At one point in my life, I was a Twinkie away from weighing 300 pounds. It wasn't a good look for me, and it certainly didn't do my organs and arteries any favors. I knew it was time to make a change.
On my journey to wellness, I did a lot of things that at the time, I thought would benefit me. However, in retrospect, I've realized that so much of what I considered "healthy" was actually sabotaging my health. We don't automatically lose our good health just because we get old; rather, we give it away with our actions now.
As a holistic health coach, it's easy for me to look back and scold my younger self for what I did wrong in the pursuit of wellness. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes before it's too late!
1. I believed that if I worked out, I could eat whatever I wanted.
I started doing yoga religiously when I lived in Los Angeles. It was calming and I started to notice muscles developing in my back and arms. It was awesome. What wasn't awesome? Getting in my car with my post-yoga glow and feeling "namaste" all the way to the drive-thru.
It didn’t occur to me that burning 200 calories from Downward Facing Dog and then eating 2,000 was bad math, so I felt pretty good about myself as I drove to my Hollywood apartment glistening with sweat from class and ketchup filled with high fructose corn syrup dribbling down my chin.
These days, I box, kickbox, play in a roller derby recreation league, run and take barre classes. I've figured out the right way to fuel my body. After a workout, I make sure to get some protein (usually a handful of almonds) and I rehydrate with coconut water.
2. I refused to eat apples or other produce if I was wearing lipstick. (Seriously.)
My makeup was more important than getting my daily nutrients. And, since I was almost always wearing lipstick (even when I slept!), this meant that fruits and vegetables took a back seat.
Luckily, I've seen the light since those foolish days of trying to mimic the glamorous women of Dallas and Falcon Crest. I cleanse my face of all its “war paint” before bed and moisturize. And even when I’m wearing bright red lipstick, I'll bite into an apple without a second thought because — guess what? — you can reapply makeup if necessary.
3. I got my vegetables from greasy Chinese food.
If you asked me in college if I ate vegetables, I'd say “sure, all the time!” But I was counting the slice of tomato and shred of lettuce that came on my sandwiches, or the soggy broccoli that accompanied my weekly General Tso's chicken.
Now, I see the error of my ways. Today I eat a mostly plant-based diet, and eating roughly 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day reminds me how much I enjoy fresh produce.
4. I let my hair dictate if I worked out and how hard.
Like many African-American women, my hair is a trial some days. When I had a relaxer, I didn’t want to “sweat it out,” so I only exercised when I had braids. And since I only had braids on vacation ... that meant I didn’t work out much at all. When I did commit to working out, I'd stop as soon as my scalp started to perspire.
Now that I wear my hair natural but straightened with a flat iron, I still don’t want to sweat it out, but the difference is I don’t care as much. I feel I've had a disappointing workout if I’m not out of breath and dripping sweat. Feeling good from an awesome sweat session is more important to me than having straight hair.
5. I allowed myself unlimited portions of healthy food.
I remember being so incredibly proud of myself when I gave up cheap meals at fast-food restaurants so I could cook for myself. Except instead of sticking to normal portions, I'd eat giant bowlfuls at one sitting.
A box of pasta would only last me two days. My salads were — a supposedly healthy alternative — were loaded with cheese, nitrate-laced chicken, croutons, sugary dried fruit and drowned in store-bought dressing. I also lived on granola bars as snacks instead of going to my favorite cupcake spots.
My intentions were good, but I felt these were all free foods since they were “healthier” than my previous Standard American Diet (SAD), so I never concerned myself with portion sizes.
I've made all the mistakes people make when they’re trying to change their habits, so today I make conscious choices to keep my health so my golden years are spent being golden … not lining a doctor’s pockets with all of my ailments.