Healthy. Most people associate this word with ridiculous amounts of kale, green juices, and back-to-back Soul Cycle classes. If you’ve been on Instagram in, I don’t know, the last year or so, you will no doubt have noticed the massive uptick in health accounts. Most of these accounts are made by women who use Instagram to document their health journeys. I am one of those women; I have one of those accounts. And while these accounts can be great, they help perpetuate this unrealistic, extreme version of health. It’s the type of health that looks like only eating carbs before sundown, getting in your crazy, HIIT, sweat-monster workout in before 6am, dedicating two days a week to drinking straight lemon water and consuming nothing else (thanks, but no thanks). Do not get me wrong, all of these things: dietary planning, push-yourself workouts, and even lemon juice, have their place. They are all individually very healthy things. If being vegan or dairy free or pescetarian is what your body truly needs, it is YOUR body and you should do what’s best for it. But apart from this, when you find yourself stuck in a regimen where you HAVE to stick to ALL of them all the time, and any sort of wavering induces anxiety or guilt – that, my friend, is unhealthy.
As a society we feel this immense pressure to conform to all of these different health routines simultaneously. These regimes are strict and constrictive, and they’re all disguised under this brand of ‘healthy.’ Don’t eat meat, don’t eat gluten, oh also don’t eat dairy, and stay away from any starchy fruits…so what am I left with, water and berries? Sorry, but this girl’s gotta eat, and I mean eat. Nor do I have any interest in working my body to the point where it feels like it’s consuming itself and I dread going to the gym. I want to be excited to work out because I am taking care of my body. I want to enjoy my body and feel good about how strong it is, rather than being guilted into workouts. I have definitely been down that path where I have succumbed to all of this ‘healthiness.’ I have restricted all sorts of things from my diet (I really basically only ate things that tasted and looked like cardboard, HA!). I have run hundreds of miles burning holes through several pairs of Nikes in a crazy short amount of time. And in all of this, was I healthy? Absolutely not. My skin looked kinda green, my hair was falling out, I felt faint after walking up stairs. But more importantly, my internal compass was WAY off. Instead of investing my time and energy into things like people I love, activities that nourish me, I invested it into pursuing this insane ideal that had me exhausted, overemotional, and frankly selfish. I neglected relationships, commitments, and did not treat my body how it deserved to be treated.
So then, what is healthy? Like I said before, eating greens, getting in a daily sweat, sleeping a good 7-8 hours are all fantastic things. Pushing yourself really hard during your workouts on some days is so important, but so is embracing days where your biggest workout is walking to the nearest coffee shop to get your daily fix. I think that healthy is finding the perfect balance, what works for YOU and your body (note: YOU, not the person next to you or anyone else), and embracing it and giving yourself some grace. Eat tacos, burgers, milkshakes, but also eat your kale and your berries and broccoli. Enjoy HIIT circuits, sprints, and spin classes, but also take time to do yoga, go on walks, and nap. I hope my blog and my Instagram account reflect this balance and care for my body, rather than that constant pursuit of this unsustainable ‘healthiness.’ If it starts to reflect the latter, let me know. That is absolutely not what I want, for myself or for whoever happens across my page. After countless years, I think I have finally found my groove in this new balance, this new definition of ‘health.’ I hope that you, whoever you are, can find comfort and freedom in this new definition of health, too.