I've written a lot of posts about body positivity lately. And I got to thinking: What if you thought I didn't care about health? So, I thought I'd do a little post about how to focus on health and still love yourself as you are. The two aren't mutually exclusive; in fact, they go quite well together. Because our mental / emotional health affects our body too.
Health and morality do not meet. You are not a bad person if you are struggling with something in your body, or how to balance things in your physical life. But, hey, don't we all want to have that energy to pursue the things we love? If we can do a few things to make ourselves feel healthier, why not?
Anyway, these are my little health tips. I'm not a pro at this, but these are little, happy, casual, balanced ways I look after my health:
1. Take time to prepare a healthy meal every mealtime. Yes, it's an effort, and with a busy life, it can sometimes be hard, but you'll find that if you fill yourself up with healthy foods, you're less likely to fill up on fast foods or unhealthy snacks. You can still have the snacks, because oftentimes, it's the prohibition that makes us binge more, but you'll crave them less (or less of them) when you are already full and nourished. I still snack, but the snacks don't make the bulk of my nutrition. And healthy foods don't have to be boring foods. Spend that little extra on those gorgeous berries for your breakfast cereal. Colour your plate. You're worth it. (I struggle with quite a few food intolerances and allergies. At times it annoys me as I can't eat sweets and chocolates or many processed foods anymore. My doctor said it's a good thing, and I've been thinking, really, maybe it is. 😊)
2. Keep moving. This one is so hard if you're spending your whole day at the office behind a screen. That's why I like to go for a walk on the beach most weekends. If you don't get to move as often as you want or at all in a week, don't give up. Try your next free moment. The most important thing is to find a form of exercise you enjoy. It's when we do things we hate or just endure, just in the name of health, or to look good, we can't sustain them long-term. Find something you love doing where it doesn't even feel like you're exercising, like dancing, or walking in a favourite nature spot. Have a break or two in the middle of your work day - do some stretches or walk around a bit. I like to go to the garden, look or tend to my plants, and sit in the sun. (See point 5)
3. Don't let pursuing your health become your main focus in life unless that's what you do for a living or you're on a mission to nyx chronic illness. As soon as it takes up too much of your time, you are getting out of balance and your mental, emotional, and relationship health will suffer. If you need to focus on it for a while to get things back on track, great, but don't let it become an obsession. This is something you have to be careful with food. I know I've had a tendency to get orthorexia (becoming obsessed with healthy foods) in the past. It never helped me and it made me more sick. Food should be a pleasure and a joy. We affect our nutrition oftentimes more with the thoughts we have about the food we are eating than the actual food. Studies have shown that if we feel guilty about eating something, we don't get the full nutritional benefit of the food. All food has some nutrition in it. Let's be grateful for every morsel we get.
4. Sleep. Yes, I know, it's so hard to get enough of this bugger. I'm a night owl; I relate. But even if you take a nap as soon as you get home from work, or in a quiet spot in your lunch hour, why not? Best thing is to try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. If you can't, try to catch up a bit on the weekend. I know they say that doesn't work, but I think it certainly helps. Try not to overcommit yourself on weekends and week nights. Another thing I did was download this app on my computer called Flux and on my phone called Twilight - they take the blue light off my screens. The blue light keeps us awake at night. If you get out into real sunshine during the day, you'll also sleep better at night. I think one of the surest ways to mess up your sleep cycle is to not get enough calories in your diet and to overexercise. If you find yourself getting up in the middle of the night to pee, you most likely are not eating enough or resting your body enough from movement (unless you're pregnant, of course). It's a sign that your metabolism is slow. A good way to check whether your metabolism is fast enough is to take your temperature first thing in the morning. I think it should be above 98.6F (37C).
5. Get outside in the sun and fresh air. We miss out on so much in our modern lifestyles. We need sunshine. We spend too much time indoors. Find something you enjoy doing outdoors and make a plan to do it at least once a week, if you can. If you're like me and can't drink dairy milk, watch your Vitamin D levels. I have to take supplements.
6. Try to avoid eating lots of processed meats. As nice as they are, they should be a treat every now and then, not the main meat that you eat. Eating less meat helps our planet and our bodies, and even more so cutting out those ones that have been processed. There are so many interesting meals you can make with just veggies or with healthier, lean meats. (But don't feel guilty if you have that ham pizza; the guilt is worse for you than that bit of ham.)
7. Watch the fats that you eat. Good fats are things like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, avocado. Try to avoid processed vegetable oils, especially fried at a high temp.
Anyway, I'm guessing you know all this already, but I hope I gave you the feeling that working toward or maintaining our health can be a self-loving thing that is not weighed down with self-loathing and shame. That is my intention. It should be fun.