Just So You Know, Being Healthy Is About More Than How You Look

heart shaped bowl of fruit
Jamie Street

I was standing in line at Publix on my way home from work yesterday and saw a picture of Jessica Biel on the cover of US Weekly that made me do a double take. Her vibrancy jumped off the page, and her soft smile looked incredibly peaceful. The headline was something along the lines of “Celebrities Reveal Their Best Fitness Tips.” I have always admired Jessica Biel for her dedication to health and fitness, so I was intrigued by what she had changed — her body noticeably different. I unearthed the answer as I flipped through the pages as rapidly as I could before the cashier was done ringing me up: Yoga.

I wasn’t surprised; I’ve discovered that yoga is the answer to a lot of things. I am turning 31 a month from today — WOW — and I feel better than I have in years. I still have some excess weight to shed, but my overall wellness has improved since I became intentional about eating well and moving more; I am stronger, leaner, and feel about 1,000 times better. I am also sure that the weight that will come off, as I continue to live this lifestyle, will do so because my body no longer wants to hold onto it, and not because I need to fit into a certain size.

Nutrition and fitness have long been a passion of mine, but it hasn’t always been easy to stay on track. When I was in college, I discovered my love for wellness. I started working out and lifting very heavy weights. I was in the best shape of my life, but I was spending hours in the gym and obsessing over calories. As an emotional eater, I would down a pint of ice cream whenever the urge arose and just make up for it in the gym. I was taking a million different supplements, some good, and some not so good. If thoroughly examined, it was painstakingly evident that my lifestyle was not healthy or sustainable.

I was prepping for my first fitness competition my junior year of college when I stumbled upon the documentary that would change the course of my dietary life, Food, Inc. After watching the movie, I became a vegan. No further convincing necessary. Over the years, I struggled with giving up dairy and eggs. So many of the things I loved had those very ingredients in them, and slowly, over time, I became a vegetarian and eventually a pescatarian. I vacillated between the three several times throughout the years, but I have settled in as a pescatarian. I am comfortable here, and I make the best decisions I can to eat from responsible sources. Overall, however, I have come to find my healthiest state of mind and body after avoiding meats and dairy.

On the other side of things, I have always been one to enjoy movement. My body feels the need to move often and most people would agree that when you are eating well and nourishing yourself, your body craves exercise as much as it does salubrious meals. Throughout those college years of mine, I had tried yoga on several occasions but always struggled to stick with it. I repeatedly insisted that my body needed the more vigorous weight training and intense cardio sessions to feel its best. Truth was, the reflection in the mirror liked those workouts more than my body or mind did. The chiseled muscles, low body-fat, and endorphins that came from finishing a super intense workout were addicting, but I had developed amenorrhea from my low body-fat percentage and long-term it was never going to work for me. My daily regimen had become an unhealthy obsession, leading me to eventual burnout. Subsequently, I became depressed and gained a whole lot of weight. I repeated a similar cycle a few times over the years, and it became apparent that I was failing at sustaining a healthy way of life, falling into one abyss after another of unattainable aspiration.

I started a new transformation back in April. This time, I have been more focused on how I feel, than how I look in the mirror. I care more about what is going on inside me; what my blood, arteries, and organs may be telling me. For the last year, I was in a place where my hips and knees were hurting, and I was gaining weight in areas of my body I never worried about in the past. I had become primarily sedentary for the first time in my life, consumed food with no regard for how it was affecting my health, and it was showing. Suddenly, a switch in my head flipped. I knew it would take twenty-one days to create a habit and I set out to make being healthy my one new one.

Getting to the gym or a studio became a struggle when I had kids, so I subscribed to Beachbody on Demand, Yoga International, and DailyOM and committed to a daily workout at home. If I have it at my disposal on my computer, phone, or fireTV, there is no excuse for not working out. Anything is better than nothing, so I make sure to do a ten to forty-five-minute workout every day. Yoga has been my go-to, but I have also been enjoying some Piyo, on occasion. It has been almost two months, and my body and mind are thanking me in spades. My diet is mostly vegetables. I eat A LOT of veggies. I also eat a lot of healthy fats — I love me some avocado!

It is so refreshing that I can eat a lot, not worry about how much, and I am always satisfied and never feel guilty. The more I eat the good stuff, the less my body wants the bad stuff. Cheat days are not a thing in my mind because I look at nutrition from an entirely new perspective: How it affects my insides. If something is going to make me feel yucky or I know my organs are going to get mad at me for overworking them, I look away. I want to be healthy. I want to live a long life for my children and their children. I don’t want to worry about diabetes, high cholesterol, or other health issues because I spent years not caring about my body — the only one I have. TC mark

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