Friday, February 5, 2016

4 Things I did in the name of "health" {that I no longer do}

  There is a laundry list of things that I decided to start doing two or more years ago because I just *knew* that if I did, I'd be the healthiest, happiest version of myself. Or at least be able to go to sleep at night knowing I was working my hardest toward that goal. 

Unfortunately, while many of the changes I made in my life ended up being very positive long term, most of them turned against me quickly. They turned against me far more quickly than I caught on, in fact.

This has caused me a lot of problems; physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Today I wanted to share a list of 4 things I no longer do, which I used to do, all for the sake of making myself healthier. In reality, abiding by these rules, or engaging in these certain habits for an extended period of time, drove my health into the ground and helped my self loathing grow astronomically.

Maybe you have a list, or would have one if you sat down to think about it. Maybe your list would look very similar to mine, or perhaps it would be completely different. I would love for us all to give ourselves (and each other) the grace to re-evaluate. 

I had to begin asking myself why I was doing certain things, and if the answer was to "keep off that last three pounds I lost", or "because it's 'healthy'"; if it wasn't simply because it gave me joy, those things had to go.

1. Food and Exercise Journaling 

 Writing down every meal began as an experiment to see how well I did with creating variety in my diet, to affirm that I was taking in the appropriate amount of food in a day, and to monitor if certain foods made me feel a certain way. A few short weeks in, however, it became an obsessive habit. I have three journals filled with the gritty details of each and every item of food I put in my mouth over the course of two years. Food journaling can be a powerful tool for some people, on a short term basis, but for me it opened up the opportunity for guilt and food shaming. 

The same applies to my workouts. I wrote down every cardio and strength training workout I did, and took pride in the string of pages filled with miles and weights and no rest days to be seen.

Giving up the journaling was incredibly difficult at first, but ultimately, it's what made it possible for me to start loving myself and focusing on things other than what I was eating or how much I was working out.

 I can now say with confidence that there is a lot more to life, and it all brings so much joy.

Like going to the beach with my kids. Way, way more fun than food journaling or obsessing over miles run for the day.

2. Placing sole blame, or credit, for my health status on food  

  On the journey to optimal health, it is tempting to say that if you eliminate this food, or that, or this entire group of foods, then I'll feel better! While there is some validity to certain foods causing issues for some people (ie, I don't tolerate gluten or dairy), consistently blaming a new food each week for a pimple or feeling bloaty one morning can make you feel real crazy, real quick.

I've learned that diet alone isn't always the answer for everyone! I'm not failing at life if I eat healthfully and still deal with autoimmune flare ups. That doesn't mean I'm planning to throw up my hands and start eating three square meals a day from Chez McDonald's, but it does allow me to slow down and love my body, in spite of it not being healed on kale alone.

On the flip side, if I'm having a particularly good week, it probably is not just because of my diet! Maybe I was more relaxed, enjoyed some extra "me" time, was lifted up by friends and family, or simply did a better job of seeking joy in the seemingly mundane, everyday happenings in my life. 

Practically, for me, this means having that piece of chocolate when it sounds good. It means enjoying a glass of wine with some friends on a weeknight and not feeling one twinge of worry about what it's going to "do to me". It isn't the actual wine or chocolate so much as the freedom of "allowing" myself to enjoy these things. The relief from stress of how I'm going to manage a social situation with "bad foods" present has given me the ability to freely enjoy life, in all aspects. 

Nutrition is important, but so is being at peace with what you put in your body, and not giving it more power than it actually has.

Chocolate cake is delicious, and made to be enjoyed, moderately, without guilt. The end. 

3. Only being satisfied with a workout if it beat me up 

  As I've mentioned before, I've had to come to terms with my physical limitations with regard to exercise due to my Autoimmune condition, Hashimoto's. What followed was the realization of my addiction to hard exercise. If I didn't sweat for at least a half hour every day, and feel some level of soreness afterward, I wasn't doing enough. Pushing myself to the extreme on a daily basis, with a handful of rest days scattered throughout a two year time span, became the norm. I couldn't live without starting my day hitting it hard. 
It took too long for me to start listening to my body, but I finally did and it has made a huge difference in how I feel, both physically and mentally. 

I have learned that a long, relaxed walk while listening to an audiobook gives me the cardiovascular workout I need, without the damage done by a hard-hitting four mile run or hour long HIIT workout. 

I also managed to gain muscle mass after giving up daily intense strength training and doing short, moderate body weight exercises a few times a week. I'm talking super short, like 10-15 minutes! 

I'm stronger and even more fit by default after easing up and listening to my body with regard to my workouts. 

4. Expecting myself to have control over all the things

Yeah, this is the big one. That act that seems to come and go, even though I always know in my heart what needs to be done; relinquishing control to God. 

I can only change my circumstances so much. God has asked me to go through certain trials or bear a particular affliction because He wants me to lean on Him, and He knows the exact thing most likely to cause me to do so. I have the will to choose whether I rest in His arms and let Him carry me, or try to muddle through on my own. 

In hindsight, it only ever makes sense to lean on Him, but in the vale, I continuously convince myself of a false need to bear the burden myself. 

I'm not saying that when I'm walking with the Lord, everything is perfect and all my troubles melt away. Rather, the troubles hold less weight in my life and I'm given better focus, and I can find joy where I would otherwise feel only stress, sorrow and self-loathing. He loves me enough to carry me, which makes me feel worthy, which makes me determined and hopeful. 

There are more, so many more, ways in which I've changed daily habits, but these are the basic foundations from which they all grew. Words cannot express how grateful I am for the ability to learn and evolve! I was the only one that could give me permission to question my own motives, my actions, and change accordingly. And man, am I glad I did.

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