You get a whole load of honesty here on Find Where You Fit, and this is no exception.
First, let me tell you, I started writing this over the summer and walked away and tried a few more times again since then. I want to get this right. Like, totally right. I enjoy telling stories and sharing events. I like science, reporting what I see, and giving my interpretation, but I have never written a narrative on “what I believe is healthy.” Why not? Because what you eat and do really is your own damn business and nobody likes to be told what to do. I really really really don’t believe in diets, covers of women’s magazines, or cult-like fitness plans. Can we please stop preaching to each other about what’s healthy and what’s not?! Please!
I got to thinking about why these are so popular, and maybe it’s the simplicity. In a way, perhaps being told to eat this not this is black and white and just what you need. If that works for you and you’re all hunky dory as my dad would say, then don’t change a darn thing. But…is it just me, or does it seem like health is sort of this thing on a pedestal that we are all striving for but never feeling like we truly achieve? Don’t get me wrong, goals are great. But if someone asked you right now if you made healthy choices today, I bet you’d sort them into one category you feel good about and one you feel badly about. I taught a fitness class, made a smoothie for lunch, and got my kids involved in physical activity. Yay me! I also ate a bunch of truffle fries (mmm!), drank beer and not enough water, and did not meet my caloric expenditure goal on my apple watch. Womp, womp.
For SO long, I fixated on the latter. I would mentally go through my day, swearing off the fries tomorrow and planning a double-hard workout. Maybe I’d skip alcohol all week. Maybe if I just ate oatmeal, salads, and lean protein for a week or so that would be good. And never skipped a day at the gym. Damn, I’d look so hot. There’s no reason I can’t do that! I called it determination without realizing I was actually beating myself up over something that made me happy…or should have.
Happy, huh? Swearing off things that make me happy?! Yeah, that sounds real healthy. Speaking of which, I’m not the only one who assigns kale, cardio, and tall glasses of water to that term, right? Give or take some weights, yoga, and maybe a chicken breast or a protein shake, that’s pretty much the image we are given. You ask someone who has had chicken breast and steamed broccoli for every meal all week if it made them happy and get back to me. Actually, if it did, that’s totally fine! Again, no preaching here. But for most of us, we seem to have this inverse relationship between things meant to make us healthier and our contentment.
I’ve been thinking this through in a bit more depth lately. It all got started when Alexis, dietician and owner of Alchemy and Trism, wrote a thoughtful piece about redefining healthful eating. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read her insightful and refreshing approach to nutrition. She has transformed her mindset from being a “label detective” with a very restrictive diet, concerned about the opinions of those who look to her for advice, to a happier healthier role model, who listens to her intuition, feelings, and cravings. Bit by bit, I’ve started looking at all of my choices this way.
It’s like this. From time to time, I walk with my kids a half mile to and from the local ice cream shop. I used to feel pride and satisfaction over the brisk walk but guilt over the delicious ice cream. “Oh well, it’s all in balance. I’ll ‘eat clean’ for dinner and make it up for it.” And that felt pretty healthy to me. And that does have some merit it to it. BUT, I was assigning “good” to the walk and “bad” to the ice cream. I sometimes skipped the scoop for myself and decided that felt like the healthy decision. Was I happier that way? Well, you can take a guess. If you’re measuring its health in grams of sugar and fat, hell no ice cream isn’t healthy. Right? Do you know what’s healthy, though? The happiness that comes along with trading bites with a 4-year-old (when she’s actually willing to share) and genuinely letting in the happiness that you feel with of a darn good scoop dark chocolate ice cream. That’s what I was missing. Yes, balance is half the story, and if we had ice cream for snack, a healthy dinner is wise, and usually what we do. But I was forgetting to enjoy my more indulgent choices, and I had failed to recognize that it’s healthy to make childhood memories and teach them how to lick the drips “around the world” before they dribble down the cone.
Don’t just take my word for it! Even the queen of the cream, Jeni Britton Bauer, spoke to (and fed) me and a handful of other bloggers at an event last week along with Piada and shared a similar message. She eats a mostly plant-based diet, but when it comes to indulgences, don’t take shortcuts. When I asked her about “healthier” ice creams that sacrifice taste and texture, she said she’s rather eat an incredible roasted head of cauliflower. Here, here!
I don’t have a story of gaining and losing weight. I never starved myself nor packed on 30 pounds during a difficult year, unless you count pregnancy and the normal fluctuations that come along with that. In fact, my body itself has always appeared from the outside to be pretty consistent. But if you could see my mind, my attitudes, and emotions about nutrition and exercise, you’d have one of those flashy Instagram side-by-sides with a sad picture on the left and a glossy, tan, happy, slender, pretty me on the right. Gaaaawd I wish we could make those before/after show how we feel. Because DAMN I feel good.
So I have a suggestion. And it’s just a suggestion, because please, do your thing and live your own life. But this year, instead of making all of your resolutions to change your actions, resolve to re-think health, feel less guilt, let in the happy, eat ice cream with your kids or best friends, strive to be better, love yourself, enjoy the eff out of your rest day(s), and nourish your body.