What does it mean to you to be healthy? What does being healthy look like and feel like for you?
One of the things that I love most about this blog and our blog community is that although we talk a lot about food, this blog is really a place to talk about what it means to live our healthiest, happiest, and fullest life. As a certified holistic health coach, one of the greatest lessons that I could possibly share with anyone is that your health is not just about your physical body — it’s about emotional, mental, and spiritual health too. So, I thought we’d spend some time today talking more about what it really means to be healthy and my philosophies around food, health, and life in general.
When it comes down to it, I really have three simple guidelines that I follow:
#1 Moderation and The 80/20 Rule
For a big part of my life, I categorized foods in two ways: either a food was “good” or it was “bad.” I don’t know about you, but as soon as I am told that I can’t or shouldn’t have something, that’s exactly what I want. As a result, I spent many, many years trying to guilt myself into avoiding the forbidden “bad” foods, only to wind up with failed willpower and eating way too much junk overall. Several years ago as I began to clean up my diet and eat more fresh, whole foods, I found a better balance by using The 80/20 Rule.
The 80/20 Rule is essentially this: 80% of the time I focus on eating fresh, healthful foods that make my body feel strong and vibrant and 20% of the time I allow myself to have treats (or less-than-optimal foods).
Over time, I’ve found that eating with balance actually helps me to eat better overall because I get to enjoy healthy foods that I love while not feeling deprived of treats from time-to-time. And as I have applied this rule to other areas of my life, I have found myself enjoying my workouts more, focusing on quality time (instead of the quantity of time) spent with those I love, and feeling more balance in all areas of my life.
#2 Listen to my body and trust what it tells me
Listening to my body is a huge one for me. I have personally experienced a variety of health issues throughout my life and the way I have managed to get through each one is by listening to my body and trusting the messages it sends me. When I say that I listen to my body, I simply mean that I notice how I feel after I eat certain foods. I believe in the concept of bio-individuality and that everyone’s body is a little different. This means that foods and exercises that makes me feel great might not work for someone else, and vice versa.
There are hundreds of different diets and ways of eating, and I do not believe that there is one perfect way of eating that works for everyone. One of my biggest pet peeves with the nutrition world is that there are so many different “experts” out there preaching that their way is the best — and, most of these diets are at complete odds with one another. I don’t know about you, but if I tried to follow every new nutritional fad out there, well, it wouldn’t be possible and I would drive myself crazy. The world of nutrition and health is constantly changing and evolving and I have found that trusting my own body makes the most sense for me.
I have also found that what my body needs and wants changes over time. As my workout routine shifts, my career shifts, or my social relationships shift, all of these things have an effect on my body. As we grow and change, I believe that we constantly need to be re-evaluating what we are eating, how we are eating, and how we are living in general.
#3 Remembering that my entire life is connected
And this brings me to my final point: your life is a system and each part impacts the others. I can’t expect to feel my best if I am eating crappy food, but food isn’t the only thing that determines my health and happiness. Being healthy isn’t just about the physical stuff like eating better and getting exercise – it’s about all aspects of your health: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. --Click to tweet it!
Our country tends to put a lot of emphasis on what we can do physically for our health: eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking water, and exercising. But for some reason the conversation stops there. Our lives are made up of so much more than food and fitness. Think about your career, friendships, romantic relationships, spiritual practices, hobbies, or finances. When one of these areas is lacking or completely draining you, it impacts other areas of your life and you as a whole.
My personal struggle is that I tend to work too much and not schedule in time to do fun things. For many years, I also put everyone else’s needs before mine and I constantly found myself feeling burned out, exhausted, and unhappy. However, as I became aware of these things, I began to take more time for myself, do more things for pleasure, and build stress-reducing activities into each day. I also began to spend more time chewing my food, eating slowly, and really taking the time to enjoy it.
Once I began to address the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of my life, in conjunction with the physical, my health completely changed. Practicing self care and building pleasure into all areas of my life is still an ongoing lesson that I learn each and every day, but I notice a difference when I take care of myself and when I don’t. The path to total wellness looks different for each person, but if we don’t include our emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing in addition to our physical body, we are missing key pieces along the way.
What guidelines do you follow for living your healthiest and happiest life? And what have you learned about caring for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing?
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