This article might ruffle a few feathers for those in the health and fitness world, but perhaps a good feather-ruffle is exactly what we all need. As someone who has worked in the wellness industry since 2009, I've seen and tried it all. From detoxing to dehydrating and doing daily Bikram yoga, to experimenting with the Paleo-CrossFit lifestyle—I've spent thousands of hours (and thousands more dollars) attempting to create the perfect diet and exercise routine.
The cost of a "perfect" healthy life
During my search for that healthy nirvana I was also fighting a 10-year battle with a severe eating disorders, depression, chronic fatigue, social anxiety, and type-A perfectionism. Outside of work, my life was spent calculating macronutrients, skipping social engagements to sprout my grains, and pushing past the scream of battered joints to get through that WOD. I was trying so hard to become the healthiest version of myself that I couldn't see how my lifestyle was anything but healthy. By day, I practiced what I preached, and by night I was the perfect example of a closet binge-eater. I would try to have "healthy weekends" but Sundays would usually end in a flood of tears when I didn't live up to my own sky-high expectations.
I spent so long believing that if I didn't do "health" perfectly by the book, then I was unhealthy. But that couldn't be further from the truth. What was unhealthy was how I was making myself stressed, exhausted, and sick by trying to do everything right. So I've spent the past two years taking a step back and experimenting with how I could become the healthiest version of myself, by not taking "healthy living" quite so seriously. Here's what I've discovered:
1. You've been set up to fail.
The new standard of what it means to be healthy is way out of reach for most women. As a modern health and fitness professional with an online audience I feel responsible for setting that bar way too high. For years I portrayed myself—to my clients and the world—as someone who could easily maintain the unmaintainable, but as you now know, that was a lie. If I do this for a career, with all the knowledge and skills at my fingertips, and I still struggle with it, what does that mean for you?
2. Back to basics is key.
There is a core set of daily practices that you must have to stay fit, healthy, and happy. Yet, the never-ending onslaught of new rules and recommendations makes it hard to remember what habits really are crucial for your health. By going back to basics you'll be better equipped to separate the wheat from the chaff and build a healthy life that you love.
There's only one health philosophy you need to remember.
Health is moving your body, drinking your water, and eating your greens. Health is also breaking bread with people that you love, sleeping in on Sunday, and trusting that you can have a piece of cake without the world falling apart. Health is a lifestyle, not a destination.
These days I work with women who would like to lose weight, yet ironically, weight loss is something that we rarely talk about. Instead, we chat about what THEY need to do to feel healthy in THEIR life. And guess what? That doesn't necessarily include green smoothie bowls, cauliflower rice, or turmeric everything. So now I want to ask you one question: What do you need to know, learn, or do to make healthy living more simple, accessible, realistic, enjoyable, and affordable for you?
As you play with that thought I encourage you to keep an open mind to new suggestions and experiment with new ideas. But also remember this: Only you hold the key to your success. Only you hold the power to make your own decisions. And living a truly healthy life can—and should—look different for every woman.