what is self sabotaging your health

What is self sabotaging your health and how to stop

What is self sabotaging your health? Ever wondered why you just can’t seem to that new diet, exercise regime or self-care plan? Have you set yourself hundreds of goals for your health. Then just when you seem to be on the right track you do something to mess it up? Do you find yourself falling into the same patterns of destructive behaviour again and again? This is called self sabotaging. And it might just be the thing that is getting in the way of you reaching your health goals!

What is self sabotaging?

Self sabotaging patterns include procrastination from healthy habits. It can also be any form of addictive behaviour such as binge eating, substance abuse or over-using social media. It is defined as behaviour that deliberately causes you harm and gets in the way of you reaching your long term goals. Self sabotage is YOU preventing YOU from becoming the person you want to be. I say deliberate meaning that the behaviours are often things you know aren’t good for you but you do them anyway.

Often the thoughts that drive self sabotaging are unconscious meaning we aren’t even aware that we are having them. All we know is that one minute we were enthusiastic and motivated to reach our goals. Then the next we have given up and are back to square one.

what is self sabotaging your health

What is self sabotaging caused by?

Psychology research says that self sabotaging is a pretty common phenomenon. We all have that critical inner voice that develops during our childhood. For some this voice is harsher and louder than for others. The voice might say that you are lazy, that you are unworthy of success. Or that you’ll never reach your goals so you might as well give up. Whatever it is for you, we all have a dark, destructive aspect of our psyche that just wants to destroy things.

This was labelled by psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud as the “death drive”. It is that part of us that doesn’t seem to want happiness and seeks to disrupt anything that seems good. You might be thinking why would I ever destroy my own health and happiness?! But so many of us do it. Think of all the times you have stopped doing something that made you feel great. Or when you have carried on with bad habits that you know don’t make you feel your best.

As humans we like the familiar, things that we know and understand. Our brains are wired to think and act in a certain way in the world. Our neural connections get stronger with repetition like thousands of hikers walking the same pathway across a field until a deep muddy path forms. So when we want to change our habits and develop ourselves, it takes work to form a new pathway!

What is self sabotaging and fleeing from health?

When we start out, it’s very easy to fall back into the groove of our old ways. Most of our actions during the day are done on auto-pilot without us even thinking about it. It takes much more energy to make decisions about our behaviour and take conscious action. Our brains are energy conserving machines and they like to take the easiest route. So it’s totally understandable that we will slip up more than once when we are trying to change our behaviour.

I recently watched a video by Irene Lyons, a nervous system expert talking about “fleeing from health”. This was her term for repeating the same unhealthy behaviours again and again. She explains that procrastination and self-sabotage and is even more common in those who have had a traumatic or stressful childhood. Because this feeling of stress or lack of safety has become a normal state of mind, anything else feels alien. Then the unconscious mind acts quickly to disrupt things.

She says that the origin of self-sabotage is stored trauma or trapped survival stress in the body. To overcome self sabotaging, this needs to be processed and released.

How to eliminate self sabotaging and reach your health goals

I don’t think it’s possible to fully eliminate self-sabotaging behaviour. We aren’t robots and we can’t expect ourselves to behave logically and rationally 24/7 according to the rules we set for ourselves. But there are ways we can try to minimise self-sabotaging. We can definitely make it easier for us to work towards our goals.

Have self-awareness

Being aware of your destructive thought patterns and self-sabotaging behaviour is the first step to overcoming them. Depending on how severe a problem this is for you, you might need the support of a therapist. But you can always start by spending some time in silence and solitude each day, without the distraction of technology, to tune into your inner world. Listen to the repetitive thoughts and observe the feelings that come up and reflect on how these could be contributing to your self-sabotaging behaviour.

Start small

Forget about setting yourself a massive goal to go from couch to marathon in 6 months. This is ok as a long-term vision but you also need to set smaller more manageable goals. See my previous post on how to set health goals. If there is a huge gap between your current self and your goal, it can feel intimidating and overwhelming. You will be much more likely to give up and sabotage any progress you have made. It’s better to focus on the actions rather than the end goal. For example, “meditate for 5 minutes every day” than “be able to meditate for an hour”. Start small and over time gradually increase the time that you practice. Make your goals achievable so that you can be boosted by your success. Instead of falling into patterns of critisising yourself for not reaching the high standards you have set for yourself.

