Thinking Out Loud: What Health Means To Me.

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Hiiii there! 

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.

Thinking Out Loud

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.

2011 3 years ago. Technically ‘healthy’ by BMI standards, but still struggling with disordered eating.

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.

November 2012November 2012. Lifting all the things, loosening up my ‘food rules’

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.

Accepting

(img source)

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.

Sam Now Nowadays. Super skinny? Nope. Healthy? You bet.

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?

79 Comments

  1. Excellent post. I agree that the ‘eat less, move more’ message has backfired for a whole community who don’t eat enough, and exercise too much (myself being one of them). Interesting that you consider yourself to have put on ‘a lot of weight’. Would people in the real, non-healthy-living-blogger world agree?
    Emily @ It Comes Naturally Blog recently posted..What I ate Wednesday #22My Profile

    • Hard to say! The idea of ‘a lot of weight’ is complex and personal.There’s about 30 pounds between the first and the third picture, 15 of which happened in the last few months, so to me – yes, that is a lot of weight. For someone who has gained or lost 100 pounds, probably less so.

  2. Love how we both hijacked to think out loud on a health related topic.

    I’ve really enjoyed and admired seeing your progression evolve and as such, your definition of health. At the end of the day, this is the perfect reminder for YOU to correlate your happiness then VS in ‘pseudo recovery’ VS now.
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted..Why I don’t regret doing Whole30My Profile

  3. I love it. Health is not about perfection, but about “embracing ourselves in our raw beauty”. I think we need to redefine perfection to allow ourselves to see that in fact our “raw beauty” with all of it’s “flaws” is in fact the most perfect form of ourselves

  4. I hate the eat less exercise more mindset. I know from experience it doesn’t work. I think that in the HLB community this mindset is falling apart and more people are realizing balance is key.
    Andrea @ Pencils and Pancakes recently posted..Homesteading UpdatesMy Profile

  5. Great post, Sam! I have a few clients who are struggling with the conflict between being super lean and being healthy – I am going to send them your post.
    Tara @ Sweat like a Pig recently posted..Paris > working outMy Profile

  6. I love this. I’ve come such a long way in developing a balanced mindset regarding diet and exercise but there are times when I feel like my opinion is among the minority. Many of my friends always talk about needing to lose weight and flatten their stomachs or firm their thighs (because how they look in a bikini is very important). I’m so glad you posted this and it’s encouraging to read someone else’s definition of health.
    Emily @MyHealthyishLife recently posted..Thinking Out Loud: Special SurpriseMy Profile

    • It’s hard and frustrating to be around talk like that, for sure. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been developing a healthier mindset though!

  7. I totally agree. I just need to remember that is all.
    Nela recently posted..~Liebster Award~My Profile

  8. Ahhh you are so inspiring–THIS is inspiring. Look how far you’ve come! I’m so glad to hear that you are healthy and most importantly, happy. After all, that’s what it’s all about. If working out 7 days a week makes someone happy then good for them. If eating chocolate at 9 am makes another person happy (you and me both ;)) then that’s awesome too.
    Erin @ The Almond Eater recently posted..Thinking Out Loud #12My Profile

  9. I love this! I am also very proud of how far you have come. My guess is that it’s probably even harder to embrace moderation when you have dealt with an ED in the past, and yet you are doing it so well. Does it take time? Definitely. Is it hard? Sure. But it’s so necessary, and you are kicking this whole thing in the butt. I’m so glad you continued this conversation!
    Amy @ Long Drive Journey recently posted..Changing My BiographyMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Amy! You’re probably right – embracing moderation is harder with an ED mindset in my past, but it makes the victory of doing so that much better.

