A few years ago, I had a major wake-up call when I went into acute kidney failure. Until then, I spent a lot of time abusing my body mentally and physically. In my late teens, I started feeling an intense pressure to be thin, and developed a real self-hate for my body. I tried every fad diet on the market, all of which left me feeling hungry, miserable and defeated. I was a horrible person to myself and everyone around me.
After my kidneys failed, I woke up and said I'm not living like this anymore.
I started out on a journey to clean up my mind, body and soul. Five years later, I'm 30 pounds lighter, I'm more inspired, more creative, less irritable, more energetic and a better person to myself and everyone around me.
I knew I had to take what I had learned on this journey and use it to help others. Here are some important lessons I've learned along the way.
1. If you want to change the way you look and feel, start with what you're putting in your body.
I used to spend hours at the gym and arrive home and throw back a pint of ice cream. I quickly learned you can't outrun a bad diet. So start with developing healthier eating habits and build on those.
2. Understand that there's no "one-size-fits-all" approach.
What might work for one person, might not be right for you. With all this talk of Paleo, low carb, the Atkins diet, veganism and gluten-free, it can be difficult to figure out a lifestyle that works for you. But here's the thing — different things work for different people. It might take some trial-and-error, but when you find a lifestyle that works for you and makes you happy, stick with it!
3. Don't freak out if you "fail" or "break the rules."
Does adopting a healthy lifestyle mean you never eat pizza again? No way! It's all about finding a balance between eating healthy and indulging. The 80/20 principle suggests you eat healthy 80% of the time and indulge 20% of the time. This is a strategy that has worked for me, but again, everyone is different. Just know that because you had a bowl of ice cream doesn't mean you're a failure.
4. Remember that you're on a journey, not a race to the finish.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and adopting a healthy lifestyle doesn't happen overnight. Work toward small goals and be patient with yourself. As I mentioned, I started on this journey five years ago, and I'm still figuring it out day-by-day. Change takes time!
5. Don't get sucked in by supposed quick fixes.
It's a lifestyle, not a diet. If you truly want to achieve long-term results in the way you look and feel, stop looking for a quick fix. You can't just eat ultra-healthy one week and eat crap the next. It doesn't work that way. Accept that these are changes you're going to have to maintain over time. This is why it's so important to figure out a way of life that works for you.
6. Find healthy food that you love.
Life is too short not to enjoy the food you're eating. Eating healthy doesn't mean eating salad for the rest of your life, but it may involve replacing some foods with healthier options. So find healthy alternatives that you love. Banana ice cream replaced my ice cream, tortilla pizza replaced pizza, and don't even get me started on my love for sweet potatoes and almond butter. When I'm feeling snacky at night, I'll turn to a bowl of organic stovetop popcorn or munch on some grapes.
7. Pay attention to your negative thoughts.
A big part of my journey to better health has and continues to be healing my mind. If you have low self-esteem, your mind tends to send you defeatist thoughts that may make you feel like you'll never reach your goals, or that your journey is hopeless.
These are only your thoughts. They're not your reality. Be aware of this. Get in the habit of writing your negative thoughts down on paper and then writing down the reality.
Like me, I hope you'll discover that what your negative thoughts are telling you have no merit at all.
8. Keep the end result in mind when the going gets tough.
Changing your lifestyle isn't easy. Nothing worth having comes easy. But I can tell you first hand that it can change your entire life. The girl I once was would never have the strength to take on what I have today. So be the best version of yourself. Accept the struggle, find the fun in it and embrace it wholeheartedly. Life is good.
Photo Credit: Creating Light Studio