When we do everything we're told to get healthy and it just doesn't work, what do we do next? We eat what we're told to eat, avoid what we're told to avoid, pound the pavement, hit the gym, and nothing. No change. We might start to think, "That's just how I am." We might say defiantly, "That's me, that's fine, and I like it!" It's our reality, we need to accept it. Even if it's not where we want to be.
It's good to like who you are. You're likable! But it's not as good to give up on the idea that you can be inspiringly healthy and feel great. Especially when the big obstacle is that we might be following the wrong instruction manual.
There are some fairly common misconceptions about healthy behavior that simply drag us down, keep us at the doctor, and hold us where we don't want to be. Some of these conceptions come from popular wellness culture. Some come from beliefs doctors held 10 years ago, but have since been proven incorrect. Often these things aren't instantly damaging, and are just fine in moderation. A little of nearly anything is pretty much fine!
But in our natural drive to be healthy, we might do a whole lot more of something than "just a little." So it's important to know where all these guidelines come from, and which ones might be weighing us down. Here's a start.
10 "Healthy" Behaviors That Might Not Be Healthy
1. You exercise hard. You refuel hard. You party hard (a little). Repeat.
2. You know your calorie counts and tally them responsibly at every meal.
3. You've got a bathroom scale. You keep track of that dial.
4. You're up on the latest diets. You give them all a try.
5. Yoga might feel nice on a rest day, but you know you need to push it hard. No pain no gain.
6. You read your food labels carefully at the supermarket. No fat or low-fat only. If it's got oil, you're not going near it.
7. Vegan food only, please! And that goes double for desserts.
8. For meals on the go, you always carry some food bars.
9. You need your protein. You know plants don't have enough, so you get your daily serving of meat in there.
10. You use the internet as your primary source of health information.
Luckily, you can turn each of these things around.
10 Healthy Behaviors That Will Get You Healthy
1. Exercise easy, release stress rather than add it. Watch yourself become a more effective caregiver of you.
2. We're told to count calories. For most of us, this is a good one to let go. Focus on how you feel and respond to that, not to numbers on a page.
3. Throw out your scale. You can aim for numbers, or you can aim for feeling good. Try the second one.
4. Diets fail without fail. They belong to someone else, not to you. Begin with your own feeling. Experiment. Try things. See what works for you, and make your own food rules.
5. Rather than running away from ease, try running toward it. If you work in a way that puts tension into your body, your health is likely to suffer and your injury rates rise. Instead, practice in a way that lets tension leave your body; no pushing or struggling. Your athletic performance will improve, and so will your health.
6. If it's got a label, it's not exactly food; it's something constructed. That's fine, but try to eat, as much as possible, foods that don't come with a label. They grow in nature. And when it does have a label, keep it simple. You shouldn't need Google to figure out what's in there.
7. Vegan food — especially the pretend foods, heavy sauces, and desserts — is some of the most dense stuff you'll find. After you eat, it will often feel like you just swallowed a cannonball. Stick with simple, stick with nature. You'll feel much better this way.
8. Food bars often have scary things done to their ingredients. Do you know what a "protein isolate" is? Again, stick with nature. Have a banana. Have a few nuts.
9. Get your protein from wherever you like, but drop the misconception about plants. Eat what makes you feel best. Plants have just as much in the way of essential amino acids as animal meat. Keep in mind that your body doesn't take muscle from a cow leg and put it on your arm. It breaks all protein sources into amino acids, and reconstructs them as your own body.
10. Wait a second, what's up with #10?! Well, there's a trick. The internet is great. Here we are, talking to each other about health, inspiring each other. But this isn't the primary source.
YOU are the primary source of health information. The rest is support. You're it. Nobody will ever know how you feel better than you. And that's what you need to go on. How you feel.