So, I realize that the purpose of Thinking Out Loud is generally to just let your thoughts flow without committing to a particular topic. But lately, I’ve been thinking about health, and what it means to me right now.
Hopefully, our lovely host will forgive me for hijacking this theme and thinking out loud about one particular topic: Health.
This has been on my mind lately, and I know that I’m not the only one. Amy and Beth‘s posts from earlier this week pretty much sum up my thoughts on it, but I’ll do my best to add something to the conversation. I’ve had many talks with people lately about health and how their opinions have changed, and it’s inspiring me to talk about it here as well.
For years after my eating disorder and reaching my minimum healthy weight (key word: minimum), I thought I was healthy. Yes, like many other blogger’s out there, my interest in food and the healthy living blog atmosphere stemmed from my struggle to recover from an eating disorder and eat ‘normally’. Somewhat stereotypical, but that’s where my interest in all that came from.
When I first decided I was ‘recovered’, I thought that I was living in a ‘healthy’ way. I was maintaining my weight about 5 pounds above my minimum but being careful not to let it fall below (or go above) that. I was exercising almost every day, and while I didn’t count calories (most of the time), I was hyper-conscious of what I was eating and how much, insisting on eating tons of veggies and very little sugar. At the time, that was the only definition of health I knew.
I felt like I was well into recovery, but really, I was still toeing that line between ‘healthy’ eating and ‘obsessive’ eating. Eating an unplanned ‘treat’ would send me into anxiety and admittingly nonsensical worries about gaining 5 pounds overnight.
Over the years, my eating habits began to loosen up and I started to be ok with a more relaxed relationship with food. I still felt ‘healthy’, even though I had put on a few pounds. Exercise became less about burning calories and more about getting stronger as I fell in love with heavy lifting.
Then, this last 9 months happened. I switched birth control, noticed some creeping weight gain despite intense exercise 5-6 days a week without a change to my diet. I finally admitted that I had HA and took steps to combat it.
By most ‘healthy living blogger’ standards, I have not been healthy the last several months. I don’t do high intensity exercise, my calorie intake is almost double what it was 2 years ago, I stopped caring about my sugar and dessert intake, and yes, gained weight – a lot of weight in a few months.
But you know what? I feel healthier than I think I ever have. I got my period back. I no longer have dry, flaky skin, my hair is healthy and strong, and for once in my life, I’m able to grow nails that don’t bend and crack the second they get to my fingertips.
I feel like in the last few months, I’ve really learned what ‘moderation’ is. I still care about what I eat and where my food comes from (I care about my veggies!) but I don’t keep a system of checks and balances. I don’t prep meals, I don’t count calories, or macros, and I listen to my cravings, whether that’s a salad for dinner or chocolate at 9:00 am (which definitely happens). Most importantly? I am HAPPY. That to me is worth so much more than the cliche that is the ‘perfect’ body. I am letting my body decide what is healthy for me, so if that means junk in the trunk or a stomach that peeks over my waistband, that’s ok with me.
To me, true health is FREEDOM. Having the freedom to give my body what it really needs, whether that’s exercise, rest, nutrients or ‘junk’. To be able to do so free from guilt, free from comparisons, and free from restriction. It’s the freedom to exercise because you enjoy the way it makes you feel (whether that’s Crossfit, marathons, Zumba or walking) rather than because it’s the ‘trendy’ workout to do. And finally, freedom to love your body for what it does and how it is, rather than beat it into submission with intense workouts and restrictive eating patterns.
There’s so many horror stories out there these days about what the ‘eat less, exercise more’ mindset has done to people. People talk about their experiences with hypothalamic amenorrhea, infertility, metabolic burnout, adrenal fatigue, and similar issues. I can’t help but notice one underlying theme – most of the people with these stories started out trying to make themselves HEALTHIER. Often to lose weight or fat, but generally, an adoption of an intense workout routine, cutting entire food groups or becoming hyperfocused on ingredients, calories or macros as a way to get themselves (what they see at the time as) healthier. Which for a lot of people, seems to have backfired. The moral of the story? Continuously underfuelling your body does more damage than anything else.
In her post, Amy is calling for a change in the conversation in the way we see health – that it’s not about perfection, but embracing ourselves in our raw beauty.
I 100% agree. What do you think?