There is so much information about what you should do to be healthier, so many diets, programs and fitness trainings, promising the fastest and best results. The truth is, being healthy is not something that we can achieve on a 30 day program or by restricting our diets. Choosing to live a healthy life is a lifestyle choice, one you want to commit to and stick with the entire time. This throws out of the window all these quick fix programs, simply because if you restrict yourself with food, and exercise until you almost faint, you won’t be happy and you probably won’t even manage to complete the program without feeling depleted on some level. Being healthy is so much more than eating healthy and being physically active. Sure, those two are the building blocks towards more health, but there are other factors, such as lack of sleep, stress, anxiety, general unhappiness etc, that can hinder us from being the healthiest version of ourselves.
If there is one thing I want you to take from this post it is this – work on decreasing your stress levels, get some quality sleep every night, do things that make you happy, cultivate positive emotions, meditate. All these things will contribute to living a healthy life. And then yes, eat healthy foods, and break a sweat on a regular basis. When it comes to those two building blocks of health, here are the 5 myths I keep hearing, that I want to debunk right now:
1.Physical exercise should be your # 1 priority
Do you sometimes skip dinner with friends, or just hanging out with your loved ones just because you HAVE to do your work out right now? Being healthy is about checking your priorities. Spending some quality time with your loved ones and enjoying a social gathering with your friends might actually contribute more to your health, than a vigorous training, when you don’t even feel like doing it. Put your exercise program at the right place in your priority list, and do work out, without compromising your relationships and your free time with family.
2. You have to only eat “Clean” foods
This one is a tricky one, because when overdone it can lead to some problems. Some people get so obsessed with eating only organic, or plant-based foods, or nothing with sugar – you name it, that their self worth correlates directly with how “clean” they eat. Have you heard of orthorexia? Getting this far with your healthy eating habits can actually make you less healthy. The reason is that if you slip and eat something that in your world is not “clean” or healthy enough, you will immediatly feel bad about yourself and your self worth will suffer. I don’t think this is a healthy emotion. Feeling guilty about what you eat should not be part of your life. Learn to separate your self worth from the food you consume. And most importantly develop a positive relation with food. Eat foods that nourish your body and soul, and that make you feel happy and good afterwords. By doing so, you might actually notice that you gravitate towards healthy, whole foods, because they make you feel good, and not just because they make you a better or worthier person.
3. Succumbing to your cravings makes you less healthy
I have always believed that cravings are related to emotions. Does it happen to you that when you feel down, or betrayed, you reach for that chocolate or ice cream? Ignoring those cravings is not going to make things better for you. In fact, this can make you binge eat on unhealthy foods later on. So do acknowledge that need you have. Think where it comes from – what emotions you are feeling when that craving kicks in? It could also simply be that you are really hungry. Act according to what you discover after a few minutes of contemplation. If you are simply starving than make sure you eat something nourishing instead. Chances are the craving will disappear as you get full. If it is coming from an emotional place, than try to prepare a healthy alternative of what you are craving. Make sure to check out this post for some healthy recipes for the most common cravings. Abstinence could make things worse later. Practicing mindfulness and moderation on the other hand can help you beat those cravings, and help you get to the bottom of why they are present.
4. Eating bad foods can be balanced out with extra gym time
Using exercise as punishment for what you ate is a very unhealthy approach. It makes you associate your training with guilt and you will dread the time when you have to exercise. This will strip your physical activity of fun and refreshment. The truth is you cannot make it good after you eat a bag of chips. It’s over and done! The best way is to simply note what you have done and how you felt after it and avoid doing it in the future. Do not punish yourself with extra gym time, but be gentle to yourself the next time and simply say no.
5. Missing a workout throws you off your health path
Never push yourself to do a workout when you truly do not feel like it. Learn to trust and listen to your body. If you are injured or sick, working out can actually damage your health further, so take a break. Just as it is important to work out on a regular basis, it is important to give time for your body to heal and replenish. So honour that and give yourself rest days as well.