5.23.14
healthy habits best body weight loss

Dairy-free. Gluten-free. Vegan. Paleo. High Intensity Interval Training, lifting to fatigue, high reps with low weight, low reps with high weight, steady state cardio, fat-burning zone…

No wonder so many of us are confused.

Health as defined by our good friends at Merriam-Webster is “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially freedom from physical disease or pain.” An alternate definition reads, “flourishing condition; well-being.” And yet another tells us that health is synonymous with fitness, heartiness, robustness, soundness, verdure, wellness, wholeness, and wholesomeness.

Note that nowhere does it mention a specific diet or exercise regime. Nowhere does it say that health is defined by the type of exercise you complete, the space you leave between meals, the portion size on your plate. And yet we’ve somehow come to believe this notion that one size does fit all, that there is some secret to achieving the healthy body you were meant to have.

I once read that when adopting a newer, healthier lifestyle (whether that means losing extra inches, lowering inflammation in your body, gaining muscle, or raising your body weight to a level at which it can function with energy and ease), it takes something like four weeks for you to feel a difference, eight for your friends to take notice…and twelve for acquaintance and strangers to start asking questions. Ok, so I might have read it on the almighty scientific journal that is Pinterest – but I like the idea it portrays of slow and steady change. Over the last few months I’ve lost a very small yet noticeable amount of weight, and now all the sudden it feels as if everyone is asking how they can follow suit. What is your secret? What are you doing? Even though it’s a very minor loss and took some time to show externally, there is something different to those around me, and all the sudden everyone wants in on the action.

What’s more, no one believes me – or thinks I’m telling the complete truth – when I let them know my “secret:” I’m happy. Interestingly enough, hearing that my subtle external changes are due to happiness is not the answer they want to hear.

When it comes to healthy habits and wellness, one size never fits all. And yet we treat it as such: going Paleo simply because it worked for a friend, taking up Pilates because the woman at the gym with the body type you covet swears by reformer sessions every other day. There is new debate as to whether non-Celiac gluten allergies are a fallacy or not, and it’s causing quite the stir. People who went gluten-free because they were told it was healthy are now looking for the next trendy cause of distress and working wheat back into their lives. Some are finding no difference. Some are feeling the pain, and feeling it deeply.

Webster and Co. had it right when they said that health is the condition of being sound in body, mind, spirt, free of physical disease and in a flourishing condition.” But health is so much more. Mainly, it’s about happiness. It’s about respect. It’s about love. Love of your body, love of your organs and bones, love of the unique person you are. To achieve a state of true health requires you to notice – really notice – the way your body and mind react to what you feed it, what you do with it, and how you treat it. Healthy habits are developed by listening to your body’s cues and soft cries of joy or pain, then proactively working toward the positive. It’s amazing how many people will stay on restrictive diets, eat certain superfoods, or log a specific amount of time every day working out simply because it’s what they’ve been told is “correct.” Yet when it comes to your own health and wellness, only you are the expert of your own body.

For these reasons and more, you’ll never see an article on The Chalkboard that states “To look like X, do Y.” Our team feels a personal and professional responsibility to cancel this kind of work out of our editorial repertoire. We can make suggestions, we can give you some new options, and we absolutely adore shedding light on new practices or findings that intrigue us! But every body is different, and if we tell you that you must do X to look exactly like Y, we’re making false promises. Your body is your own, and it can only be the best, healthiest version of itself…not a carbon copy of anyone else’s physique.

Of course, there is more to happiness, respect, and love than just the idea of sunshine and butterflies. With happiness, respect and love come awareness – and with awareness, we learn that certain practices either help us or hinder us on our journey. The extra serving you once reached for now seems trivial and a distraction from all you’re feeling in the moment. The food that makes your stomach tie in painful knots, you’re no longer willing to sacrifice that feeling of joy over the feeling of sluggish, painful imbalance. The exercise you loathe isn’t worth the hours of slaving away when you find a form of fitness that enhances the rest of your life and gets your creative juices flowing. The decisions you make when you act from love instead of loathing are the ones that stick with you in the long run.

