How do you define health? It can be such an abstract concept for most people for so many reasons. Optimal health may be represented by the body that you see on a tv show or a magazine cover. You may be a person that runs marathons or goes to the gym seven days a week. All of these may be part of your definition or none of them may define what the road to better health means to you. I believe that the mark of great health is how you are feeling, with a few practical pieces of advice thrown in.
Four years ago was a massive turning point in my life. Nothing outwardly drastic occurred, but I had begun to make some shifts internally that started me down the road to better health. I have never been a gym person or a runner but I loved practicing yoga and my husband and I loved to walk our dogs everyday. I discovered a new teacher in yoga who very intense and his classes were certainly a greater physical challenge for me. I worried I wouldn’t be able to do his classes but went anyway!
No one is sent to us by accident and my new teacher is now one of my dearest friends. Over the years, I have learned so much through my yoga practice, but when I switched to a class that was more physically demanding I learned a great deal about myself and my inner world.
- I was capable of so much more than I thought.
- Growth was just outside of the edge of my comfort zone.
- Movement was vital element to my wellness.
- Yoga leaves you feeling good and when you feel good on the mat you want to take that with you into the world.
- There was no escaping myself.
Yoga is a profoundly powerful practice. I had been a student for several years with a couple of incredible teachers and through that practice I had to meet myself over and over again on the mat. I remember talking to one of my teachers after class and telling her how much I loved yoga, but could I just leave at the very end when we laid down. She looked at me and said: “no.” I hated the stillness. I couldn’t keep my brain from exploding the moment my body was still. My body and mind were on two separate planets.
I now teach yoga at the same studio, as well as another and it is still a practice that keeps me coming back not only to guide others, but to come back to myself. In the frenetic pace of my day, that rectangle of rubber represents connection and wholeness to me.
Movement is a vital component of the road to health. It does not have to be yoga. It has to be something that keeps you interested and engaged. When we take the time to exercise, it is the ultimate expression of self-love. If you find something that you love to do, stick with it. It will keep you coming back even when you don’t feel like it and that is a key to success.
I love to eat. Eating was, and continues to be, one of my favorite things to do. What changed for us then? We had to make some fundamental changes on the road to better health.
Diabetes runs in my family. I don’t have it but I was certainly heading there. Beyond having the natural risk factors for diabetes genetically, I fed myself trash. My husband and I’s idea of a great Saturday night was a king-sized Twix and a king-sized Snickers, a bag of Doritos and a two litre of Pepsi. FYI, that is the diabetes starter kit and I was heading straight for chronic illness.
Thankfully, we saw the writing on the walls. This is not always easy. Most people don’t make those changes until the illness happens. I knew that eating like garbage wasn’t going to get me anywhere good, but I was still relatively fine. I had never been someone that agonized over my weight so when I jumped up a size or two in my pants I didn’t really worry. I mean I didn’t LOVE it, but I didn’t feel self-conscious.
What changed? I had started to do yoga and that practice made me feel good. I wanted to keep that up but I was exhausted by 7:30 at night. Like flat-out-on-the-couch-in-a-dead-sleep-wiped. We went on a trip to Maui and when looking at the pictures from the trip we both looked at each other and said: “do we really look like that?”
It wasn’t a shameful attack, it was a wake-up call. We were carrying extra pounds around and that wasn’t going to change by us continuing to eat Twix and Snicks. We needed to make a change.
The road to health with food was relatively simple after that. For the last four years we have followed two approaches:
- Meal plan
- Eat real food
I eat whatever I want. I still look at food as a reason to celebrate. There is no lack in my relationship with food. It wasn’t a diet that we started, but a total transformation between our relationship to food and ourselves. The key difference is that we don’t eat processed food and we dramatically cut-out sugar.
Meal-planning was another key to our success. We still take ten minutes once a week to write down what we will cook for the week. Some nights those things have to be super quick or made-ahead due to our schedules, but every week we are eating real food. It completely took the stress out of cooking and we have saved enormous amounts of money to boot.
Keeping it Simple
I needed the road to better health to be accessible. Daily movement and real food dramatically improved our overall wellness and energy levels. No more utter exhaustion. My yoga practice still holds my attention because it is the opportunity to strengthen my connection between my body and mind. I no longer want to run away from myself.
Just the Beginning
The changes that we made were not to fit into smaller pants or save money. They were the natural result of us wanting to feel better and to not become plagued with chronic illness. Taking care of yourself is the ultimate expression of self-love.
The road to better health is not about looking a certain way. It is completely about how you feel. Love yourself enough to want to be around and healthy for as long as possible for the people in your life. Longevity and vitality are the marks of a healthful life and it begins with you and your willingness to put in the effort. More on willingness here.
Stay tuned: part two of our journey on the road to better health details the single worst experience of my life and how it dramatically changed our lives.
Tell me: What do you love to do to move your body? What does the road to health look like for you?