What Does “Healthy” Really Look Like?

I started writing this weeks ago and haven’t had a chance to actually finish it. Part of that is due to the fact that I read over everything I write a million times and change things and add things until it’s just how I want it. The other part of it is due to the fact that every single day, I’m always on the go, trying to keep Jael busy and tire her out enough to take a good nap. I’m constantly thinking about what’s next and I have so much on my mind at all times that things like writing blogs fall to the back burner, even though this is so therapeutic for me and one of the major ways I express myself.

So, now that our country is in the middle of a lockdown, I suddenly find myself having more time with my thoughts. I’m able to reflect and process things that I normally don’t have time for. I’m able to be more present and in the moment. I have disconnected from social media to a degree and connected more deeply with my daughter and husband, instead, and it has been a beautiful thing. Maybe I’ll write another blog that’s actually focused on that topic but the focus of this current blog lies elsewhere.

Today, I want to address the question of “what does healthy really look like?”

There is SO much confusion out there about what it really means to be healthy.

So many people have the idea that being ripped is what you should look like if you’re really healthy and in shape. I cannot tell you how wrong that idea is.

The truth is, there is no solid answer for what “healthy” looks like because it looks different for everyone. So, while there are some people out there who can look ripped and still be healthy/feel good, they are NOT the majority.

In the picture on the left, I was the lightest/leanest I’ve ever been in my adult life. My muscles were defined, I had abs, and I wore a much smaller size of clothing, and I felt like I looked pretty good. However, the sacrifices that I had to make to attain that look made me MISERABLE – not to mention how physically horrible I felt.

My hair was brittle and falling out.
My skin was constantly breaking out.
My nails were brittle and breaking.
My menstrual cycle had been gone for a year.
I got winded just going up the steps.
I was in the gym six days a week and, while there, I felt SO weak.
If I ever missed a day at the gym, I’d end up in a panic.
I turned down invitations to go out to eat or get together with friends because of the anxiety I experienced at the thought of spiraling out of control with my eating.

The middle picture was taken a few months after the last time I stepped on stage. No matter how hard I tried, I still gained more weight back than I wanted to. My hormones were totally out of whack. I was waking up every night, soaked in sweat. I felt bloated all the time and just awful, all around. I had gone from one extreme to the other in a short period of time. Did I just let myself go after my competition? Absolutely not. But my body was basically going through the process of an eating disorder recovery and, most of the time when that happens, your weight jumps up real high as your body’s attempt to keep you alive the next time you decide to starve yourself for a while. So, while I wasn’t actively engaging in anorexic behaviors, my body responded as if I had been because of how extreme I had to be to attain that look.

In the picture on the right, I am somewhere in between the other two. My hormones are as balanced as they can be (still breastfeeding so my hormones will not be “normal” until I’m done with that). I’m not wearing the tiny sizes I was wearing in the first picture but my size is smaller than the second picture. I do not have visible abs and I now have stretch marks on my belly. My muscles are not nearly as defined as the first picture but more so than the second.

It took getting pregnant and having a child for me to understand what my body and my mind really need. I have finally found balance. I’m MUCH happier than I was in either of the first two pictures. Do I still have moments where I wish I was smaller? Yes. Do I have moments where I feel like my extra weight is a sign of weakness, rather than strength? Absolutely. Do I sometimes feel like I don’t even belong in the field of fitness and nutrition? Yes again. But I just have to keep reminding myself how much fuller my life is now, how much stronger I am, and how much HEALTHIER I actually am now that I have a bit more weight on me.

I got so much praise when I was lean – everyone thought I was the epitome of health and fitness but I was, truthfully, SO far from healthy at that point. All of that praise went away when I gained weight. It made me feel like a failure. It took me a LONG time to get past that. I may be heavier now but I am actually, maybe for the first time in my life, finally healthy.

This body has carried and nourished a baby. I am STRONG. I enjoy going out to eat, going to food festivals and get togethers, without ever obsessing over every single thing I eat/drink. I eat well 85% of the time and I don’t feel bad about treating myself the rest of the time, like I used to. I do not look like a fitness model but I love myself more now than I ever did when I was smaller. I enjoy my life more than I ever did before.

When all is said and done, I’ll be much more grateful for all the memories I created during this time in my life than I will ever be for how “fit” I looked at one point.

Be kind to yourself. Appreciate your body for everything it has gotten you through. Find things you love about yourself rather than always tearing yourself down. Stop fixating on looking like a fitness model and start focusing on how you feel, how you perform, and your quality of life.

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