Plan for failure

First, accept that self-sabotage is a normal part of behaviour change. You can then start to plan for those occasions when we are likely to fall into the unconscious self destruct trap. Think of this as the “if, then” approach. You can think of situations which are likely to trip you up. Or common scenarios that occur when you are trying to create healthy habits. Then create an “if, then” strategy. For example, if I binge eat at night then the next morning I will have a healthy breakfast and go for a walk. If I forget my running shoes for my lunchtime jog, I will go for a walk instead. If I skip my morning yoga and meditation practice I will have a gentle stretch before bed instead. Or if I arrive home hungry after a stressful day at work, I will order a healthy stir fry rather than eat a whole pizza.

Have self-compassion

This goes along with planning for failure. Learn to expect yourself to fall back into old behaviours rather than expecting perfection. When slip ups inevitably do happen show yourself kindness and understanding rather than beating yourself up over it. This way you avoid the inner critic running the show. This only keeps you stuck in negative thought loops and self-sabotaging behaviour. We can see self-sabotage as a normal part of the process. See it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the funny ways your brain works. Learn from every slip up and use it to make your healthy lifestyle more robust and personalised to YOU.

Relax into health

Stress and living in an anxious, fear based mindset is going to make you more likely to sabotage yourself and fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms. This includes stress from putting pressure on yourself to take certain actions or reach your goals. To reduce self-sabotage, it’s important to try to relax and allow your nervous system to move out of flight or flight mode. This could be through a dedicated meditation practice. Or by simply taking breaks during the day to focus on your breath and consciously relax tension that has built up in your body. The key is to not make relaxation another task that you have to do. Rather a way to come back to the relaxed inner state that you want to feel.

Today’s challenge: What is self sabotaging and how does it show up in your life?

Your challenge for today is to take a few moments to reflect your own behaviour. Observe whether self sabotaging is a common pattern for you whenever you are trying to improve your health. Try to identify any repetitive thoughts and feelings that could at the root of your self-sabotaging behaviour. Then this week but these 5 strategies to reduce self sabotage into place!

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Counting calories for weight loss, a good idea?

Today’s topic in this Real Health January series is counting calories. Specifically whether counting calories for weight loss is a good idea!

What is counting calories for weight loss?

I’m sure most people these days are aware of the idea of calorie counting. You might be familiar with calorie counting apps like My Fitness Pal and Chronometer. But to quickly cover the basics, a calorie is a unit of energy commonly used to describe the amount of energy in a food. This energy comes from three macro-nutrient groups:

  • Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
  • Proteins (4 calories per gram)
  • Fats (9 calories per gram)

You can find the amount of calories (kcal) on the nutrition label of most foods. Usually the label will also have the guideline daily amount for a typical adult, like the one below.

There are many “macro calculator” websites, for example those by IIFYM and Precision Nutrition. You input your age, gender, height, current weight and how much weight you want to lose. The calculator will tell you how many calories and macros you should aim to eat per day to reach your weight loss goals. You can then track the calories in the food that you eat using an app like My Fitness Pal. You stay in the recommended ranges to see the weight loss results you want. Sounds simple. But is counting calories for weight loss a good idea? And is there another way?

The benefits of counting calories for weight loss

It is true that calorie counting has been linked with successful weight loss in multiple scientific studies. In order to lose weight, you need to be in an energy deficit. This means you need to burn more calories than you take in through food). Counting calories for weight loss can be a good way to make sure you are doing this.

Calorie counting can be a helpful tool for anyone who has absolutely no idea how much they should be eating. It can help you to become familiar with the portion sizes you need to eat to lose weight and be healthy. Over time counting calories can be a good way to learn more about the nutritional values of different foods. You might also understand which foods are more satisfying for the amount of calories they supply. For example, a 500ml bottle of coke which doesn’t fill you up at all has more calories than the bowl of porridge shown above!

There is also a concept called “if it fits your macros” in the fitness world. This is an approach where you eat whatever you like and still reach your weight loss goals, as long as you eat within the recommended calories and macro-nutrient ranges. This makes the calorie counting approach very appealing to anyone who doesn’t want to give up treats. Or doesn’t want any specific rules regarding the foods they can eat.

