Health is a state of body. Wellness is a state of being.
For most of my adult life I have been on some diet or another. I went on my first diet at 18 years old in order to lose weight ahead of my matric farewell (high school prom). I successfully lost 8kg (17.5 lbs) in 8 weeks; and then put it all back on when the farewell was over. I have over the past 20 or so years lost huge sums of weight and always put it back on with interest. I was trapped in a lifestyle of yo-yo dieting with the focus being on my size. My self-worth was integrally tied to the number on the scale.
Being a goal orientated person, I found it easy to stick to diets in the short-term, and would lose weight easily; but at some point it would no longer be sustainable. As I got older, that point came earlier and earlier with each diet attempt. Diet and exercise became a punishment for being a bad person – because obviously being fat made me a bad person. When I felt really bad, I found comfort in all the food that I was not allowed to eat when being punished. And so, I was imprisoned in this cycle alternating between punishment and comfort eating.
Things changed when I gave up on my weight. I had reached a point where I couldn’t deal with the diets any more. I made peace with the fact that I was a bigger girl and decided to accept it and live with it. Now, many of you reading this may cringe at the thought of accepting being bigger – “What about the health implications?” you scream. Well to be honest, at that point in my life health was the furthest thing from my mind. Losing weight had never been about being healthy; it had been about being accepted – and that is a battle that few can win. I had really hit rock bottom, with no more fuel left in the tank to play this viscous mind/body game that I had been subjecting myself to – the only thing left was to give up. Ironically, it was the best thing I did.
Once I stopped worrying about the weight, the focus become more internal. I focussed on being the best human being I can be – the best version of me. When I thought about what it meant to be my best “me”, things like my weight or what I looked like played no role in that definition; but being healthy was an integral part of the meaning. My mind changed from diet and exercise being a punishment because I was bad, to health being something that I deserved because I was a good human being. That adjustment in thinking changed everything for me. Because I deserved it, making a healthy food choice became easy; because I deserved it, exercise became something I looked forward to. Inevitably the weight slowly came off.
More importantly, my understanding of health and wellness is really broad so it is not just about physical health. I take a very holistic view on wellness; to be truly healthy we need to be looking after not only our bodies but also our minds, our heart and our spirit. So while I no longer follow any strict rules for achieving health; I do have a number of practices that I follow in my life that I believe keep me healthy, wealthy and wise. Of these practices very few are about diet and exercise; because health starts with heart, mind and spirit; and then the body follows.
I define joy as a sustained sense of wellbeing and internal peace –
a connection to what matters.
These are the practices that I strive to follow (I’m not always consistent, but that’s ok – if I can do it more often than not, I’m winning):
- Love myself and be my own best friend – there is nothing more empowering than being comfortable just being with myself
- Focus on finding happiness from within – attempting to find happiness in another person, a career or in possessions is temporary and deceptive
- Be authentic – it’s ok to be me, quirks and all. I love this quote from Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
- Spend time with people who build, nurture and support me and don’t waste time on toxic relationships
- Be open to new experiences
- Be kind – ALWAYS – even when every bone in my body says differently
- Forgive – nobody can do anything so bad that it is worth deferring my happiness over.
- Cut myself some slack – I don’t have to be perfect all the time
- Be grateful
- Keep a journal – don’t keep my thoughts and emotions bottled up – get it all out on paper – the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Read – learning is a life-long journey
- Stick to an early morning routine
- Stick to a before bed routine
- Sleep at least 7 hours every night
- Set time aside for stillness whether it be through meditation or just sitting quietly under a tree – give my busy mind a break every day
- Limit TV and social media time
- Listen to music – life is always better with a soundtrack
- Live sustainably – Mother nature will survive without us; but we will not survive without her
- Live with less – get rid of the stuff that’s anchoring me in the harbour and not letting me sail freely into open water
- Move – it doesn’t need to be a vigorous gym routine – take the dog for a walk, choose to take the stairs instead of the lift, dance – just move as much as possible.
- Fresh air – get outside – it’s beautiful and it will invigorate me no matter what the season
- Water, water and more water
- Fresh organic food is best
- Eat colourfully – I try to have veggies of every colour on my plate
- Limit simple carbs and sugar – I reserve them for the occasional treat
- Eating a little fat is ok – but I make sure they are the good fats
- Take a good quality supplement – even the healthiest lifestyle will miss a few essential nutrients
- Have a hobby that I am really passionate about – something that gets the creative juices flowing and gives me joy – and I try to engage in it regularly.
- Be smart with my money – avoid debt; have a rainy day fund; and set aside 10% of my earnings in investments that can’t be touched.
- LAUGH – from deep in my belly – it’s so, so good for the soul
A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.