While exercising regularly and eating nutritious food are certainly great habits, being healthy isn’t just about squats and veggies. As a recovered health nut and now a life and happiness coach, I know there’s a lot more to it. Health is also about our emotional, mental, relational and spiritual well-being.
With that in mind, here are the most common myths I hear that get health wrong — and the healthier M.O.s you should adopt instead:
Myth #1: Fitness comes first.
Truth: While it might seem like prioritizing workouts over trivia night is the healthy choice, that’s not necessarily the case. Studies have shown that social ties and relationships might actually be more vital to our health than exercise! That means it’s just as important to make time for that weekly night out as it is for spinning class.
Besides, isn’t spending quality time with friends and family part of the whole point of being healthy?
What to do instead: Put fitness in its proper place and prioritize relationships by planning your workouts around your life — not your life around your workouts.
Myth #2: You are what you eat.
Truth: Your worth has zero to do with what you eat. Food does not define you or say anything about your character. You aren’t a bad person for eating a cheesy slice of pizza, and you aren’t necessarily a good one for abstaining from it.
Moralizing what you eat lends itself to viewing yourself as “bad” or “good” based on your diet. Guilt and shame follow so-called "wrong" eating, while eating “right” only gives you a short-term, false sense of self-worth. This sort of relationship with food gives it a lot of control over your life, and can lead to disordered eating.
What to do instead: Stop labeling foods as "good" or "bad." Separate who you are, your worth, and your character from what you eat.
Myth #3: Never miss a workout.
Truth: Sometimes it’s the healthy choice to skip a workout, especially if you’re injured, sick, or exhausted. It’s not about making excuses, it’s about honoring your body.
Yes, exercise is good for your health. But taking it to a #NoExcuses extreme can lead to injury, chronic fatigue, and decreased immunity. Rest and repair are crucial components of any well-balanced fitness routine.
What to do instead: Listen to your body, and prioritize rest days just as much as workout days.
Myth #4: You should fight your cravings.
Truth: You don’t need to curb your cravings to be healthy. In fact, research shows that denying yourself what you really want can actually intensify your cravings for the very foods you’re avoiding. Hello, chocolate binge.
The problem isn’t your cravings so much as it is how you go about satisfying them.
What to do instead: Practicing mindful eating is a great way to healthfully have your cake, and eat it, too — without overdoing it. Learn how to bring mindfulness to the table, by focusing on and savoring every bite.
Myth #5: Every Oreo you eat means extra time at the gym.
Truth: Using exercise to do penance for what you eat — often referred to as exercise bulimia — is a very unhealthy approach to physical activity. It makes exercise a punishment motivated by guilt, and strips it of any fun and enjoyment. When taken to an extreme, it can wreak havoc on your mental, emotional and physical well-being.
What to do instead: Ditch the tit-for-tat approach to food and exercise by taking the focus completely off of burning calories. Often, it can help to forgo the gym machines and opt for a fun Bollywood dance class or a hike with Fido instead.
With the glorification of extreme health, it’s easy to get caught up in these myths and place an overemphasis on having a pristine diet and exercise routine. But this narrow view of healthy can put your overall, whole-istic health seriously out of balance. And that’s what I call hellthy, not healthy.