What does it mean to be healthy? Truly, that word means something different to everyone. I guess I can only now reflect on what it means to be healthy to me.
We all have a story. This is mine.
The year is 2004 or 2005. The scene is my college apartment. The thought process is scattered, at best, but the predominant theme is: I do not want to get fat like most people do in college. And, I didn’t….but it wasn’t because I was health conscious. I was only “are my jeans getting too tight” conscious. It worked at the time, because a 22 year old’s body is very forgiving. I think I lived on LeanPockets out of the microwave, and I’m pretty sure my beer to water ratio was 5:1 on a daily basis.
The next few years saw me working long hours getting my Real Estate career established, and living alone. I was eating almost every meal at a restaurant and meeting friends or coworkers for happy hour 3-4 weeknights per week, then going out on the weekends. Needless to say, the jeans did get a little tight at this point, but it wasn’t tight enough to warrant a feeling of being “unhealthy” and I didn’t change those habits. If I was unhealthy, I would have been fat, right? So, all was well. Let's have another round.
When I met my husband in 2007, we became inseparable very quickly. I am sure many couples can relate to the phenomenon of wanting to spend every available minute together, even at the expense of our own habits. I had been an avid runner since middle school, but I quickly quit making time for running after work because I had much more important things to do like go to dinner with my future husband ALMOST EVERY NIGHT. The jeans no longer fit, and I couldn’t even try to convince myself that the newly formed love handles I was sporting were healthy. We got engaged and married within a year of meeting, so by the time I hit the aisle I had done an emergency Atkins type stint for a month or so to be able to pour myself into my dress. Although I didn’t feel like myself at this point, we were too busy being awesome to care. It was way too fun to cook amazing dinners every night to care about the 20 extra pounds we were carrying around since meeting the year before.
After birth of our first baby a year later, I felt like I was ready to get healthy (skinny) and feel like myself again. I started running again, worked out with a trainer, ate highly processed and nutrient void powdery paste disguised as food called Nutrisystem, and got healthy (skinny) enough to feel like I could relax a little. A pot or two of coffee for breakfast and mid-morning snack, restaurant salad of some sort for lunch, more coffee for the afternoon slump and something resembling home cooked food for dinner. Sprinkle in a cup or two of water (maybe) and that was my new mom life! I was a busy business owner and I didn’t make time drink a sip of water or prepare lunches in advance; this went on for about 3 years.
By the time I was pregnant with our second child, super overweight, on bed rest and absolutely MISERABLE, something really shifted internally for me. I read a book called “Eat to Live.” This book is really far removed from what I feel is “healthy” today, but it was a pivotal point for me and I have to credit this read for changing my mindset from Must. Get. Skinny. Again. to I want to live a long and vibrant life without being sick and tired. It was at this time that I started experimenting with cooking a much higher volume of vegetables and fruits than ever before. Even though I was pregnant and unable to change anything else about my body, I had a new sense of purpose to change my family tree. The timing was very important, as my 30th birthday was a few weeks away.
Sidebar: You know people who say "Age is just a number" and they really mean it? I am not one of those people. I hated turning 30.
I made the decision at that point that I would become a student of human nutrition and figure out what I could do to provide the most healthful home to my children. I can see, now, that it was the heavy weight I felt to take the best possible care of my kids that changed our lives. I hadn’t been willing to take the best care of myself up to this point, but I certainly didn’t want to expose my kids to anything that would hurt their perfect little bodies. I bought myself the Vitamix blender I had been coveting for a year as a 30th birthday present, and I never looked back!
Internal dialogue at that time: I will get every fruit and vegetable that I can into your little body through a straw if I have to. Smoothies are our friend. Blend and repeat. Blend and repeat.
Also: I still use this thing multiple times daily. Every single day. Everyone should have one!
The birth of our son in May of 2013 was a time of huge transition, as we were making our second move out of state to the oil boom in Western North Dakota. A newborn and a 3 year old, the isolation of having no sleep, few quality friends in town, and nothing but time, combined with a desperate desire to feel like ME again saw me reading anything and everything I could get my hands on in regards to health and wellness. I made a transition back into daily workouts and continued on the slow and deliberate removal of unnecessary chemicals from our lives as much as possible, along with the inclusion of as much fresh produce as I could. Slowly, but steadily, I could feel ME starting to peek through again. (Ironically, it was during this time of really trying to intentionally put my health first, that I saw some of the effects of my lifestyle over the previous decade: a gigantic cyst on my thyroid and totally wacked out hormones.) Over the next two years, our daily routines and habits evolved to the point that I felt like we had a real handle on our health. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the journey!
I found the Nutritional Therapy Association through an Instagram hashtag. I absolutely could not believe that an organization like this existed! I felt like someone had hacked into my mind and created a unicorn playground for me full of skills and practices that I was already passionate about, to learn and build a business out of. Immediately, I sent the link to my husband and told him I was going to sign up for the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner course.
He, of course, responded supportively that if it was actually possible to make a career out of bossing people around and telling them what to eat, I had truly found my niche and I should go for it. (Side eye, Greg.)
Now, as I write this post and reflect on what my story is up to this point, it is so clear to me that I have had a 180 degree shift in my own personal view of health.
For my first 30 years, consciously or unconsciously, I equated fat as unhealthy, and healthy as skinny. Period. My goal was skinny, and the toll it took on my body to get there was of no consequence. Ironically, I never really did get there anyway. I honestly thought a person could and should live on Diet Pepsi, Lean Cuisine, Fiber One bars, and some Light n Fit Yogurts.
Today, I view my body as the strong machine that it is, and I fuel it thoughtfully with the highest quality foods that I have available. I shouldn’t be surprised that at this point my body is actually smaller than ever before, or that I am stronger and have more energy than any other point in my life. I feel so fortunate for the knowledge that I have gained in the last year, especially, and to be able to teach my kids and clients all about food and true health.
I just can't wait to see where this body (that I am finally taking care of) takes me from here.
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