It allows for flexibility in the types of foods you eat. For some people this is a very freeing approach to weight loss. It is similar to the idea of Weight Watchers or Slimming World where every food has a points value. In this case you don’t count calories, rather you have a points allowance for the day. But this is just a simplified version of counting calories for weight loss.

The problems with counting calories for weight loss

Even though counting calories for weight loss can be successful, personally it’s not a method I recommend. This is for several reasons:

1. My training is in public health nutrition so for me, health always comes above weight loss with my clients. Counting calories focuses only on the amount of energy in foods and doesn’t consider the nutritional value. As well as calories and macro-nutrients, we need micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals to maintain strong healthy body. This includes a well functioning metabolism and immune system, strong bones and teeth and healthy skin, hair and nails. It’s better to eat a higher number of calories in whole foods than it is to eat a low number of calories in processed junk foods. You could eat 1000 calories a day in only chocolate cake and lose weight. But that wouldn’t be healthy or sustainable in the long term!

2. Calorie counting apps and nutrition labels are not 100% accurate. The information is based on laboratory tests that have an accuracy of +/- 10%. So even if you count calories to precisely 2000 per day, in reality you could be eating anywhere from 1800 to 2200 calories. This is a huge range and could have a massive impact on your goals! The same goes for calorie and macro-nutrient calculators, they aren’t tailored to your individual body. Instead, they are based on averages and statistics. So just because a calculator tells you to eat 1500 calories per day to lose 2lbs per week, it doesn’t mean that will happen for you. This can be pretty frustrating and take the attention away from any progress you have made.

3. Counting calories for weight loss is a very rigid approach. Usually you will aim for the same calorie target each day. This doesn’t fit with the constantly changing, flexible way our bodies work! Your calorie needs can change from day to day depending on many factors. Things like your activity, your sleep and your stress levels affect your energy needs each day. For women, our calorie needs can also shift cyclically with our hormonal rhythms (see my posts on how to eat with your cycle). Counting calories encourages us to over ride our natural hunger cues. This can lead to eating when you’re not hungry just because you “have calories left”. Or on the other hand, not going to bed hungry because you already “ate your calories for the day”.

4. Counting calories and macros can easily become an addictive or obsessive behaviour. Research has linked use of calorie counting apps and fitness trackers with the onset and maintenance of disordered eating behaviours. Whilst it might seem harmless, and it can be if it is a short term measure to learn about nutrition, tracking food and counting calories. Calorie counting for weight loss is a slippery slope and can become compulsive and controlling. As I shared recently in my post on letting go of the over-controller, it’s much better for our overall health to be flexible. You want to be intuitive and nurturing rather than rigid and focused on numbers.

Alternatives to counting calories for weight loss

So, maybe you’ve decided counting calories for weight loss isn’t for you but you still want to lose weight. What are your options? I’m not going to tell you that you can eat as much as you like of whatever you want and still lose weight because that’s not realistic. Unless you are a competitive athlete who needs ridiculous amounts of calories to fuel yourself..

counting calories for weight loss usane-bolt-mcnuggets

But you don’t have to rely on calorie counting apps either to reach your goals. One option is intuitive eating. I can write a whole separate post on this! But the basic idea is really tuning into your body’s hunger and fullness signals and cravings and learning to eat mindfully. Often we eat whilst on the computer or on the go without really paying attention to our food. Or we eat for emotional reasons or boredom rather than true hunger. Learning to eat intuitively helps to improve your relationship with food. It enables you to enjoy a wide range of foods without following specific diet rules.

The alternative to counting calories for weight loss and intuitive eating is to follow a restricted diet. By this I mean any diet which limits the types of foods you eat. Ever wondered why there are sooo many different diet books out there all claiming to offer you the solution to your weight loss woes? Well that’s because there is no one true diet to follow that is perfect for all humans. These diets work because by limiting the types of foods you eat. Therefore, they automatically limit the amount of calories you consume. Some examples:

  • Whole foods or Paleo diet (limits processed foods)
  • Keto or Atkins diet (limits carbohydrates)
  • Vegan or plant-based diet (limits animal products)
  • Starch solution (limits fats)

Honestly I think all of these diets can work. If you experiment and find one that suits your tastes and lifestyle you can find weight loss success. I think it’s much better to let go of dogma and realise that we are all different. I always say, listening to your body and working with it rather than against it is much more likely to lead you to health and happiness. Rather than constantly fighting and controlling yourself with force.

