Be healthy. Eat healthy. Simple, right? You nod vigorously, and enthusiastically say “Right, sure! But um, *embarrassed look-away* let me just ask one teeny tiny question to clarify: ‘Health’ means…What, exactly?”
The confusion starts when we try to define health as something we either have or don’t have. Humor me for a moment and consider an alternative.
- Eating delicious foods we prepare ourselves, then lovingly share with friends and family. For me, this means deep-dish apple pie with homemade cream over the holidays; in summertime, this means fresh salads and seasonal veggies and BBQ chicken.
- Tuning into our hunger cues. Hungry means eat, just as green means ‘go,’ until we’re satisfied. End of story. (Eating real food, not hyperpalatable food-like-product made in a lab, makes this concept easier). Ignoring hunger and fullness cues, eating according to a clock, logging every morsel consumed in our Apps, voluntarily ‘shredding’ for a competition or “complaining” about all of the gluten-meat-dairy-soy-carby foods we “just can’t have.” Glorifying self-inflicted restriction does not make us martyrs.
- Understanding that aesthetics and health can absolutely go hand-in-hand, but aesthetics do not automatically equal ‘health.’ Know the difference.
- Understanding that friends and family want us to live well and prosper. Pseudoscientific documentaries, diet plans, and diet calculators don’t give 2 shits about us.
- Attaching our self-worth to something other than the scale number. How exactly will life be ‘so much better’ after hitting that magic number? How about “sleeping more soundly, lifting more weight, being able to run a 5K, taking walks because it makes us feel amazing?”
- Respecting that the body thrives on variety, and being able to eat about damn near everything is respectable in itself. Contrary to popular belief, we will not spontaneously combust after ingesting a piece of bread. Or pasta. Or animal product. Or piece of cheese. We will, however, wither up if we resort to air…or photosynthesis. Food-fearing hoopla doesn’t get a place at my table.
7. Building a basic understanding of ‘food’ vs. ‘food-like products,’ such that we pick the former more often than the latter, such that we don’t rely on sexy media headlines or talk shows to dictate our daily food choices. Emphasis on ‘more often,’ not ‘every single time.’
- Exercising as a way to feel centered and connected to our bodies; to move and take up space in whatever way feels fun. Not every session needs to be ‘balls to the wall’ to be effective. Let’s use exercise as a tool to feel powerful and strong in the vessels we inhabit.
- To acknowledge that we’re all just a little messed up…and that’s OK. Me? I have what Papa Dimi would call “a stronger-than-normal fight-or-flight response.” That’s code for, I’m cool as a cucumber…until I’m not. Then I’m a stressed out, withdrawn, anxious, shell of a person with a shitty mindset. The best medicine is a combination of meditation, movement, laughter, and social interaction. It takes a village (and a little introspection, and a lot of time) to learn our personal triggers. Invest in this individual process.
- Being unapologetically truthful with ourselves. Nobody cares to hear just how busy we are, or how we just don’t have the time to eat well. The truth is, we’re all allotted 24-hours per day, and how we choose to spend it is up to us. Understand that radical honesty deserves the utmost respect: Try “I choose to prioritize my friends and work at this time. While I know how to eat well/cook/shop, I choose to focus my efforts on other parts of my life at this time…and I’m unashamedly OK with that.” Say it for me, but most importantly for yourself. Stop the cycle of shame and guilt for not always doing what we ‘should.’
- Practicing self-compassion. Take a load off from time to time to gather stressors and worries in one deep breath…and Let. Them. Go. We are complicated creatures, and beautifully so.