Tagged in: Motivation and Personal Fitness Journey

Be Well: for the Health of It.

It’s all about who you are, not what they lead you to believe you are

It’s everywhere I turn. It’s in my Twitter feed. It’s on the radio. It’s on morning television. It’s in pop up ads and Ecards on Facebook. It’s in my inbox. It’s always everywhere I turn, but even more so this time of year. And, it’s frustrating to me.

What is?

It’s all this nonsense being thrown out there. These images. These messages. It’s all foolish talk about ‘losing 5 lbs’ or ‘fitting into a particular size’. We have self-proclaimed fitness experts (what makes one an expert, anyway?) who clearly have a natch for branding. Good for them in some respects. They are finding ways to make an income and create a following to support themselves. While I admire (truly) their fortitude, I am critical of the messages they are perpetrating in society. As a woman, partner, mother, and professional - I honestly find it insulting. You see, I don’t make the choices I make to “look” a certain way. Looking a certain way is not how I want to be defined as a human being.

How I Want to be Defined

I want to be defined on how well I treat others and serve my community.

I want to be defined on the quality in which I complete my work.

I want to be defined on how well I support my kids’ development as positive contributors to society, all the while allowing them to be themselves.

I want to be defined by how loyal of a partner I am. One who supports my partner’s goals while staying true to my own.

I (this is for all of us women out there) do NOT want to be defined by the size of my new skinny jeans (but I do want to celebrate the deal I scored on them!).

Health Promotion and Prevention

What do I want?

I want more people who are good at branding to choose to talk about the short and long-term benefits of regular physical activity at moderate to vigorous intensities, as well as healthy nutrition choices.

I want more people who are good at branding and/or who are famous to talk about the mental resiliency, the sense of empowerment, and the metaphors for life that daily physical activity offers...Not just how it can help someone drop a few pounds before the holidays in order to be sexy and attractive to others. (blah)

I want more people to understand that if they eat well and are physically active, they will: feel better, sleep better, be more productive, and have more energy. They will also have less depression, lower stress levels, and will have a better attitude to meet adversity in the face - and then take it down.

I want more people to stop commenting on how someone looks and start focusing on she/he is saying.

I want people on TV and writing popular Internet blogs to stop showing silly things such as “who wore it better”. Who really cares? I get that I’m no fashionista - but how is this helping women to be taken seriously in this world? We have so darn much to offer. It just makes people feel badly about themselves. Aren’t we adults?

I want more people to make healthy choices so they can increase the duration of their life in which they are able to be independent.

I want people to stop judging those folks who DO choose to eat healthy and work out not say things to them such as ‘must be nice to have the time’ or ‘you must starve yourself’. I mean, really?

I want more people in positions of power (bosses, parents, school administrators) to focus on health promotion and build in time and policies that support folks in making healthy choices.

I want people to stop rewarding with food and celebrating with junk disguised as food so that our society can be nicer, more productive and feel better about themselves.

I want people to stop punishing kids with exercise.

I want parents to stop talking about exercise as something they “have to do” rather than something they “are fortunate to do”.

I want people to stop thinking that a calorie is a calorie. Calories from different foods are not the same. Don’t focus on the total calories, focus more on the nutritional gains from the calorie. Does the food offer nutritional gains optimal for health?

I want people who call themselves experts to indeed start behaving as such.

Life is too damn short. Shouldn’t we ought to feel good, be nice, and take care of this precious body we were lucky enough to receive?

I’m not expert but...

I am not comfortable with the term expert. I have a lot of formal education, and the biggest lesson it has taught me is how much I left to learn. I’m just fine with that. Between my kids, running, and yoga, I have lots to keep me grounded. I’m just a regular working mom, partner, friend, colleague, daughter and sister. However, here are some suggestions for you this holiday season.

Don’t feel you need to bake foods in order to be a rock star host/hostess. I serve dinner all the time for friends and family. They never complain when I dessert is only a dark piece of chocolate. I even (while I could be wrong) think they will come back to visit. I don’t bake unless it’s MacGyver’s birthday or one of my kids’ birthdays. I tell myself they will be just fine that I don’t bake on a regular basis. Now, if you love baking - go for it. If you care about health - consider healthier ingredients and portion control.

Enjoy and prioritize physical activity over the holidays. Maybe it’s skating, walking, running, or snowboarding. Get out there and live. 30 minutes is all it takes. You are worth it.

Approach choices in your day from a health promotion perspective - not a vanity one. Do you want to feel your best? Do you want to have energy? Do you want to feel productive? If the answer is yes, you will avoid the fast food line or the second piece of my Mum’s world-famous-in-Antigonish-Nova-Scotia carrot cake.

Talk nice to yourself. You will become what you tell yourself. Don’t judge yourself by what a scale says (throw those out, actually) or a calorie counting app tells you.