  10. Love this, love you, and looooooove that this mindset is becoming more and more popular these days. I can’t help but wonder how truly healthy some bloggers out there are when they project an image of eating 100% clean and exercising every.single.day… They make it seem like that’s what it takes to be healthy, when I’ve found the opposite to be true. The day when I followed that kind of lifestyle? I think I was unhealthier (and unhappier) than ever… It wasn’t until I loosened up that I finally started getting my spark back. And even more so in the past couple of months when I threw all caution to the wind and just started eating whatever, even if that means it’s a bowl of ice cream for dinner. Does that make me a good HLB? Probably not by definition. But it DOES make me feel good and healthy, so that’s something to think about…
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted... thinking out loud #83 .My Profile

    • Definitely agree that the ‘clean eating’ and over-exercising made me more unhealthy than anything else. And sometimes you just need a bowl of ice cream…you are to me, an amazing example of what health is, no matter what an official ‘hlb definition’ says.

  11. I love that more and more people like you are speaking up about this. Though I have changed my mindset around food and exercise a lot in the past year – I am not completely free of the guilt, comparisons, and over thinking things sometimes. Sometimes it is hard to just let go when the entire country seems to accept this way of living as “healthy.” I love this post because it inspires me to keep striving for an even deeper understanding of health and self love. Thanks Sam
    Lindsay @Treat Yourself recently posted..Fighting the FeelingsMy Profile

  12. I’m so unbelievably proud of you for how far you have come Sam!!
    This post is absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t agree more with all you said!! We DO need to change the conversation and embrace our bodies and their capabilities. They are amazing and so are we.
    Thank you for being such an inspiration and such a wonderful role model for so many out there!!
    Lucie@FitSwissChick recently posted..Why binge? – VLOGMy Profile

  13. Could not agree more, love. I have been so incredibly proud of you over the past few months as you have truly taken your health in your own hands and completely redefined the word healthy for you. I loved Amy’s post on the subject, too. I know in my own life, the sense of freedom to eat what I want has been amazing. I look back even a year ago and wonder if I would believe the person I am now. Probably not sadly. I know I eat “too much” sugar these days and “too many carbs,” but I could honestly care less. I love where I am, I’m so much happier, and I think I look a whole lot better with some curves and extra weight on my body than I ever did with a stupid thigh gap.
    Caitlin recently posted..Thinking Out Loud #22My Profile

    • Thanks so much lady!! <3 the sense of freedom is worth way, way more than a ridiculous thigh gap. You are beautiful!

  14. You are just the best. Love you and your posts. You inspire me, Sam. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I wish I was as brave as you. I can’t seem to let go of the ED.

  15. Haha I hijacked my post too! I think it still works though
    I’m in total agreement with you here. I mean, I’d rather see you happy and eating more to support your bodily functions… that is what true health is, and if anyone says that you’re not a ‘healthy living blogger’ because you eat 2000+ calories a day and have gained a little weight, then shame on them.

    This post honestly makes me so happy to call you my friend. You’re inspiring and have a good head on your shoulders. xoxoxo
    Ang @ Nutty for Life recently posted..No Such Thing As A Quick Fix Pill [Thinking Out Loud]My Profile

  16. I think you are marvelously sensationally spellboundingly remarkable with how much you’ve evolved..enough to admit to and declare that the journey was still being travelled – even when you assumed you were there.
    Did you ever notice, that an unaturally thin person (restricting to get that way) doesn’t look half as beautiful as when at her healthy “happy” weight? Whether that comes with extra curves or not, there’s a glow and a natural beauty shining from within…as I can see with you .
    Ms.J recently posted..Aunt SuzyMy Profile

  17. Such an awesome and inspiring post, Sam! It’s amazing how the definition of being healthy has changed over the years. There was a time in my life where I was a vegetarian and working out about 6 days a week; however, I would eat out a lot, drink soda, eat junk food and so forth. I actually remember saying to my cousin that as long as I was exercising, I could eat anything I wanted. Wow, has that mindset changed over the years. My definition of health is completely different than it was back then. I too am on the mindset that everything in the moderation, and I feel better than I ever did.
    Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat recently posted..My Thoughts on Prenatal ExerciseMy Profile

  18. Great post – very raw (in a good way!). I think it’s important to remember not everyone is the same. We aren’t all going to have 6 pack abs and be able to eat clean 100% of the time and you know what – eating baked chicken and broccoli is a terrible way to live life. Doing permanent damage to your body is a terrible way to live life. As long as your body is able to do all the things you want it to do, and it should do, we should consider that healthy!
    Cassie recently posted..Chocolate Coconut Gluten Free WafflesMy Profile

  19. Recovery is so hard. I am at that stage where I am close to only just hitting the ‘minimum healthy weight’ and it scares me so much. But I do love how strong I am getting from my diet and CrossFit. How much more amazing and healthy I feel. The energy I now have and the freedom in my head. I wouldn’t change that for the world. I now have my health back.