Today’s challenge: Reflect on your experience with calorie counting

Your challenge for today is to reflect on your experience with calorie counting. How did it make you feel? Did it make you focus more on food or give you food freedom? Have you tried counting calories for weight loss? What worked and what didn’t?

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Best exercise for weight loss and health?

January is a time when lot’s of us decide to start a new fitness regime. We want to lose that holiday weight and feel healthier. But what is the best exercise for weight loss and health? In the online fitness world you see endless photos of “influencers” doing crazy workouts and high intensity training. They get millions of likes when they share photos of their toned thighs and shredded abs. But is it really necessary to train like an athlete to reach your goals? And is intense exercise for weight loss truly healthy?

The answer is, it depends! When it comes to weight loss, it always comes down energy out vs. energy in. Simply put, to lose weight, you need to burn more energy (calories) than you eat from food. In other words, your net energy must be negative to lose weight.

best exercise for weight loss energy balance

But the catch is that our bodies are far from simple machines. This makes the picture of weight loss much more complicated. To understand this, you need to realise that changing one part of the weight loss equation has an impact on the rest. And this is why more exercise doesn’t always result in faster weight loss. Your body like nothing more than staying balanced or in homeostasis. Therefore, it will use every power it has to keep things as they are. Especially when you use extreme tactics such as intense exercise to lose weight. You body will resist and fight back.

How your body responds to exercise for weight loss

I’ll give you some examples of how your body tries to compensate when you exercise intensely. Your body:

  • Minimises your natural movements throughout the rest of the day – aka the “active couch potato” syndrome
  • Ramps up your hunger hormones and decrease the hormones which make you feel full and satiated to make you eat more than usual after your exercise. Familiar with that bottomless pit hunger after working out intensely?!
  • Makes your metabolism efficient and learns to survive using less energy. This could look like a slowing of your heart rate, reducing body temperature and blood pressure
  • Slows or shuts down unnecessary functions like hair growth, cell repair and menstrual cycles

Does this mean that intense exercise is not the best exercise for weight loss and health?

Yes, intense exercise it is not necessarily the best exercise for weight loss. Challenging your body through cardiovascular exercise is a good thing. If you want to improve your physical fitness, moderate to high intensity exercise is great a few times a week. But slogging it out in the gym for 1-2 hours every day to burn as many calories as possible is more likely to be a stress on your body. This won’t help you to reach your health goals!

Athletes who train at this level for their job have a whole team to take care of them. It’s a full-time job to get the right nutrition, rest and rehabilitation to keep their body healthy at this level of activity. Nowadays it seems like everyone is training like an athlete for the sake of achieving a perfect physique. And your average Joe doesn’t have this level of support! This can result in injuries and chronic illness in those that over-excercise. I always say to stay aware that things you see online may not always be as they seem. People that you admire or compare yourself to might look healthy and fit on the outside. However, you never know what is going on inside.

I recently enjoyed watching the journey of Stephanie Buttermore. She is a well known fitness influencer who admitted that behind the scenes she was struggling with extreme hunger, fatigue and hormonal issues. She decided to go “all in” to recover her health as I did when recovering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Her issues were around restrictive eating and not eating enough to support her level of training. Restrictive eating and over-exercising can have very similar impacts. Extrememes in both can create too large an energy deficit for the body to handle. This creates a stress response and can lead to a cascade of other issues.

So what is the best exercise for weight loss and health?

To start with, I’d say any exercise that you genuinely enjoy and will stick to. It’s much better to build a sustainable habit of working out for 30 minutes three times a week that to go all out and exercise every day then give up after a week. With exercise for weight loss and health, consistency is key! Everyone is different and we all like different things. Some people really enjoy working out at the gym, others prefer running or cycling outdoors. You might like taking your dog on long walks or walking in the park with a friend.

For me, dancing and yoga are the two ways of moving my body that I really love. These activities don’t feel like exercise at all! I also love walking outside whether that’s a stroll around the area or a long hike in nature. The best exercise for weight loss is one that doesn’t feel like exercise but is a fun part of your life.

