healthy living

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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when “health tips” make you scratch your head

I love health and fitness magazines. I know that everything is online now and innumerable healthy living tips are just a Pinterest board away, but there’s something really fun about grabbing an issue of Shape or Self and flipping through the pages.

However….I think it’s important to remember a few things about these magazines.

  • Take the healthy eating information they give with a grain of salt. Everyone’s different.
  • Can there really be “breakthrough” “revolutionary” “no-fail” healthy eating tips every single issue?

Now, I love the workout ideas and oftentimes I walk away with a new tidbit of information that I personally find helpful. But sometimes I read something that makes me scratch my head.

For example, this Shape article I recently read:

“How Food Texture Affects Your Calorie Intake”

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They explain that according to new research published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people perceive foods that are either hard or have a rough texture to have fewer calories. In other words, you consume more calories. I was blown away by this “fact”! This is a perfect example of a tip that I quickly breezed by.

Since I started eating healthy and exercising regularly, I’ve developed little habits that help me keep my portions and food choices in balance. One of the most helpful habits I’ve used for years is changing up the texture of my food to make it more satisfying. I add nuts to my oatmeal, my peanut butter has to be crunchy, I add raw vegetables to my salad, and chia seeds to my smoothies. It has to be one of the top tips I would tell people if they’re trying to lose weight. So how does that align with this new “research”? I suppose I don’t know which I would eat more of, hard or soft bite-sized brownies, like they did in the study, but I have to disagree that food texture negatively influences my healthy eating habits.

Questions:

  • What’s some health and fitness research you’ve come across that you don’t agree with?
  • What do you think is a universal tip for healthy living?
  • Are you still a magazine person or do you get all your tips online?

because i want to be a better person, damnit

I’m so sick of hearing about all the little changes in your daily routine that supposedly make a huge difference in how you feel. “Drink 2 liters of water a day and your skin will glow!” “Don’t touch your electronics for an hour after you wake up and keep your stress level down!” “Get eight hours of sleep and you won’t need that Venti latte anymore!”

In my opinion that all a lot of “one-size-fits-all” advice. Some people only need six hours of sleep and I need me some Robin Roberts to wake me up in the morning so STFU.

The last few months have been pretty crazy and a lot of things are up in the air for me. Not having a plan hasn’t seemed too challenging on the surface, but I can tell it’s taking a toll on my overall health. The stress of being out of control can be overwhelming, so this past weekend I decided to make a conscious decision to make my own little changes. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Vineyard Hills Olive & Thyme Candle

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I love this candle. It has such an unexpectedly relaxing scent. I hate olives so I’m not sure I would have even tried smelling this at Target if I had seen the name first, but it was love at first sniff.  It’s repurposed from a discarded glass bottle so the green tint that comes off the flame is very relaxing. I’ve been lighting this candle the minute I get in the door and letting it work its magic on the room until just before bed. It may just be a candle but it definitely brings a sense of serenity to my life after work.

Tiger Tail

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This is one of the best changes I’ve made. The Tiger Tail is like a mini, portable foam roller, and I’ve made a commitment to use it at least 3 days a week. It’s much more effective (I’ve found) if someone else uses it on you so if you have any friends who owe you a favor cash it in for this mini-massage. It is working wonders for my calves and IT band.

Just Dance

I’ve been making a little more time for goofy activities like Just Dance. Spencer and I danced around the living room last night for about 15 minutes and even that upped my energy exponentially. Just Dance gives the whole room this positive energy and I love it! It doesn’t matter how goofy we look, it’s just nice to come home after work and let off some steam in a fun, carefree way. Don’t be jealous of my moves.

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So yeah, I’m sure these little things won’t help everyone who stumbles upon them but they have already had a nice little impact on my daily routine. I’m not doing yoga every morning for an hour or chugging apple cider vinegar but regardless, I’m working on me. Not only are these practices healthy in and of themselves, but the very idea of setting personal health goals and accomplishing them is a real confidence-booster! It’s nice to make time for more than Netflix and Betches Love This Bachelor recaps.

Question:

What little changes have you made to your life for the better? What do you want to change?