    I am getting there, but knowing you guys are out there, going through the same thing, escaping from the illness and supporting others means the world to me
    Jen @ Chase the Red Grape recently posted..Thinking Out Loud!My Profile

    • I’m happy to hear that you’re making progress Jen! Recovery is hard and it sucks, but it’s always worth it…isn’t it awesome to start to feel that freedom?

  20. Really inspiring post Sam. I love your blog and it’s so refreshing to read about your evolved mindset because I feel almost identical (it’s pretty freaky actually)

    I think the point you make that resonates the most is that you (and I) are finally happy and free from the constant pressure of restricted eating, it’s fan-fucking-tastic.

    Thanks again for your awesome post,

    Cheers, Georgie

    • fan-fucking-tastic is basically the most perfect description! haha that made me giggle. Glad that you enjoyed the post Georgie, and happy for you that you’ve escaped that restricted eating cycle as well!

  21. You are so awesome for writing this (and for being you!). I feel many of the same things, and have been thinking of them a lot lately. I’m so glad to read that you are healthier and happier now! After struggling with an ED as well (and recovering!), a second chance at running has really made me feel healthy like I never have before. Thank you for sharing!
    Sam @ The Running Graduate recently posted..Running Thoughts | Thinking Out Loud 5My Profile

  22. This post is incredible, Sam. So happy you decided to share. I’ve had my own post on a similar topic brewing in my head so maybe Amy started a trend
    Sarah recently posted..European thoughtsMy Profile

  23. Beautifully put, Sam! Sometimes what’s best and “healthy” for us goes against those prescribed diets and intense exercise regimens. This is an idea I’ve struggled with in my own recovery, but being healthy is so much more than food or exercise. It’s about being in a state that allows you to enjoy life–both psychically and mentally. Whether that means gaining 30 pounds or losing 10, eating more veggies or going out for ice cream, nibbling on a small snack or stuffing your face at dinner even though you’re not super hungry because it’s so darn delicious, health is personal. There’s no one-size-fits-all, unlike magazines and media have us believe nowadays. Glad to hear you’ve found what works for you, and hearing your story is inspirational. I hope one day to be as happy and healthy!

    • Thanks Jess! I definitely agree that health is a personal thing – we all have different definitions, and we all have different sizes and habits to reach our optimal health!

  24. Super post, Sam! I actually have a similar post coming up on Monday about what health means to me. We seem to share the same outlook! For the most part, health is all encompassing…it means being at peace with my choices and realising that “perfection” is subjective. For me, the healthiest diet is one that nourishes me physically, mentally AND emotionally!
    Khushboo recently posted..Loco over cocoMy Profile

  25. Such a great post – a perfect addition to the many awesome body image posts that have been written this week! Even though I never had an eating disorder, because of the literal pain that food caused me (because of complications from celiac disease), I suffered from an unhealthy relationship with food for a long time. I still struggle with some things, but – as I search for the perfect food combo to help me gain back weight and reach a healthy, strong me! – I know that I’m fueling my body like it deserves. And that should be the goal in everyone’s mind!

    I actually wrote on this subject a while ago. It must be important because it’s on everyone’s mind! http://caseythecollegeceliac.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-celiacs-food-journey.html
    Casey @ Casey the College Celiac recently posted..Liebster Award 2.0My Profile

  26. Ahhh!! SO true!! And I am so happy that we’ve been able to discuss this!
    Also, made me think about how not that long ago I was really thinking. My husband always calls me the healthiest person I know, even when I can look at myself and know I’ve overdone it or am heading towards sedentary plans to get my health back. So…
    When I talk about “healthy” recipes (like my entire blog is based around) I always try to say “the word healthy is whatever it means to YOU”
    Melissa @ Treats With a Twist recently posted..Super C SmoothieMy Profile

    • Our conversations have definitely helped inspire this post, so thanks for that! And I think that’s perfect, health is so individual and we all need our own definitions.