Walking is the best exercise for weight loss

In my opinion, walking is one of the best exercise for weight loss. Why? Let’s go back to the weight loss equation. Walking is a low intensity exercise which gets your heart rate up into the fat burning zone. However it is not usually to the point where you are out of breath or struggling to speak. This means it is a low stress type of exercise. Walking won’t cause your body to freak out and try to conserve energy or send you signals to over eat to compensate.

Going for a walk is a way of moving your body that can fit into your every day life. It doesn’t have to labelled as exercise or a workout. You can walk to work or to the shops, or you can meet a friend for a lunch time walk. Walking doubles as time to relax and to move your body too. You can listen to music that you like or a podcast or chat on the phone while you walk. Walking is suitable for all levels of fitness from absolute beginners right up to experienced athletes. Plus, it’s completely free!

If your goal is to lose weight, start by walking for 30 minutes every day and see how you feel. You can then add in other exercise that you enjoy to mix things up and have fun. Moving your body should be enjoyable and afterwards you should feel tired but not completely exhausted. If you are feeling totally depleted after your workouts then it’s probably a sign that you are over doing it for your current level of fitness. This is a sign to tone it down or you could risk burn out or injury.

If you are also trying to change your diet to eat healthier, go easy on yourself! It’s much harder to make healthier food choices when your body is starving after an intense workout. Often we can fall into the trap of binge eating on energy dense foods such as sweets and processed food. We want to be gentle and work with our bodies rather than against them. So always check in with how you feel after a workout and go from there.

Daily challenge: Go for a walk!

So your challenge for today is simply to go for a mindful walk. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for 10 minutes or an hour. Just be sure to pay attention to your surroundings and to how you feel in your body and mind afterwards. Notice whether you feel fatigued or energised and whether your stress levels have increased or decreased.

best exercise for weight loss walking in nature

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how to set health goals smart

How to set health goals for the new year

In yesterday’s post I asked you to think about what it means to be healthy. So you now have an idea of what true health means to you. Hopefully you also tried the visualization exercise and you now have an image of your healthiest self. Today I want to share my tips on how to set health goals to work towards making this a reality!

Goal setting is like creating an action plan to get us from point A (where we are now) to point B (where we see ourselves in the future). Setting goals is not for everyone but it can be helpful to give us direction and give our actions meaning. Making progress towards our goals can give us a sense of purpose. It also makes us feel good about ourselves and boosts our self-confidence. But it is important to understand how to set health goals if you want them to be a helpful tool rather than a waste of time.

Why is it important to learn how to set health goals?

Often you come into the new year with crazy ideas of all of the ways you are going to change. You are determined to better yourself. And you have decided on the new actions you plan to start and all of the old habits you want to let go of. Have you ever committed sincerely to giving up alcohol completely after new year? Or planned to exercise for an hour every day and cook all your meals at home? Only to find yourself the next Saturday night having a takeaway and beers with friends and spending the whole of Sunday lying on the sofa watching old episodes of Peep Show??

Oftentimes we can set so many health goals for ourselves that we become completely overwhelmed. It then simply feels easier to go back to our old ways. If you want to make lasting changes to your health you have to be more realistic. You need to be aware of your less than perfect human nature and the challenges of living in the world. You have to learn how to set health goals for yourself that give you direction and act as a positive motivator.

How to set health goals. The vision!

So where do you begin with setting goals? Start by going back to your visualization of your healthiest self. Think of the overall vision of what you want to achieve in one area of your health. For example:

  • I want to eat healthier
  • I would like to exercise more and become fitter
  • I want to reduce my stress levels
  • I need to improve my relationships and my social life
  • I want to drink less alcohol
  • I would really like to improve my confidence and self-worth
  • I want to spend more time outside

These are all great examples of “New Years’ Resolutions”. If you want to make these a reality, you need to set more specific health goals. From there you can decide how you are going to achieve these things.

How to set health goals using the SMART technique

I’m sure some of you are familiar with the idea of SMART goals in business. This can also be useful tool for how to set health goals too!

how to set health goals smart

Psychology research shows that setting yourself goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound makes you more likely to achieve what you want. What does this mean in practice? It’s easier to explain with an example. Imagine your overall vision is the first point above to “I want to eat healthier”.

