I’m going to kick this off with that fact that I’m not an expert. I have an undergrad degree in Psychology and minor in Exercise Science with very little right to lecture on this subject. But what I do know is my experience and how well I’ve come to know myself. I believe in sharing our stories because although each of our lives are different, I believe we can all learn something from each other and feel connection through our shared challenges.
If you’re like me, you had that high school crush and after crushing for years you actually got to date them. Then you realized they weren’t actually this god-like human you built them up to be and wondered why you wasted so much of your time on them. Like crushes, many of us treat health like this giant mystery… and mystery gets so much power. Many people’s views of their “healthiest self” is similar in this way. They spend years chasing it, wanting it, only to be left wondering,
“Am I doing this right?” “Is this my healthiest self?” “Am I f*$king there yet?”
“Is this what I worked so hard for?”
For many people our “healthiest self” seems to be the ultimate destination to happiness. It’s full of glowing skin, toned muscles, and the best damn green smoothie you’ve ever tasted. But here’s the thing: our dreamy vision of health is not somewhere we can buy a one-way ticket to ( I know, bummer!).
If health is our goal, health is a choice we have to make everyday (or most days!). Let’s be honest, the whole choosing thing- that’s where it can get complicated!
Growing up, my mom would always tell me to “just notice how your body feels” after eating treats or eating too late at night. She made it seem like listening to our bodies was such an easy task. I practiced this over the years and at first, I had a big disconnect between myself and my body. (“Hello body! I can’t hear you? Speak up?”) But over time, I started to hear my inner self and understand how important our relationship would be. To this day, I find myself taking mom’s advice, listening to my body, especially when trying to decide if I’m tired or if I’m hungry (blurred lines!).
As a runner and director of a women’s running race company, I believe in living a healthy lifestyle. Two things I have observed through conversations with women about health over the years: 1. Many of us treat our health like a mystery and 2. We put labels on ourselves that we believe are tied to us forever: “fat” , “depressed”, “unhappy”, “unmotivated”, “not a runner”, and so on.
HERE’S THE THING: All of our bodies, our life, and our history, it’s all different. What I think is a healthy lifestyle, may not feel good to you or vice versa. Yes, all of us should eat more fruits and vegetables and move our bodies often, but let’s not forget, all our bodies are unique. There is not one specific formula for everyone. But you know what the cool thing is? You get to be the expert of your own body. You can look at this idea as a challenge or as a totally awesome journey.
This journey is full of trial, error, and a whole lot of honesty. I know, a secret pill to health and happiness seems like it would be the easiest choice. But hold up–that’s just not how life works. It’s the process, your experiences , and what you learn along the way that makes these journeys so incredible.
WHERE TO START: We are not trees rooted in the ground, we can make changes and break free of our own labels. Breaking down the negative labels we put on ourselves is the first place to start. I know it’s easier said than done, but let that sh*t go. You are so much better, stronger, and more beautiful than all the negative labels you have put on yourself. Start living in the present today (see activity at the bottom of this blog!).
Our visions of health may be different based on the time of our life, current challenges we are facing, or our background. Let us be kind and patient with ourselves. Let us work hard and create a life that feels good.
Here’s my latest personal health story:
Today, my definition of health is drinking lots of water, feeding my body food and moving my body all of which make my body feel good. The truth is that most of the time it’s yummy whole foods that make me feel best, but there are some days where mint chip ice cream is exactly what I need. No guilt involved.
I had a short 3 month stint in my mid 20’s where I had just quit my corporate job and started working for myself. I had a lot of flexibility in my life, no kids, and a dual income at home. I had time and I had money. To this day, I often reference this to friends as, “the best days of my life.” I would wake up early and work from home before going on a run or attending a yoga class. Then I would pick up a green juice, coffee, and oatmeal before heading to the office to work some more. A couple of hours later I would take another break to hike or play in the ocean before heading home to do a couple more hours of work before making a delicious dinner. I was feeding my body the nutritious foods and was moving and caring for my body more than ever simply because I could. My life was a billboard for health and balance. Then two epic things happened that changed everything: I got pregnant and business got real busy.
Since that moment, I’ve had two children and business continues to thrive. My life went from selfish to selfless faster than I could say “kale salad.” In recovering from my daughter’s birth at the very end of last year, I was immediately busy with planning our biggest race of 2017. I started jogging again 7 weeks postpartum, but between work, my family, breast milk spraying everywhere, and just trying to “survive” it all, I mostly ate whatever was in front of me and ran when I could make time. To keep my sanity and happiness levels afloat, I made an agreement with myself to just focus on work and family until spring when work would level out. I was hopeful I could find more balance and personal time. In moments of feeling overwhelmed by it all, I missed those “best days of my life” and honestly had times where I questioned if I was meant to have kids or if I should quit my work.
Four months after the baby was born I got back into a routine with my running that I had missed so much. Recovering from an emergency c-section, I struggled with running in the beginning, but each day I got stronger. Nutrition was not as much of a focus at the time, but I was getting in vegetables in between coffee and croissants.
Now, eight months postpartum, I have perspective and more energy. I’m willing to get up at 5:00am to run by 6:00am if this is my only chance to workout (BTW, 5:00am seems more crazy in writing than on my phone’s alarm clock). Nutrition has become more of a focus mostly because I feel so much better when I don’t eat as many bagels (I know, it’s a sad truth). My window for fitness is smaller than ever before. The time I make to run is never convenient but I always feel better when I’m done. My time and energy to make healthy food for my family is minimal but meal planning helps make this more of a success (also, it turns out 2 year olds don’t really like salads).
I’ve reflected a lot these last eight months on what health means to me now. Some days, health means doing whatever I need to do to be happy so I can take care of all the other responsibilities I have in my life. Other days, health means starting my day with a green smoothie and being more conscious about what I am putting in my body so that I feel good during the day. Other days, health means setting my alarm for 5:00am and having coffee in the dark silence before heading out for a run.
If nothing more, this year I have learned that health doesn’t just happen. We have to be conscious and make time for it. “The best days of my life” were epic and I felt amazing, but for me that lifestyle wasn’t sustainable in order to have the family and work life that I want so badly. So it’s give and take, it’s messy, and for now it’s getting up some days at 5am.
Let’s peel back the mystery and power that we give to our “healthiest self.” Let’s create a plan, take action, and find balance. When I write things down I often feel more in control of them. Have you experienced this? I invite you to set 2 goals for yourself this week that will make you feel good (make them specific instead of general i.e. instead of “eat healthier”, name a specific action you will take). I also challenge you to spend at least one day without criticizing yourself and see how much better you feel. Life can be hard enough, bring out your inner cheerleader and leave the mean girl in the back seat. In fact, let that mean girl out of your car and let her chase your high school crush. Because you, me, and our inner cheerleaders are too busy focusing on how to make today awesome.
My health goals:
- Eat a real lunch each day instead of snacking and drinking coffee throughout the day.
- Attend one yoga class this week (Tuesday at 9:15am).
Feel free to share your goals in the comment section below!
We’re in this together!
Sweat and dreams,
She.is.beautiful Founder and Director and Mother of 2 1/2 year old boy and eight month old baby girl.