Can I just address the elephant in the room and say the topic of healthy living is WAY overdone?
I know, incredibly ironic coming from a woman who is writing about it.
Seriously though, it seems like every time I turn around there is a new trend or method to live healthier. It’s quite an obsession in our culture: do you have the right number on the scale? Or fit the right dress size? Or have the right blood pressure number, or stress level, or use the right diet or fitness program… The list is endless, along with the list of ways to achieve said ideal goal. Can we say “confusing?” After all, how do we know what is the “right” path to follow?
It’s a fact that we have more ability to reach Olympic-level health now than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, that’s pretty sweet — I’ve done a triathlon or two myself. But in general I think we’d all agree that is an above-and-beyond standard to aim for. And we can probably agree with the research that supports stuff like avoiding obesity, having a nutrient-focused diet and maintaining proper stress levels.
Besides, I’ve got a confession to make: I tend to revolt at trends. Mostly because a trends are usually only a temporary fix. Instead, I firmly believe in being a health seeker.
What exactly do I mean by that? I’m talking about becoming knowledgeable about how your body works so you can make educated decisions and taking active steps to build on your health. This includes physical, mental and emotional health (because let’s face it, we all know emotions can have philological affects on our bodies). It’s about shucking the cultural standard of Victoria Secret and complicated programs for simple, effective truths on living healthier.
So, how did I get started like this?
Well, I need to tell you a little about my childhood…
Did I mention I believe in keeping things simple? I’ll give this to you in a nutshell:
My mom didn’t cook out of a box and fast food was a once-in-a-blue-moon thing. So my sisters and I learned how to cook real food from the get-go. And my dad, well, he hated doctors and was always outside, so guess where I learned how to be active? The end.
Needless to say, I did quite well into my adult years. Until I hit postpartum recovery with my first kiddo. It was slow, grueling and about broke me. Granted, there is a lot of stuff that goes on in your body during postpartum recover. But have you ever noticed when one health issues comes up, others follow shortly behind it? That’s what happened to me. My recovery lagged because I had neglected certain areas of my health.
All of this boils down to the core of what I believe is necessary to maintain health. I’m calling them the “Three Truths.” So without further ado, lets dive in.
The dreaded D word: diet.
There is so much content out there on the topic. Blogs, articles, research studies, documentaries…the information dedicated to this topic is endless. And for good reason; it’s no laughing matter. It really comes down to “you are what you eat.” What you put in your body is directly related to what your body puts out. So if you’re eating junk, your body can’t magically materialize proper nutrients out of it.
I won’t bore you with statistics and studies — I know you’ve seen them. Personally, I favor diets with real food. I’m talking fruits, vegetables, real unprocessed grains, real fats, non-GMO’s, grass-fed beef, anything made with real ingredients — not the ones you need a chemistry degree just to say. And everything in moderation, that means variety and portion size.
Let’s face it, food is a touchy topic. We love our food. But I can’t stress enough that this doesn’t have to be a huge, scary change. Start small in the areas you feel most convicted. If it’s soda, try nixing that this month for a healthier alternative like natural iced tea (watch out for added sugars) or go crazy and learn about drinks high in antioxidants. Maybe it’s processed snacks — try swapping those out next month. Or box or pouch side dishes at dinner, learn how to steam/braise/roast vegetables next month. These days there are so many natural alternatives in the grocery store, it’s easy to find something that fits the bill. Keep it simple, but build on it.
Move it or lose it!
Our bodies were made to move, pure and simple. And if you’ve ever pursued a fitness regimen, you’ve felt how being active has improved your stress levels and emotional state — and probably even your sleep. So incorporating some sort of movement, more than just racing the kids off to school or rushing to work to sit at a desk (or both!), is necessary. And I’m talking about more than the 10,000-steps-a-day goal (which many health professionals disagree with anyway).
If you’re the workout-at-the-gym type, awesome. But maybe you’re not; find creative activities to get you moving, preferably outdoors when you can. Learn a new sport, play a new game like frisbee golf or bocce ball, take up hiking or paddle boarding. The options are endless; just get up and go.
Don’t Expose Yourself
I’m not talking about toxic substances found in a lab or a commercial facility — though that applies if you happen to work in that kind of field! I’m actually talking about everyday products. This topic has exploded in recent years because studies have shown us how our everyday products have been linked to conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. These are the things we use to clean our houses and freshen the air or wash our laundry; even personal care products like soap, deodorant and make up.
Less severe signs of chemical overload (or chemical toxicity) include chronic stress or fatigue, sleep issues, hormone imbalances (endocrine disruptions), fertility issues, chronic pain, skin issues, digestive issues…the list goes on and on. So in addition to guarding what you put in your body with food and how you use your body with movement, guarding what you put on your body will have a big impact on your health.
This was the crux of what it took for me to start feeling better postpartum. I didn’t realize my body was working overtime not just from pushing out an almost-nine-pound baby, but dealing with all the extra yuck I had been exposing it to for years through my everyday living. I changed my diet, I became active again, but I didn’t really notice a difference until I started swapping out chemical laden products in my home with natural plant-based alternatives.
You can create better for yourself
If you haven’t seriously considered looking into these Three Truths, I strongly encourage you to become your own health seeker and dive in. It’s as complicated as you let it be. When I got started, I knew I wanted the changes to be simple and stress-free. And I was able to achieve that by taking bite-sized chunks and addressing one issues at a time.
Be ready to do your research. No just on diets or workout routines or chemical-free living, but on how your body works, what exactly hormones do, what gut health has to do with overall health, etc. Learn how to read labels: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. And just because something says “organic” or “natural” or “green” doesn’t mean it’s actually safe. It takes some digging, but I’ve got complete faith in you. And just because, I like looking things up on The Environmental Working Group and PubMed websites.
I lean heavily on a plant-based diet, organic cleaners and essential oils. With those in hand, I can take care of my whole house without hazards to my family or pets, and I can actually support my body in ways that might be missing in a mainstream just-staying-healthy lifestyle.
The biggest cause of failure I’ve notice when someone decides to live healthier is treating it like a trend. Becoming a health seeker is really becoming your own health advocate and should be a lifetime commitment. It means that you’re going to treat your body respectfully and give it the resources it needs to function properly for the rest of your life. So create a lifestyle of it. Take the stress off your body, off your mind, and build into better for yourself and your family. I have no doubt you can do this.