We will look at how to set health goals based on this vision using the SMART acronym:

Specific

What do you mean by eat healthier? Do you mean you want to eat more fruits and vegetables or less processed foods? Do you mean you want to stop skipping breakfast and eat more regular meals? Do you want to include more vegetarian or gluten-free meals in your diet? Do you want to aim for a certain calorie or macro-nutrient target? Be as specific as you want. If it is relevant, also think about how, when and where you are going to do it.

Measurable

How are you going to decide whether you have achieved your goal and how will you measure your progress? Maybe you want to aim for a 5 of portions of fruits and veg a day. Perhaps you want to prepare 3 home cooked meals each week? Do you want to limit takeaways or chocolate to once a per week? Do you want to drink 5 glasses of water a day? You can keep track of your health goals in a journal or in an app like Habit Share.

Achievable

Are you being realistic with your goal? Think about where are you now vs. where you want to be. How confident do you feel that you can achieve this goal on a scale of 1-10? If it seems like too big a step, would it be better to break it into smaller mini-goals? For example, your vision is to prepare dinner at home every night but right now you eat ready meals daily. Maybe it makes more sense to start cooking 3 times a week and build it up over time.

Relevant

For this one go back again to your visualization of what health means to you. Reflect on your goal and whether it will help you to move towards this vision. Health is multi-faceted so you don’t want to set goals in one area of health that limit other areas of your wellbeing. As you are deciding on the goals it’s pretty likely that it will be relevant but its worth a check. For example, your you see health as being free of diet rules and being able to enjoy food. Setting yourself the goal of avoiding takeaways or sweets is probably not relevant right now for you!

Time-based

Lastly think about when you want to achieve your goal by. Also think about whether this is a good time to start? Reflect on your personality and whether you prefer shorter term mini-goals or long term bigger challenges. Then think about how to set health goals for yourself based on this. You could set goals on a weekly, monthly or even yearly basis. Always choose a time frame and set a reminder in your phone or diary to review progress towards your goals.

Some examples of how to set health goals using SMART

Eat healthier → For the month of January I will prepare a healthy breakfast at home every day before work

Exercise more and become fitter → I will go for a 30 minute walk in the local park at lunch time 3 times this week

Reduce my stress levels → I will spend 10 minutes focusing on deep breathing in bed before I go to sleep every night this week

Improve my relationships and my social life → This month I will call an old friend to reconnect at least once a week on a Sunday night

Reduce my alcohol intake → By the end of January I will cut down drinking from 2 bottles of wine a week to 1 by replacing weekday drinks with flavoured water

Improve my confidence and self-worth → Every morning this month I will look in the mirror and say 3 things that I like about the way I look, my personality or my skills and abilities

Spend more time outside → First thing in the morning, at least 3 times a week, I will sit outside for 5 minutes

You can repeat this process with different areas of your health but remember not to overwhelm yourself and think about what is realistic for you. It’s much better to change 1 habit a month for a year than try to change 12 habits at once and give up completely. I think setting 3 goals at a time is probably the maximum if you want to stay focused and on track but only you know what is best for you.

Today’s challenge: Put into practice these tips on how to set health goals!

So your challenge for day 2 is to write down your goals for the month of January. Three goals I am setting for myself this month are:

  1. Practice yoga for at least 10 minutes a day. Whether that is a full practice or 10 minutes of stretching before bed
  2. Start every day with a glass of water, juice or herbal tea. I will also avoid caffeine when I am on my period
  3. Practice menstrual cycle awareness. This includes tracking my cycle and writing in my journal at least 3 times per week

Over to you…

  • Comment: share your SMART health goals and commit to your success!
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What does it mean to be healthy?

Today is the 1st January, the start of a new year and a new project for me! January is a time when lots of us want to get healthier and fitter. To get back to some healthy habits after indulging over the festive period or maybe lose some holiday weight. When we want to make changes to improve our health, it is first important to understand what health actually is. Therefore, I have been reflecting over the last week on the question, what does it mean to be healthy?

As a Nutritionist and Women’s Wellness Coach, I help people to reach their health goals and feel better in their bodies. However, I don’t really resonate with the traditional messages of control and restriction in the health and fitness world. So I decided to start a daily blog series called “Real Health January”. In this series I will share tips on how you can work with your body and guide you to make small changes gradually to move towards better physical and mental health. As all Bridget Jones fans will know, new years resolutions should never start till the 2nd January. So for today I just want to focus on the question, what does it mean to be healthy?

what does it mean to be healthy bridget jones new year resolution

What does it mean to be healthy? Definition of health

Think of the healthiest person you know. How would you describe them?

