the word health has a weird meaning in our culture, especially when it’s related to food. apparently most people see “health” food as lean cuisines, low fat yogurt cups and fiber one bars. or they see “healthy” people as those who drink green juice, eat quinoa on the regular and exercise every day. people seem to have an all or nothing attitude towards eating and health–good and bad food, good and bad days. if you’re going to have the occasional cookie, there’s no point in even trying to get more active and eat a little cleaner, right?
i knew basically nothing about food or nutrition until after college. i had always eaten what i wanted, when i wanted. since i had gone from being a competitive dancer to essentially never exercising, i carried some extra pounds and sometimes wished i were thinner, but it wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. i never thought about what it meant to put something in your body–i honestly felt like when i over ate, if i brushed my teeth and drank some water, the food was erased. afterward i moved on with my life. i didn’t see that the body is a whole system, completely connected. in some ways this attitude was an example of ignorance as bliss–i never thought about calories, or restricting, or having to get a workout in; but is was also a slippery slope into poor health.
i first became aware of food as an integral factor in overall health after my grandmother passed away and my parents got a kick in the butt and started trying to get in better shape. high blood pressure runs in my family, and as they faced their 60s my parents made some life changes triggered by their need to reduce sodium intake and get more active. although we ate pretty balanced and wholesome meals while i was growing up, it was during this time my parents became truly mindful eaters and introduced me to the concept. my mom found a passion for the local food movement and got involved through our church, while my dad explored his love of cooking and experimenting with growing food at home.
their change in attitude towards food inspired me first to start exercising and join weight watchers. and then i began to scour the internet for nutritional information (this is how i first found the healthy living blog world). the more i learned, the more i became convinced that what you put in your body is one of the most important decisions a person can make.
the conclusion i’ve come to is that for me, health is being in tune with what your body and mind truly need and desire. most of the time for me that means good, simple, substantial food, lots of water and regular light exercise–yoga, walking and a little strength training or ellipticaling (it’s a word!). but it also means birthday cake, wine and beer, greasy burgers and frozen pizza. it means marathoning west wing alone on the couch. or staying up late laughing your ass off with a friend. it can also mean training for a marathon, devoting yourself to crossfit or working your butt off at zumba. healthy is when your body and mind truly feel good and function in sync. food and exercise, too much or too little of either, can mean so many things to us–loaded with emotion and being used to obscure our true fears and insecurities, it can be hard to gain clarity between need and want.
so pay attention; chose food that makes your body feel good. move the way that your body wants to move. to me, that’s true health.