I feel like this post has been a long time coming. In fact, I’ve sat down several times to write it, but I always got stuck as I tried to get coherent thoughts to hit the screen. Hopefully today will be different.
My birthday is on Sunday. I’ll be 34 years old. Thinking about a new year always pushes me to reflect on those important life questions: What do I want to do with my life? What kind of person do I want to be?
I don’t think it’s shocking to say I have a passion for healthy living. I mean, this site alone shows that it’s something I believe in. With nearly 700 posts here on Thank Your Body you could say that passion has fueled my desire to help others live a healthier life.
My story is like so many others. I grew up on a Standard American Diet, eating lots of processed foods. Most days I avoided the obvious “junk” food offenders, but I also fell victim to the myriad of marketing tactics that affect so many conscious consumers. I bought a lot of fake food parading as health food with labels like “low fat,” “diet,” “healthy,” “all natural,” etc.
Then I hit my sweet spot.
A few months before becoming pregnant with my first child things just clicked. Healthy living became truly easy for me. I lived by the mantra to “eat real food.” I learned to love my veggies. I embraced healthy fats. I bought food that had been raised humanely. It wasn’t rocket science–I simply skipped the processed garbage (most of the time).
The effects were incredible.
Stubborn weight that lingered through hours of dance, exercise, and “diets” melted off without any effort. I slept better. My skin improved. I had so much energy. I just felt awesome.
That feeling carried with me through an easy pregnancy. It helped me recovery after a difficult labor. It propelled me into motherhood.
I will forever be grateful for the changes I made. I wanted everyone to experience the vitality I did. I poured my energy into this site. I read books. Lots of books. I did lots of research. I connected with like-minded folks. I was going full-speed ahead, sharing what I knew with anyone who would listen.
That’s when things started to change.
It was really subtle at first. I started stumbling upon lots of contradicting information. Eat this, don’t eat that, etc..
Of course, these articles weren’t telling me to ditch boxed crackers or diet soda. Suddenly real, wholesome foods were being demonized.
I didn’t let it bother me much. After all, I had proven to myself that what I was doing was working. But still, the contradictions took root in my mind. The more I read the more confused I got. Dietary dogmas were sprouting up everywhere. The zealous leaders of each chosen dietary “religion” (be it vegan, paleo, etc.) loudly declared their method for “healthy eating” to be the only road to optimum health. I held my ground to my own food beliefs, but that growing movement for extreme diets was creating chaos within me. What had once been so easy was all of a sudden difficult.
My relationship with food changed.
The dogma continued as the internet exploded with information on what to eat and what to avoid. Grains will kill you. Raw greens will kill you. Dairy will kill you. Meat will kill you. Potatoes, kale, tomatoes, bell peppers, cheese… one by one, every food that I had loved during that amazing healthy transitioned were at some point and by some “expert” held up as the thread that would unravel my health.
On top of the “Do NOT eats” were the never-ending headlines filled with a long list of things that “must” be included in any truly “healthy” diet. From essential super foods to “most” important nutrients to “miracle” herbs. Suddenly healthy living required a minute-by-minute commitment.
Throughout it all I held my ground for balanced living. I wrote about my hope for people to use common sense in their health (here, here, and here, for starters). I really hoped Thank Your Body would be a voice of reason in a world that was so suddenly black or white.
As Thank Your Body transitioned from hobby blog to business I felt a need to keep on top of all the information. As a result, I noticed my own health beginning to slip. Nothing major, but still noticeable. I was no longer living in that sweet spot. For two years I blamed my health changes on either pregnancy (with my second child) or sleep issues. But then my baby wasn’t a baby. And I was sleeping better than I had in years (not perfect, but still better). My excuses had run out, but still my health didn’t really improve. I had to admit to myself that something was wrong.
That’s when I had to remind myself of one very important fact:
Nor is processed junk food the only source of disease. While I firmly believe that what we put in (or on) our body does make a difference, it’s not the only determining factor to good health.
When I look back at my “sweet spot” period, I realize that during that time I wasn’t just healthy, I was incredibly happy about the changes I was making. I believed in what I was doing. I didn’t worry about the possibility of eating too many grains, raw greens, or dairy. I didn’t stress about every micronutrient. I took everything one step at a time and didn’t fret about nutrition, especially between meals.
That joy made the difference. I wasn’t consumed with seeking perfect health. I was happy about the food I was eating, but I wasn’t worried about eating something that the health world just declared “off limits.” I wasn’t worried about avoiding cancer, cheating death, or living for ever. I wasn’t trying to lose weight or look a certain way. I was simply nourishing my body by nourishing my relationship with food. I was also nourishing other aspects of my life at the same time.
As it turns out, the health world can be really unhealthy.
The past couple of months have been amazing as I’ve taken a step back from the health world. Sure, I’ve continued to share delicious recipes and tweak some old posts, but I’ve spent a majority of my time nourishing my body, mind, and soul in different ways. I’ve unfollowed the majority of health websites I once so diligently followed (not because they were bad, just because I needed some breathing room). I’ve traded in my nutrition books for ones of meditation, business, and other interests.
I’m still eating “clean,” as the saying goes, but I am listening to my body instead of the internet. And you know what? It’s been amazing.
Thank Your Body isn’t going anywhere. I still plan on using it as a voice of reason in a world of deafening nutritional battlecries. I am also spending my time doing other things that nourish my whole self. In fact, one of the projects I’ve been working on for the past several months is almost ready to share. My childhood best friend and I have been interviewing amazing, everyday folks who are living their dreams. These are people who know how to nourish their lives in ways food can’t. It’s been such a fulfilling project, and one I will share more about on Monday.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Because I’m guessing at least one of you feels the same way: bogged down by all the “shoulds” of healthy living that you’ve forgotten why being healthy even matters. When we are grounded in good health we can better live out our life with happiness, purpose, and vitality.
My hope is that if you have found yourself pulled down into the quicksand of nutrition that you’ll remember how powerful you are. Pull yourself out, and listen to your body. Your body is wiser than you can imagine. Don’t allow the obsessive nature of the nutrition wars keep you from finding balance. Don’t let “healthy” living distract you from your life. Take some time to think about the other things that nourish your soul: You family, friends, passions, and work. Leave some room for fun.
Yes, I believe you should eat well. I also think you should work well, play well, and live well.
Let your life nourish your whole self. I promise, that’s the real secret to a happiness.