  • The absence of diseases or illness?
  • Behaviours that they follow e.g. eating well or exercising?
  • Healthy appearance e.g. slim with good skin or shiny hair?
  • Emotional stability e.g. happy and stress free?
  • A good social life or family network?
  • All of the above???

The World Health Organisation defined health in 1948 as:

“A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”

This is quite a holistic approach but still definitely brings up some questions! Can someone with a disability be healthy? What about someone with a lifelong genetic condition? If someone has a chronic disease which can be managed and does not affect their quality of life, are they healthy? And what does complete well-being mean anyway and who can actually achieve it?

The answer to these questions is that there is no answer. Defining health is actually a really difficult thing to do as it has different meanings depending on the individual. People tend to describe health based on their own situation and experiences. Someone with a chronic disease or disability that they are managing might be less likely to describe health as peak physical fitness. Instead, they might focus on the emotional and social aspects of health.

A shy person who might not have the most active social life can still feel healthy and happy. They might describe health as having a healthy lifestyle and the lack of disease. For some, being healthy means maintaining a slim physique. But others living in a larger body might feel healthy, confident and energetic just as they are. Health can also be seen simply as being able to participate in and enjoy life to the fullest.

Health as a resource not a goal

Regardless of the specific definition, it is important that we see health as a resource for a fulfilling life. Health should not be the ultimate aim or achievement in life.

Medical News Today also reports health as:

“health is a resource to support an individual’s function in wider society, rather than an end in itself. A healthful lifestyle provides the means to lead a full life with meaning and purpose.”

A problem with the current health and wellness industry is that it abuses an image of health to keep people trapped and chasing an unattainable goal. We are constantly bombarded with images of skinny or athletic women (men too!). We are made to believe that if we don’t have abs or we have too much cellulite then we aren’t healthy and we need to do something to fix ourselves. This could be a new restrictive diet, weight loss program or exercise regime.

Good health is a priority for many of us and we are willing to pay crazy sums of money for nutritional supplements, fitness programs and other products which promise to bring us closer to this image of health. We can quite easily revolve our life around trying to be healthy. Unfortunately, this obsession can take away from our emotional and social well-being. It is important to ask ourselves the question, what does it mean to be healthy? This is the way to true health rather than just a facade of health.

What does it mean to be healthy for me?

I know for sure that my definition of health has changed over the last few years. I used to think I was healthy as I was slim, I looked reasonably well and exercised like a fiend. People around me thought so too and I was complimented for being the fit one. However, looks aren’t everything and inside, my body wasn’t functioning like it should. I was stressed and anxious and my obsession with food and exercise was detracting from my social life.

Good health is something many of us take for granted. We don’t think twice about neglecting our bodies until things start to go wrong. But a small amount of time and effort spent on learning how to look after ourselves and actually going out and practicing it can really make a difference. These days, I take a much more holistic approach to health. I definitely focus more on keeping my stress levels down over everything else. Which is not an easy job when we’re in the middle of a pandemic!

Today’s challenge: What does it mean to be healthy for you?

That is entirely your call!

Your challenge for today is to reflect on the question what does it mean to be healthy? Maybe make a mind map including all of the elements of health for you. Or, take 5 minutes to visualize your healthiest self. Think about how you might act, think and feel. What you would do or say if you were your healthiest self. Let it really sink in and the energy permeate throughout your cells.

Some examples of what does it mean to be healthy:

True health to me is…

… feeling comfortable, light and free in my body
… challenging myself and experiencing life to the fullest
… nourishing my body and mind with healthy food and movement
… feeling free and unrestricted in my food choices
… sleeping well and feeling energetic and happy

Maybe some of these resonate with you. Or maybe you have your own idea of what it means to be healthy. Everyone’s image of health will look slightly different and that’s a good thing! For me right now I define health as feeling strong and energetic in my body. I want to have a solid support network around me. For me, health is also feeling like I am following my purpose and sharing my passions through my work.

Tomorrow’s post will be on how to set achievable goals to work towards your image of true health. Follow my blog to be updated daily throughout this series!

Over to you…

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