True or false: exercise is only for athletes and "fit" people.
True or false: healthy food tastes bad.
True or false: "healthy" looks the same for all of us.
True or false: to be fit and live a healthful life, you have to run every day, count calories, make all your food from scratch, avoid dairy, limit carbs, be a vegetarian, and take pictures of all your food for everyone to see and drool over on Instagram.
Do I need to tell you that all of those statements are false, or did you figure it out on your own?
Find a way to move your body that works for you. It doesn't have to be the activity that your mom, sister, best friend, or neighbor enjoys. You can do what you love, no matter what that is (well, unless it's just sitting on the couch with a bowl of ice cream every single day; there has to be some balance and movement!).
Finding a form of exercise that you enjoy is a life-changer, I promise. I'm not coordinated or gifted in any particular sport, so I always hated gym class. I thought that meant all physical activities just weren't my thing. But when I went to college, I got into running. And I had free access to our school's gym, so I started some simple weight lifting. When I graduated, I continued running and found some pilates and strength training videos to follow.
I know people who prefer class formats so they have others working out with them and an instructor to keep them going. I know people who need a race to train for to get them running consistently. I know people who loathe running but like hiking. You don't have to run, or bike, or hike, or lift. But you do need to get moving somehow. Try something out. See how it goes. Change it up if it's not working for you. But find a way to move your body that gets you excited to do it again. You only get one body, and this is part of how you care for it.
NOURISH YOUR BODY
Self-care doesn't stop with moving your body; it also extends to what you put into your body. Fuel your body with food that makes you feel good, and find a balance between eating with intention and eating for indulgence. A good rule of thumb is an 80/20 balance between good-for-your-body food and food that's just tasty and good for your soul. And the best part? You get to decide what falls in which category!
I'm not going to tell you that you have to eat paleo or vegan or keto or raw. I'm not a big fan of restricting entire food groups unless you have an actual food intolerance. But I am an advocate for paying attention to how your body responds to certain foods and recognizing which types of things might have to be limited more than others (back to the 80/20 here, that's the 20 part).
For example, by body doesn't handle dairy particularly well, but I'm not lactose intolerant. I also generally feel better when I don't eat too many carb-heavy foods, but I'm not gluten-sensitive or celiac. I try, then, to eat largely paleo-ish (limiting dairy, added sugar, and carbs), but I take my approach loosely. I eat beans (not traditionally paleo). I still eat some pasta, rice, and bread when I want it. The difference is that I don't have it all the time, and I'm more conscious of the choices I'm making. I can still say "yes" to those things (and I do), but I know that I'm saying "yes" more thoughtfully, and that's the approach I want to have in all of life!
HONOR WHAT YOUR BODY NEEDS IN DIFFERENT SEASONS
I ran a half-marathon a couple years ago. And I was battling shin splints. Shortly after that, hip pain set in. I finally went to physical therapy for the hip pain ('cause, hello, I'm 80, apparently), and the therapist gently suggested dialing back on my workouts and runs. Cue my defensiveness and stubborn reaction, believing I could "dial back" about 10% and mostly keep going as normal.
Big surprise when that didn't do the trick. Nothing changed. I had to pull back further to allow my body to truly recover. And I wasn't happy about it. Fast forward a year (a year including some foot pain in addition to the hip pain), and I'm still working my way back to where I was, ever so slowly. I'm learning that I have to pay attention to what my body's telling me, and pain is a pretty clear message that I'm starting to finally listen to.
Yes, I'd love to be able to go for 6 mile runs again. I'd even like to do another half-marathon. But that's not where I'm at right now, and I have to accept the limitations (as well as the blessings, namely that 3-mile runs are far less time-consuming) of the season I'm in.
Self-care requires that we pay attention to our bodies and listen to what they're trying to tell us. Our bodies give us cues, and it's our responsibility to listen to them. I'm still putting that into practice for myself.
Wondering what that looks like? Sleeping when I need to sleep, acknowledging that I'm a better person when I've gotten at least 7 hours. Choosing foods that make me feel good, regardless of what others are choosing (whether that means choosing the kale salad because I need more greens or opting for the chips and salsa because my soul craves them, no shame). Eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full, even if it doesn't coincide perfectly with others' meal times, snack times, or food preferences. Nobody really cares if I skip dessert because I'm full or squeeze in an extra snack because my stomach's grumbling. The world carries on just fine. And it means skipping my morning workout in favor of rest when I'm too sore or adding in another activity or workout when I want one. It's all a big-picture balance sort of thing, and it's different for all of us!
Food made with real-food ingredients, with an emphasis on lots of fresh produce.
Some type of movement that you enjoy.
What are your favorite ways to nourish your body through food and exercise? I'd love to hear from you, either in the comments or via email (email@example.com)!
P.S. If you'd like more encouragement to incorporate more self-care into your life, I'd love to chat with you about it! You can book a call here!