  27. Beautiful post girl!! You are stunning and love your outtake on health. We could not agree more. Even though somedays we still track things, mainly to learn our bodies, we are happy with our food choices. We are each getting better and feel stronger inside and out!

    Thank you for sharing this as it was great to be reminder to be ourselves and eat what we want

  28. So I don’t have anything to add to this post because you covered it all and I love it, but I just felt the need to comment to let you know that I’m so happy you found YOUR health and are comfortable in your own skin. I think that’s one of the most important parts of being healthy, self acceptance and love.
    Becky @ Olives n Wine recently posted..Enroute to Denver!My Profile

  29. LOVE THIS! You did an amazing thing this year – I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but you sound like you’re in such an awesome place now. It’s funny how being truly healthy is often a couple steps back from what we once thought healthy meant. Proud of you girl!
    Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen recently posted..Confessions of a busy bloggerMy Profile

    • Thank you lady! It’s funny how that works isn’t it? P.S. We are DEFINITELY hanging out next month. It’s been waaaaay too long!

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  31. Freedom. Couldn’t have said it better myself! Off to enjoy some freedom of my own but had to comment on how wonderful you are. Keep me honest. You’re one of the few that is xoxo

  32. I really love your new mindset and outlook on life! I completely agree with embracing your body and beauty at whatever size. Because, when it all comes down to it, happiness is more important than that 6 pack or “thigh gap” would ever be!
    Also, dessert is just too damn good to pass up!

    Awesome post, and you look beautiful AND healthy!
    xoxox
    Natasha
    Natasha recently posted..WIAW: Blissful EatsMy Profile

  33. do you ever think our great great great grandma’s ever were told to eat less and go run more? Heck no! they ate butter but moved all day long. Healthy is skewed these days, i believed the skewered version once… lesson learned. xxoo YOU!

  34. I couldn’t agree more with you, I don’t think healthy even has to do with a BMI, it is feeling great, strong and happy on the inside and out! People often forget about the mental side of happiness it is such a shame!
    Hilary recently posted..WIAW – Mugcake RecipeMy Profile

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  37. No surprise here but I love this post. I have found that healthy has nothing to do with a number on a scale or the way your jeans fit. It has to do with how you and your body feel (your hair, nails, skin, etc). It also has to do with mental health and blood work, and making sure you levels are correct (hormones, cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure) and I think you’ll have positive results when your body feels good. It certainly what works for me, and I can tell you my blood work has come out great for three years running now, although my method of eating and exercise certainly wouldn’t fall into the norm for the HLB community either. It doesn’t bother me though, not anymore, since I know what I’m doing is absolutely right for me.
    Keep on doing what you’re doing; you are beautiful!
    Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets recently posted..How To Make The Most Out Of LeftoversMy Profile

    • Thank you Meghan! I actually really want to get a bone density test done soon – I know my bones were probably pretty horrid back in the day, so if my levels are normal now than I know I’m doing well in terms of health. And yes – we all gotta do what works for us in terms of health – it may not reflect other peoples, but that’s fine.

  38. Awesome post!! You are beautiful inside and out.

    Love that you said healthy is freedom! SO TRUE. Well put!! xoxox
    Annette Perkins (@FitnessPerks) recently posted..A Photo-tastic Weekend!My Profile

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  40. I know this has been a long intense journey for you miss but I’m so proud of you for all that you’ve accomplished! I’m so glad that you now see yourself for the beautiful awesome person you are, and love yourself as much as we all love you. Love and miss you dearest!
    -Love Mel ♥

    • Thanks so much Mel!! <3 Love you and miss you too! Let me know when you have a weekend evening free and we shall do something!

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