What is health to you?
This question is an interesting one to me based off responses I get… It seems simple, but honestly it has some layers and areas that are WAY more important to some than others.
My impression of health for SO long was a balance of eating healthy and exercising so I could have energy, feel good, and live long. Additionally, minimal prescription medication, balanced blood sugars, and, honestly, a bangin body. That doesn’t sound so off, right?
Well, let’s break that down a little.
Eating healthy. For the record, my areas of “improvement” for MY health, may not be YOURS. I am a female, have an autoimmune condition, and additional other variables. However, I do feel like I was very misled with what was recommended for me and what was deemed “healthy”, when ultimately, it made me way sicker.
For the longest time, I believed I was “eating healthy”. I would eat whole grains like bread, tortillas, pasta, rice, and quinoa, fruits/veggies (primarily apples, bananas, carrots, soybeans, other canned legumes, maybe some packaged salad mixes with dressing), oatmeal, peanut butter by the spoonful, and some protein from tuna or other seafood. I was a “pescatarian”, largely because of being told animal products were not only awful for the environment, inhumane, and bad for my health.
I would like to take a moment to reiterate that I am not demonizing ANY of these foods. Though, eating these foods regularly and thinking I was doing everything right, I still wasn’t feeling great. My blood sugars were also not stellar. I remember getting a sleep study done because I was just SO tired every day and couldn’t figure out why. What did they do? Well, after not asking me a single thing about my diet, getting hooked up to 20 electrodes and staying in a room for 36 hours, I was prescribed Ritalin due to “hypersomnia” and told I snore. Gee, thanks. Everyone in all my team sports growing up could have told me that. Actually, they did..
Once I started to take a look at more literature and dive into the state of the gut microbiome and the QUALITY, nutrient density, and bioavailability of the foods I eat, I started to realize something… I’ve been lied to.
Throughout childhood, young adult-hood, grad school, etc. There were significant ulterior motives that extended to influence my food decisions and, ultimately, my health.
I started eating more grass-fed beef, free range poultry/eggs, wild seafood, veggies, seasonal fruits, and truly got my hands dirty in the kitchen.
Did I mention I was made fun of in grad school because of my poor cooking knowledge?
Well, I started looking up recipes and finding commonalities amongst seasoning blends which enabled me to play around with my own versions. I learned how my body responds to certain foods because of my continuous glucose monitor, and began to skew my diet toward foods that work well, while trying not to be entirely rigid around foods I enjoyed but weren’t on my “great” list. My pallet started to change, I became more “stimulated” by whole foods, my gut changed, and I began to understand food as both pleasure and functionality.
My energy changed, my gut improved, I no longer was bloated, and my blood sugars got WAY better.
Next, exercise. Now, I won’t get too crazy into this as I believe movement to be great in ANY way shape or form, but I definitely think this can be misleading too. While being a vegetarian, I was sitting on my butt 20 hours a day studying/in school/sleeping, working out for maybe 1.5 , and spending the rest of the active times just moving around very mildly. Since I started working at CoreFit, the way I approach fitness dramatically transformed. I now workout to feel empowered, strong, and capable. I work on mobility, flexibility, and foundational exercises for myself and clients to help promote living well OUTSIDE of the gym. Fitness isn’t just about putting in the hour a day at the gym, it is about creating a life that involves moving easier, better, and more to enhance vitality and longevity- reduce injuries, keep up with kids/grandkids/friends, hike mountains, bike trails, and see the world. It has been incredibly rewarding to discover exercise that can have this effect.
Additionally, research shows that moving more THROUGHOUT the day is far more beneficial than being sedentary the majority and working out hard for a brief period. Basically, it makes sense now that my bis/tris or chest/back workouts weren’t doing much for me… I needed MORE movement and believe many others do as well.
I also realized how incredibly important MENTAL health is to overall health. I started incorporating meditation, self-reflection, and daily journaling into my routine, but this is, admittedly, an area I struggle with the most. Exercise and eating-for the most part- are “easier” for me. Taking time to de-stress, optimize sleep, journal, take time away from my phone, etc. are more challenging but also imperative to overall health. It took a while, but once I also realized the mental toll type 1 diabetes has taken on my mental health, I was able to start processing a bit of my past around the diagnosis and found that to be incredibly valuable.
Last, surrounding myself with people that inspire me and help me grow has helped tremendously. I started joining groups with people with Type 1, listening to podcasts that helped motivate and inspire me professionally, investing in my family, and spending time getting filled by people at work that practice habits that I want to practice. Filtering out relationships that aren’t doing much for you is SUPER challenging, especially if you feel like you’ve created a bond with someone. I’ve taken a lot of time to see what friendships are/were built based solely off drinking/partying/manipulation and it’s taken some time to find how to create space and see if they are relationships worth investing in. I really try to make it a point to connect outside of any intoxicants if thats where a relationship started, and see how I can contribute to another and see what I can learn as well.
I still have some lingering thoughts around wanting a bangin’ bod, and fighting the urge to believe that that’s what health is due to it being so engrained for so long, but these other components have helped tremendously with my approach to health.
This has been a PROCESS, and there is still much work to be done. But overall, proper education, implementation, trial and error, and self-love have been game-changers for me and my clients.
What is health to you?