When I started this blog six years ago I was just looking for a platform to share my thoughts on healthy living. As a young teenager, I watched my dad suffer from Type 2 Diabetes and then suddenly pass from Pancreatic Cancer and so I became impassioned about the idea that I could have helped him in some small way. Because I remember fleeting moments of his attempt at “healthy living” and the sadness and misery he seemed to experience in the context of my naive perspective, everything I have searched for in regards to health has been to improve and create balance with more than just the physical quality of life but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual as well.
As it is my passion and, what I believe to be, my life’s purpose to share ideas and hopefully inspire others to live in a healthful way I often find myself in conversations about the idea of health. What I realize more and more is that our society is filled with myths about what healthy living looks like and until we can let go of these false beliefs, we won’t all see the potential we have to live optimally.
Myth: Being healthy means being skinny.
Truth: At our healthiest, overall state we will all still have different body shapes and sizes.
It is inaccurate to assume that a skinny person is a healthy person and vice versa. People lose and gain weight for lots of reasons including mental and physical illnesses I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Because we are all unique in how we build and store muscle and fat, judging a person’s “health” or “fitness” by their weight or even BMI is insufficient and simply doesn’t tell the whole story. This is why I see little worth in celebrating or congratulating someone on any amount of weight-loss. The truth is, it’s not always obvious how one loses weight and I would never want to encourage someone to damage their body, heart, and/or mind with extreme methods just to wear a smaller clothing size or feel valued in such a superficial, insignificant way. I truly feel that treating ourselves and others with kindness is a much better measure of healthy living than the shape or size of our bodies.
Myth: Healthy eating means consuming foods and drinks you don’t enjoy.
Truth: Foods and beverages are meant to nourish us, provide satiety, AND satisfaction–it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
I personally don’t believe there is anything “healthy” about eating something you don’t want to eat. The effects on our psyche when our body, heart, and mind are in such disagreement is just the beginning of why diet culture has messed with our society for far too long. Conversely, the idea that you aren’t being “healthy” if you decide to eat something you do enjoy is just wrong. The way we demonize food just adds a sense of taboo that makes us want to indulge in it more and then we punish ourselves with over-restriction and negative self-talk and the cycle of dieting just goes on and on from there. Sound familiar? I know it does for me.
Myth: I should work out to lose weight even if it sucks and I hate it and I keep getting hurt and it makes me miserable, etc….
Truth: Being physically active is more effective and sustainable when it’s something that makes me feel good and something I enjoy doing.
Similar to eating for nutrition, fullness, and pleasure, I don’t believe there is anything “healthy” about any physical exertion that isn’t in some way enjoyable. The thing is, some people will try being physically active for one reason–to lose weight–and then that creates a series of pitfalls that will cause them to suddenly stop. By being motivated just to lose weight some will go too hard, too fast and then injure themselves rendering them unable to continue for some time and so a steady, healthy habit is never created. In other cases some won’t lose weight fast enough and then they feel discouraged to keep going at all because they are only motivated by that one thing.
It takes time for our bodies to figure out what we’re doing when we change our lifestyle and going from one extreme to another won’t ever change us overnight in a safe and healthy way. What’s more effective is for us to try as many physical activities as we can and explore ourselves and our bodies. If we get to know who we are again with an open curiosity as we once had as children we can then keep doing the things that spark something inside of us because it’s fun and we feel better because of it. Becoming physically fit, whatever that looks like for each of us, will then be a side effect of the self-care lifestyle we have created by searching for inner joy instead of something as meaningless as weight-loss.
When I recall memories of my dad and the little time I had with him relative to my years as an adult, I try to remember him at his best. I envision him at his happiest, with the most joy, and peace as I can. But the moments that I remember him in pain, sad to be measuring out food he didn’t really want to eat, and as I think about all the things he could have invested in during his last few years are what motivates me today. I do not wish that misery on anyone. When I recognize the physical, mental, and emotional challenges I see in others I want nothing more than to help inspire and encourage any amount of change. As a teacher, writer, and advocate for truly healthy living, it is my hope that I do.