Different stages of life have garnered very different answers to this question. I have pursued health for many reasons, depending on the decade, trying different programs, rules, trainers, classes, diets, spiritual healing, and relaxation methods. All have worked in some capacity, but none of them individually was the silver bullet answer.
For most of my life, health has been an external pursuit. My goal was typically a flat stomach with no “cottage cheese” on my ass and strong arms. And while I believe that health is about so much more than how you look on the outside, this goal did get me started on my health journey and for that I am grateful.
I believe it all started after I went into remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer) at the age of 15. I was in high school, and I lost all my hair and was down to a teeny tiny size of 80 pounds from the chemotherapy and radiation. I had zero curves and honestly looked like a young boy and was mistaken as one more than once. First, please know that I was beyond relieved that I had lived through this horrible experience. I was just happy to be alive. AND unfortunately, I didn’t have that “aha” moment about the preciousness of life that many people seem to have after going through cancer. Instead, I was tired of being seen as the girl with cancer and I just wanted to be normal. And at that point, being normal meant I wanted was some boobs, hair, and a hot bod.
My parents, bless them, made me drink ensure shakes to gain weight and then I got a job at Ben & Jerry’s where I downed shake after shake after shake. I finally got my weight back, and then some, resulting in need of some serious toning.
This is about the time that I learned about the power of physical activity, intervals, and lifting weights. Even though I was a dancer, this was the first time I truly felt like an athlete. I felt strong and I loved it. Nutrition was never really my jam until recently. I had a very strict moderation is key mentality, which meant that I believed I could eat whatever, whenever, as long as I did so in moderation. I didn’t want to cut anything out and I don’t really like being told what to do. Nutrition seemed to be a lot of right and wrong and aggressive opinions and so I just avoided it completely…until later in my life. I took the food journey VERY slowly.
Over the years, I have tried Whole30, learned about yoga and the power of breathing and connecting with yourself and reducing stress both on and off the mat. Ieventually even became a certified yoga instructor. I have indulged in caveman workouts (or as everybody else calls it, CrossFit). I started training for an Ironman, then quickly stopped training for an Ironman. I took up meditation. I went sugar-free, only to realize it was causing me more stress than it was worth. Now I allow myself a treat here and there if it feels right and I do not berate myself for it! I learned about mindful eating, tried aerial yoga workouts, and attempted juice cleanses, which basically made me poop my pants (ugh no lie). Some things I loved. Some things weren’t for me. And I guess that is actually the point.
There is no one size fits all way to be healthy. Not for me. Not for anyone.
It is up to each of us to get out there and try different approaches and see what feels right for ourselves. Some days, I want to hop on a spin bike and feel my muscles screaming for me to stop. Other days, I want to savor a delicious spicy chocolate chip cookie. And other days, I want the cookie but realize that I actually just want a hug and the cookie is a poor substitute for human contact and feeling loved. No matter what, I strive to be aware of why I am making the choice I am making. Health is listening to what is right for me right now, while always having a general direction of physical, mental, and sritual health as my beacon, and allowing for mistakes along the way. And having Jenell (my buddy) around helps to be honest, accountable, andtalk through my struggles and my wins as they happen.
At the end of the day we only have this one life. We get to choose how we live it, which is actually pretty cool. I personally don’t want my days filled trying to live up to some predetermined set of rules that don’t take the current me situation into consideration. I want to feel strong, have crazy hair, be connected, and laugh a lot. And the hot bod that I always wanted, I realize that I already always had it…minus the boobs.
Keep it weird.