Traveling? Plan healthy snacks. Fruit, veggies, nuts and water are great items to take while on the road. If you are driving, pack a cooler. It saves you money and will keep your energy at a more steady state and not one with peaks and valleys.

I hope this doesn’t come across as a lame female impersonation of Rick Mercer. I have heard many former colleagues and acquaintances talk poorly about themselves related to their body image. It makes me sad. And, I’d be lying if I said this included only females. It’s not about being the fastest (newsflash: you never will be the fastest), it’s about getting out there and moving your body the way it has evolved to move (re: not sit).

Health is important. What could be more important, really? I knew at 17 - when I enrolled in St. Francis Xavier University as a physical education major - that I wanted to help people live physically active lives. Here I am 20 years and two more degrees, a 200 hour registered yoga teacher certification, and a holistic health coach certification later - never more inspired to do so. It’s not about helping people look better. It’s about empowering people with good information related to health (physical, emotional, social) benefits that come along with living a healthy lifestyle. Oh, and before you tell me my life is boring. It’s not. Well, okay, it can be (laundry is annoying, changing sheets and scrubbing floors are annoying/boring chores, too — heck, like you, I could go on all day here...). But, the best memories that I have are related to physical activity. Youth sports. Biking up Mt. Diablo before I married MacGyver. Running up Whiteface Mountain with MacGyver when first started dating (truly can’t believe I stuck around after that one). Training and doing an Ironman 70.3 and a marathon with MacGyver. The endless family hikes or trips to the pool. I had my share of days lounging around and eating cheetos (in my 20s) but not one of these days stick out in my mind...mmmmm.

Don’t wait for January 1, 2014. Those resolutions don’t work. Treat yourself right today. I’m not sure why you listen to me rather than an expert on TV, but I encourage you to consider doing so for at least a few days and see how it works for you.

  • Thanks for connecting with me on Twitter. You’re article is bang on. I work as a fitness professional (I call myself one because I have multiple certifications and make continuing ed a big part of my life ;) ) and struggle with trying to help my clients see beyond the scale.I consider myself successful when a client starts to recognize the non-scale victories associated with exercise and healthy eating. I love it when they’re capable of putting the scale away entirely (or only checking in once in a while).

    Have a great weekend!

  • This is a great post. I agree with your point of view 100%, I believe that health is one of the most important things in life. It is not trivial. If you don’t have your health, what can you do with your life? Not much. The other thing I believe about health is that caring about our health (NOT our appearance) is a responsibility that we have towards the people who love us. By treating yourself right, you are doing a good thing for the people that love you. I am a parent, and I know that if I eat healthfully and exercise all my life I am increasing the odds that I will be able to know my grandchildren someday. And I am decreasing the odds that I’ll be a burden on my children someday due to a chronic disease that I might have averted with lifestyle changes.

  • This is a great post. I agree with your point of view 100%, I believe that health is one of the most important things in life. It is not trivial. If you don’t have your health, what can you do with your life? Not much. The other thing I believe about health is that caring about our health (NOT our appearance) is a responsibility that we have towards the people who love us. By treating yourself right, you are doing a good thing for the people that love you. I am a parent, and I know that if I eat healthfully and exercise all my life I am increasing the odds that I will be able to know my grandchildren someday. And I am decreasing the odds that I’ll be a burden on my children someday due to a chronic disease that I might have averted with lifestyle changes.

  • Andrew

    Societal lenes of success are very difficult. Who has the most money? Who is the best looking? Who is more organic? Who is more environmentally conscious? Who is the best parent? Who is the most socially adept? Who is the fittest? And the list goes on.There is one thing all of these questions has in common is they can be measured, and when something can be measured there is money in the tools. This creates a market, which generates relentless advertising. It is no secret the psychological research that goes into marketing is designed to compel people to buy their product.

    A person who is at peace with themselves or has a positive self image is someone who might not feel the need to buy every self help product, join an expensive gym, spend a fortune on toxic skin care products, etc. If people feel good about themselves the self help market would dry up. There is no “if you feel good about yourself, buy our product” market.

    “If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it”- the anti theme song of corporate America.

  • Jen

    This holistic post is inspiring, helpful, and truthful. What is hard is that we need a paradigm shift in our ways of thinking, and by creating this conversation – you are helping to do that. There are many ways to think about the issue of health, and I think that you have identified many of the issues from a public health enhancing perspective. There are going to be more (even more than usual) images and words that tell us how much we need to lose in the next few weeks and how that can be accomplished after the New Year. But as you say – why wait? There is nothing magical about Jan. 1, but there is something magical about today, about tomorrow.Thank you for your thoughtful words and holistic way of thinking. I, too, favor my memories that were, and continue to be, created through participating in physical activity. Keep up the great work – your posts are wonderful!