Just to be clear, in no way am I suggesting to give up on a specific program you’ve been prescribed by a health practitioner, personal trainer, or other professional. But if you’ve adopted a plan or habits simply because of the external view you have of them as “healthy,” I encourage you to dig deeper. Have you made these choices because you’ve heard you should – or because they make you feel good? What makes you come alive? What small changes can you make right now to ensure the life you lead on the outside is a glance into how you feel on the inside? If a green juice a day make you feel vibrant, fantastic! If a bit of grass-fed meat makes you bounce with energy and helps your system function smoothly, go for it! When it comes to health, there is no black, no white, and nothing is off limits as long as it helps you flourish.

As I said, the changes in my body are slight – yet even though I thought I only felt a difference on the inside, they’re apparently noticeable to others. I come from a long line of “health” advocates and chronic dieters: whenever I’ve been uncomfortable in my own skin, I’ve been told to cut portions, or eat at specific intervals during the day, or less meals and greater quantities, or start running longer distances at shorter speeds or shorter distances at faster speeds. Or stop running altogether. Health had become so confusing, and the “facts” all contradicted one another. And now, finally, I am slowly seeing the kind of progress I’ve wanted for so long. Yet strangely enough, I’m not following any plan. Moreover, it pales in comparison to how I feel when I am not ordering lunch, when I am not working out, when I am not thinking about what is right and what is wrong.

Health is not about diagrams or pie charts. It’s not about a rulebook or an outline or even a label. Health is about eating for your best self, moving for your best self, thinking for your best self, and acting as only your best self knows how. Health is about learning to listen to your body and honoring what it has to say. Need help tuning in? Take a peek at our guide to seven other ways to get your best body ever. Once you begin to define health on your own terms, your habits merely become supporting evidence of all you have to be happy about – all you have to love.

From our friends

Comments


  1. Exactly! Love this article!

    I’ve been on a several year personal health exploration and what I’ve come to learn is that just as different looking as we all are on the outside is how different we are on the inside. A one size fits all approach for how to eat/take care of ourselves is ridiculous if you think in this way. It’s all about self exploration, taking the time to try different things, find what works/doesn’t work in your body. What makes you feel good, what makes your body feel good, what makes your heart feel good.

    I think the most sad part about people searching for these “cookie cutter” “miracle diets” is the fact that to me that indicates people aren’t looking right within themselves to get to know themselves.

    Try a plan if you want, but customize, modify, keep what serves you and toss out what doesn’t.

    It’s all about self exploration and finding what works for you!

    Mackenzi | 05.23.2014 | Reply
    • That’s such a perfect way of putting it, Mackenzi: we are just as different on the outside as we are on the inside. And I agree, the saddest part about people looking for that “magic formula” is that the more they hear or read about the “correct” way to do things, the more they believe that there actually is one. As always, thank you for your thoughtful comment!

      Katie Horwitch | 05.27.2014 | Reply
  2. It’s like you put the thoughts bouncing around in my head into a perfectly worded article, thank you for this. It’s taken me a long time to realize the above, but finally now at 36 and some serious introspection I am happy with myself, slowing losing my excess weight and not obsessing about calories and workouts. It’s absolutely freeing, and I love it.

    Mariah | 05.23.2014 | Reply
    • You are so welcome, Mariah, makes me smile to read your comment! I am so happy you are finding peace and freedom in your health journey. It’s so empowering to know that you have the final say on what is and isn’t right for you!

      Katie Horwitch | 05.27.2014 | Reply
  3. So eloquently written. This philosophy is one that people need to adopt to live their best life. We are so unique and so should be what fills us–eatable or not. Love you Katie!!!

    Leah | 05.23.2014 | Reply
    • Yes, Leah!! Thank you – thank you for leading by example! xo

      Katie Horwitch | 05.27.2014 | Reply
  4. i love this post… your writing is simple and true. this is the kind of stuff that people need to hear!!!

