one thing I AM? A young woman who has found her footing in the wayward world of “What does it mean to live a healthy life?”

Thinking about food and working out has been on my brain since I stumbled upon an easy exercise regimen outlined in Seventeen magazine when I was, you guessed it, 17. Seven years later and I’ve done it all: the calorie counting, the workout calendar, the restriction, the binges, the insecurity, the meal planning. And now here I am, at 24, and I feel like I’ve got a good handle on things. I don’t yell at myself (well, hardly ever) over eating the wrong thing and I actually love my body. So what happened in those seven years?

Lots of mistakes.

A year of two daily supersize Diet Cokes from McDonald’s to curb my appetite. A bowl of broccoli the size of my head for dinner so that I could get ice cream with friends for dessert. Giving up all meat. No cream in my coffee. Sugar-free everything. No simple carbohydrates. SlimQuick and Green Tea pills. Every few months it was a new idea. And every time I tried something I just knew I was on my way to being healthy.

During that time I had no idea about healthy living blogs. And I know that if I had stumbled upon them when I was in my late teens I probably would have been confused. So many people have different eating styles, different fitness regimens, different rules/diets, different stories that have lead them to where they are today. How can all these different people be healthy?

I hope that when people read healthy living blogs, they know that everyone’s version of healthy is different. Even more than that, everyone discovers their version of healthy living in different ways. For some, there is an “a-ha” moment. Some people have fast metabolisms until college and then gain the Freshman 15 and have to learn healthier habits after their metabolisms slow with age. Some people battle extensive disordered eating and are forced to take a hard look at their habits when it becomes evident to the people around them that they need help. Others discover food allergies or sensitivities that allow them to eliminate certain things in order to feel better and lead more comfortable lives.

But not everyone has a moment that shifts their thinking on healthy living. I know I didn’t.

For me, it was and is a slowwwww process and then one day (one I can’t even pinpoint), I was just happy with my routine. It took seven years of reading, experimenting, getting to know my body, and making TONS of mistakes before I stumbled into the routine that works for me. My story is pretty boring, but I bet you it’s just as relateable to some of you as those “a-ha” moment stories are to others.

My success came from a slow, progressive shift in the way I thought about food and exercise– that’s what finally helped me settle into a healthy routine.

I can’t eat a cupcake became “Look how many different colored vegetables I can fit on my plate!” (And cupcakes/veggies stopped being mutually exclusive)

I need to run five miles a day became “How freaking incredible is it that my legs can run five whole miles? Let’s do it!”

Food became art, not anxiety, and fitness became a blessing, not a chore.

I started celebrating everything I’m able to do. I started lifting because I love the way it feels to work hard and add muscle onto my body. I can’t pinpoint it for sure, but I think it’s safe to say that when I started adding muscle to my body I started to love it unconditionally. I started respecting it for what it could do, not just what it looked like.

I slowly stopped focusing on what I couldn’t eat and started seeing what I could. Vegetables are beautiful, versatile, simple, homegrown, and delicious. So is pizza. I found that the more whole foods I added to my diet, the healthier I felt, without doing any kind of dieting or restriction. So even when I do eat too many slices of pizza, I don’t think twice about it because the next morning I know I’ve got a giant veggie omelette coming my way. Regretting food isn’t a mental and emotional experience anymore — it’s physical. My body will feel sick if I eat too many processed foods. That’s why most days you’ll find me in bed with semisweet chocolate chips, not Cadbury eggs (but of course you know M&Ms are one of my favorite foods — can’t give ’em up!)

My routine today includes tons of vegetables, running until my legs can’t take it anymore, a love affair with cheese, cheating on said cheese with chocolate, lifting heavy things, adding cream and sugar to my coffee, never skipping dessert, eating three meals a day plus protein-filled snacks, making my bread whole grain (but letting white pasta slide), sneaking spinach into everything, making sure my cabinet is stocked with chia seeds at all times, going to yoga, drinking almond milk, always having roasted sweet potatoes on hand, and never turning down an invitation for margaritas. Never.

It makes no sense. But it makes sense for me.

I don’t have answers for you. And you shouldn’t look for answers from anyone else. It’s all about trying things, making mistakes, and not being afraid to fall flat on your face a few times.

One day, with no warning, you’ll feel like you struck the balance too. The balance between eating well and exercising to boost your health.

Like everything else, it’s a journey. And just how most journeys are frustrating along the path, there’s nothing people can do or say to make your journey easier. You just have to keep pushing and one day you’ll “find healthy,” whatever that means to you.

(**I feel the need to add that I don’t mean to diminish anyone else’s journey with healthy living, especially the ones that are particularly painful. Everyone’s experiences are different, and I am just sharing my own).

