tl;dr: you do you!
The longer version:
To me, health means living in an overall optimal state of being. I think you can be healthy in some aspects of your life and not others. What’s important is that true health is never a competition – with the old you, with the person you want to be, or with anyone else. Because a healthy, positive growth mindset is most important in this equation (to me, at least.) You might think this definition sucks. You might not think it works for you. And the beauty of it is, that’s okay.
But I say this because I recognize we (unfortunately) live in a society where a woman with defined abs is automatically deemed healthier than one who wears a size 10. Or a woman who eats Quest bars and meal preps chicken breast everyday must be lean, healthy, and happy. But in reality, that is so often not the case.
Unfortunately, most women feel they have to go through extremes to find balance (I know I did!) We do the extreme diets and workout programs and find it didn’t work the way we thought it would. Or they only worked just long enough to the next binge. We’re tired and our hunger signals are stronger than the all-coveted willpower we think we need more of. We stress and don’t sleep and think we need to push harder. What we don’t realize is that the more we push, the worse off we are.
Luckily for all of us, the diet/fitness cult mentality IS switching gears. Taking care of your body properly is finally going mainstream! Gut health is now a popular term, fitness programs are preaching rest and recovery days, non-toxic household supplies are being sold in more stores, and people care about where their food is coming from. The world of wellness is coming back in to balance.Defining and redefining what’s best for you is something you can always come back to when you’re feeling out of balance. Sometimes you have to ease in to things. Sometimes you have to push the limits a bit to see where those limits are. And it’s your body, so you do you!
If there’s something healthy for you, that’s amazing! Keep doing it. If it helps others on their journey to health, EVEN BETTER. Spread what you’ve found. And if what you’re doing kind of helps someone, but they need to tweak it, that’s an amazing learning experience for everyone involved. But if it doesn’t work at all, IT’S FINE. But just know, you can let that shit go.
I recently wrote a post on Instagram explaining what I used to think was healthy – running all the miles and restricting all the calories. Which, arguably, worked for me at that time. I was out of shape and was prone to binging. Luckily, my morning runs helped me deal with stress and helped me get fitter for my goal races. I lost some body fat by restricting calories and learned how to limit myself more.
…But that doesn’t work forever. The body adapts, and to continue that great feeling, I needed to keep running more and restricting more, too. And that’s just unhealthy at a certain point. Your body needs MORE fuel when you move more, not less. So I had to let that go. I changed up my workout routine and introduced different foods in to my diet. My body changed for the better again. I needed to adapt and change when my body needed me to.
This is just an example of how everyone needs to find their version health for themselves, and at the right time. For someone who’s just realizing they have tendencies that aren’t best for them, that might mean starting out by cutting out alcohol or fried foods, or going for walks after dinner instead of laying on the couch with wine. For others, that might mean cutting back on exercise and being less stringent about only eating healthy foods. It might mean more time for wine!
Or, it might have nothing to do with food or exercise. There are so many ways we can be healthier that don’t involve being the fittest or eating a specific diet.
I’m learning every day to listen to what my body needs on any given day, in any given moment. I’m learning to let go of the fads, the things that worked for me yesterday, and even some of the research that’s out there. I think the best scientists/doctors/researchers know that the best answer when it comes to questions of the human body is “it depends”. Just because something works for someone in a given situation does not mean that it always will for someone else. “It depends” is usually my answer when people ask me about what’s best for their health. It’s always right 🙂
While “it depends” is my go-to asnwer, there are general simple practices that seem to be healthy for most humans that we can’t ignore.
These are like tools in your toolbox that you can pull in our take out to find the right balance for you:
Being Social – the right amount of social activity for you with the right kind of people. Studies on isolation (used as torture) and simple human touch have shown this to be true for people to be happy and healthy.
Movement Practices – This doesn’t mean being the fittest person in the room. Walking, standing, stretching, just moving around is very healthy! Higher bones density, a healthy metabolism, regular endorphin release, adaptation to stresses, and lower rates of depression are all reasons to just move.
Being outdoors – Grounding (being barefoot on the earth), getting vitamin D, and even just seeing trees can reduce stress, improve hormonal balance, and regulate sleep patterns. Just going for a walk in your neighborhood or a local park regularly can be so beneficial.
Sleep – Sleep is one of the most important health markers! Getting good quality sleep regulates hormones and all bodily functions. For athletes, it’s when you build muscle. It gives you the energy to go out and live your best life.
Eating a balanced diet of macro and micronutrients – which I’ve written enough about here.
Less exposure to toxins- I define toxins as things like artificial light, heavy metals, pollution, and chemicals in foods, beauty products, and cleaning supplies. These are all in a category of unnatural things that our bodies are not used to – at least in the amounts we’re exposing it to in today’s society. There’s not a lot of hard evidence on exactly how they affect us, but there’s plenty of anecdote and so much research coming soon. In my opinion, reducing exposure to them as much as possible and as soon as possible certainly can’t hurt.
Simply, what’s healthy to me is letting go of things that don’t serve you. Let go of the societal norms or the “old ways” you got healthier or happier. Experiment with new ways that can bring you health, happiness, and joy.
You change. Your body changes. Your health changes. Your life changes. In the same way a protocol might not be right for someone else, it might not be right for you right now.