    Jessica (bakecetera) | 05.24.2014 | Reply
    • Thank you so much for your sweet words, Jessica. That means so much to me!

      Katie Horwitch | 05.27.2014 | Reply
  5. This is so wonderful! Exactly how I feel about my weight loss journey thus far. I sometimes feel like I can’t even see a change and when I see people I haven’t seen in a while they say “wow you look fantastic!” and I can’t explain that it’s no specific method, I just do what works for me and it makes me happy! Thank you for this, as always another fantastic article from TCM

    Sara | 05.27.2014 | Reply
    • Thank you, Sara! I think that when we’re in our own bodies, it can sometimes be hard to notice changes – whereas when we don’t see someone for a while (or every day!), it can seem like they’re changing by the nanosecond. That leads some people to feel like there must be a formula, there must be a miracle diet. When really, it’s really just about finding what your body loves. I’m so thrilled to hear you have gotten to know yourself so well that you’re sticking to what works for you!

      Katie Horwitch | 05.27.2014 | Reply
  6. Best article I have read in a long time. So true that being “healthy” is different for everyone. I have had to make a lot of health changes recently due to some medical issues & it is a blessing in disguise. I eat organically and from locally sourced farmers when possible. I love to know where my food is coming from! I cook a whole lot more and am much more aware of what is going in my body. I love green juice and have a weakness for broiled cauliflower! Who would have thought! -Drew

    Drew Elizabeth | 05.27.2014 | Reply
    • Wow – thank you, Drew. I love that you are healing yourself by just being aware! So wonderful. xo

      Katie Horwitch | 05.28.2014 | Reply
  7. incredible article! loved reading it…

    Bree Pagliuso | 05.28.2014 | Reply
    • So happy to hear that, Bree! Glad you enjoyed it.

      Katie Horwitch | 05.29.2014 | Reply
  8. I love this idea! In all my work with patients, the throughline is that it doesn’t matter what I recommend if the person isn’t happy. Otherwise, why try to be healthy at all? Thanks for the great post. Keep doing what you’re doing!

    Alexis Rheinwald-Jones | 05.29.2014 | Reply
    • So well said, Alexis! Happiness and health go hand in hand – your patients are so blessed to have you guiding them.

      Katie Horwitch | 05.30.2014 | Reply
  9. Thank you for this article. As a holistic health coach for people with chronic disease and having a chronic disease myself, learning to listen to what your body, soul and spirit is telling you is the new “prescription” for health. It is certainly working for me! I will certainly be sharing this gem with others.

    MJ Engle | 05.30.2014 | Reply
    • Thank you so much for reading (and sharing), MJ! It’s true, the body-soul-spirit trifecta will never lead you astray. I hope more people start to realize this…you are certainly helping them to do so!

      Katie Horwitch | 05.30.2014 | Reply
  10. Oh my goodness, I am SO happy to see an article like this published here. I work as a Body-Love health coach and I cannot tell you how much it jazzes me up to see such SANE approaches to wellness being written about in forums like Chalkboard.

    “The decisions you make when you act from love instead of loathing are the ones that stick with you in the long run.” SO. ON. POINT.

    Keep up the fabulous work, this made my night! Big love! xo
    Shine on <3

    Emily Jean | 06.02.2014 | Reply
  11. Oh how I love this. After years of deprivation and overindulgence (all while studying for, and working as, a dietitian) I found my way back to a healthy balanced life and the body I was supposed to have by practicing a philosophy of truly nourishing my body. Running – check. Lazy nights on the couch – check. Kale – check. Brownies – (double) check. It’s about a philosophy of caring for yourself and being the steward of your own health. A great article all round. Thank you.

    Amy @ Thoroughly Nourished Life | 06.30.2014 | Reply
  12. Thank you so much for sharing, Noora! Know that uncomfortable feeling will pass. I believe in you! xo

    Katie Horwitch | 11.24.2014 | Reply

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