A woman in athleisure

As someone who has struggled with serious health problems and chronic illnesses in her early adulthood, womanhood and motherhood I’ve had to redefine the whole concept of health for myself.

Eating healthy foods while avoiding others and getting daily physical activity help me maintain my current weight. This routine also helps to minimize or keep certain symptoms at bay. With imbalanced thyroid levels, hormones, deficiencies and inflammation—weight loss is extremely challenging and difficult. Oftentimes, progress is painfully slow and occurs over a long period of time.

That’s not to say it’s impossible but that weight loss, in and of itself, can’t be the primary goal for my health. Healthy eating and exercise have to be about maintaining longevity, not a short-term goal for 30, 60 or 90 days. Longevity is about long life, existence and service. Health is a resource rather than an end goal.

Health is a resource rather than an end goal.

I’ve come to view my health as more than my weight and, instead, as building long-term strength and wellness. Actions such as healthy eating and exercising are ways I can show up for myself, so that I can show up for the people and things I love. 

Assess your level of health.

When it comes to making healthy eating and exercise a lifestyle and not just a resolution, first take stock of what you’ve defined as health or healthy. Were you told it was running so many miles a day or eating under a certain amount of carbs or calories? While every body is different in terms of its abilities, strengths and nutritional needs, don’t make your health goals number based. A healthy lifestyle provides the means to live your life with meaning and purpose. 

Don’t make your health goals number based. A healthy lifestyle provides the means to live your life with meaning and purpose. 

Opt for natural, whole foods.

When it comes to eating healthy, I try to eat a balanced and nutritious diet from as many natural sources as possible. I also focus on healthy swaps. If you usually skip breakfast or reach for a pop tart or sugary cereal, instead try making overnight oats the night before. Maybe a batch of whole food muffins or Greek yogurt with honey.

Do you love your morning latte? Try adding a spoonful of coconut oil which contains medium chain triglycerides, i.e. healthy fats. It helps your body use molecules produced from fat breakdown as fuel instead of glucose. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try adaptogenic or mushroom coffee. Adaptogens are plants that can help your body adapt and cope with stress.

Try nutritious takes on your favorite recipes.

Build on the habits and routines you already have but with more nutritious options. Some of my favorite healthful cookbooks are “The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.” It is about nourishing the post partum body. Whether you have had children or not, the recipes are designed to be healing and nutritious for a woman’s body and incorporates superfoods into a lot of the recipes. There’s even a snack and treats section! (Bonus points: my kids love eating all the recipes, too.)

“Love and Lemons” is another favorite cookbook of mine. This is a vegetarian cookbook, but you don’t have to be vegetarian to appreciate it. The chapter’s break down by ingredient so if you have a garden, farmers market or want to eat with the seasons you can make several recipes from the same ingredients.

I also really enjoy cooking with whole foods because I can cook for anyone on any kind of elimination diet (gluten, sugar, dairy, grains, etc.) Always speak with your doctor or physician if you are taking any medications or have any preexisting health conditions.

Add exercise where it fits your schedule.

Is there something you do at the same time everyday no matter what? Like checking the mail, walking the dog, making dinner or watering the plants? I learned that’s when I should exercise. I started prioritizing daily walking last spring during lockdown after dinnertime, and it did wonders for my body and mind.

I actually enjoy exercising more than I used too because I know I will sleep better that night, and that my mind will get a break too. Since daylight saving’s time, I have to take my walk before dinner, but now my brain knows when it’s dinner time that means walking/exercise time. My schedule and weekly routine with work, school and family responsibilities will look different from yours, but I’ve learned I can’t wait to have time for healthy eating and exercise, I have to make the time. 

I’ve learned I can’t wait to have time for healthy eating and exercise, I have to make the time. 

Healthy eating and exercise is a lifestyle, and your overall well-being is more than a number on a scale or carb count. Health is a resource for the everyday person doing the everyday things they love to do. For me, “healthy” means having the energy to play and keep up with my boys, hanging out with my husband and friends, making good meals for people I love and having the mental and physical stamina to create, learn and continue showing up in this season of life.

Maybe for you it’s hanging out with friends, listening to music, gardening, painting or teaching. Whatever you love to do and want to show up for, ask yourself, “What can I feed my body today so it can keep doing the things I love to do and care for the people I love to care for? How can I move my body to keep it strong and well today?” No day is perfect in terms of exercise and food, but every day is worth showing up for.

What are some practical ways you can make incorporate healthy eating and exercise? Why is it important to view healthy living as a lifestyle and not a short-term goal?

Image via Mary Fix, Darling Issue No. 20

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