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38 comments

  1. What an awesome post to wake up to this morning! brought a huge smile to my face! You, my dear friend are exactly what I would class as healthy! 🙂
    Everyone is different and everyone has a different path to follow – experimentation is the key! find out what works for you, both in mind and body and realise that it’s ok that it’s different to someone else – there is no ‘ideal’, no ‘one size fits all’ lifestyle – just simply what works for you.
    Your a star for putting this out there in the world – I know it will help so many who may be conflicted.

  2. Well said! The same thing happened to me…it finally just clicked. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what or when the change came, but I definitely had a big change in my mindset. Glad you have found what’s working for you!

    Also, I have a giant bag of sweet potatoes on the counter. The struggle is real.

  3. I love that you say everyone’s version of healthy is different. Health isn’t a one size fits all thing and what works for one person doesn’t always work for someone else. Beyond that, we are worth SO much more than the bodies we keep, we’re the sum of our emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences, and that is what ultimately makes us beautiful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    1. I wish I had said something like that too — so beautiful! “We are worth so much more than the bodies we keep — we’re the sum of our emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences.” I absolutely love that. Thank you!

  4. I love this! I’ve definitely gone through difference phases in my life, but I love the mentality that exercise is something to be GRATEFUL for, not something to just get through.

    Glad to hear you’ve found that “happy place” and thanks for sharing!

  5. Awesome post Lauren! I love all the points you made and could not agree with them more. Even agreeing with them and knowing they are correct it is nice to read them and remind yourself to be proud of your body and all it can do for you. It is important to fuel and treat your body well so it can continue to do these great things for you 🙂

    I am including this in my link love post!!

    1. It’s a good reminder, right? For some reason I felt like I needed the reminder myself, so this was almost a journal entry for me our something that I just happened to share with others haha. Thank you for sharing!!

  6. I could not agree more with you! I don’t really have a particular moment when things changed either, they just kind of fell into place! And what you were saying about exercising not being a chore but being about how you can’t believe what your body can do I can not relate anymore to! I wake up excited to get out there and do something new and push myself but not to its breaking point, just to see what I can accomplish! I think treating your body well for sure has to do with living in the moment, and that includes living in the moment when a friend asks you to go get ice cream!

    1. “Slow and steady wins the race.” It’s all about finding what works for you and your body. Sure there are a few things that are basics we can all agree on haha but for the most part, it takes time (sometimes a lot of time!) to figure out your own system.

    1. This is EXACTLY why I wrote this. It’s so important to remember that “slow and steady wins the race.” I wish it was easy and there was a cut-and-dry answer, but there just isn’t. Just know that once you find that balance, it’ll be worth it because the anxiety and worry about food will (hopefully) disappear. You’ll become kinder to yourself 🙂

  7. And a round of applause for another beautifully written post with sparks of added humor. I love it! It’s too good! And yes ma’am, I agree with everything you said about how we all need to find our own “healthy”. It took me a looonng while too. From being overweight as a kid and pre-teen to being dangerously underweight as a high school student and starting college feeling way too anxious about every single piece of food I put into my mouth. Glad those days are over. Cheers to more margaritas and lifting heavy!

    P.S. This was my favorite line from the whole article: “Food became art, not anxiety, and fitness became a blessing, not a chore.”

  8. I love this post so dang much. I love the whole paragraph, especially, about running, cheese, chocolate, cream, spinach, protein-filled snacks, whole grain, etc…it’s such a great balance 🙂

  9. “but I think it’s safe to say that when I started adding muscle to my body I started to love it unconditionally. I started respecting it for what it could do, not just what it looked like.”

    Lauren, that is freaking GOLD right there. Wow. Not simply the muscle part but for respecting your body for the machine it is. You discovered this so young, congrats to you! My old self is just starting to grasp this concept. I’ve been searching for a positive mantra to keep in mind when I reach the dark points in my workouts. This might be the one I can use… remembering that my suffering is in fact a celebration of what my body can do.

    Awesome post!

  10. This was a GREAT post, Lauren! Learning to be so in tune with your body – that’s the real success!
    I actually feel like my process was very similar to yours. I read the magazines, tried the diets, the fast fat-burning workouts, binged, etc and in turn experienced a lot of yo-yo up-and-downs with my weight. For the past 2ish years I’ve been able to maintain because I view “healthy” in a totally different light. For me, I eat to fuel my running now which is what makes me feel like a strong, healthy woman. Because of that, I’ve learned to eat a much more balanced diet, but of course after a good run I’ll let myself have a treat (for me, it’s the wine every time! :D)

  11. Well said! I’ve developed a similar mindset after years of struggling. I can’t exactly pinpoint my turning point either, but something clicked and now I focus on what makes me feel healthy.

  12. yes to the post!! Healthy does mean something different to everyone, and it’s about feeling good and loving your body! As well as staying medically healthy ;). Happy Friday, beautiful!!

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