One thing that 2020 has taught me is that taking the time to eat healthy and exercise does not always mean you are healthy. Let me explain……...
I consider myself a healthy person. Since around the age of 21 I started working out consistently and eating healthy, I mean I have my degree in nutrition and dietetics, so I always thought I was doing all the things that equal a healthy person. Well, then second baby, difficult postpartum and COVID hit.
Between all the time spent at the gym and in the kitchen making healthy choices there was a HUGE health factor that I was missing, and that was taking care of my mental health.
From about 21 to around 27 I was very strict with my weight lifting, cardio and eating healthy about 90% of the time, but little did I know I was not covering all the aspects of health and being so focused on the physical and nutrition components was actually contributing to the stress of my mental health. Then, COVID hit, a newborn, toddler, postpartum, job loss and needless to say my mental health and physical health took a hit.
During the years leading up to my first pregnancy I was always stressing about the workout I had to get in and the food I needed to eat to be healthy, it was exhausting. If I missed a workout day or didn’t feel sore the next day, I would feel like I could have done better. I would eat super healthy during the week until the weekend when I would allow myself to “cheat” and then it would go overboard, way overboard resulting in more guilt that I could have done better.
Between pregnancy, difficult baby, postpartum recovery, motherhood and now our new “normal” of COVID I have learned that the lifestyle I use to live resulted in doing more harm than good.
I was contributing to mental stress and physical stress by worrying about the workouts and the nutrition and the guilt associated with them. I was not engaging in self-care or taking care of my mental health by breathing more, meditating, taking baths, going on walks, getting outside in the fresh air and just being still. Instead I added to my stress mentally, but also physically. There is a strong link between mental health, stress and physical ailments. Also, working out hard every day is not great for when your body needs to recover. If the body can’t recover, then how to you expect it to keep going?
In August my body hit a breaking point and that is when I woke up. I am dealing with really bad stomach problems that the doctors can’t figure out and I can’t even count the number of mental breakdowns I’ve had since March. I need to learn to deal with stress in a healthier way and not add to it with obsessive behaviors that are not actually going to make me healthier.
I have not worked out consistently at all whatsoever in the past 8 months due to postpartum body issues. Weeks have gone by that maybe I took a couple walks. I do miss being physically active, it is a huge stress reliever for me, and I do think that has contributed to my mental health struggles, but maybe I just needed this big of a wakeup call to restructure it.
On top of that I have let go of my obsessive restrictive eating because with two kids, I don’t have time or energy for that! And guess what? Eating healthy 70% of the time instead of 90-100% of the time did not result in massive weight gain or health issues like blood pressure or cholesterol.
Eating in a more balanced way, such as not restricting healthy carbs, unhealthy carbs and certain foods also did not result in a huge weight gain. All of this actually resulted in a weight off my shoulders and I learned to not overdo it on these foods because I was eating them more often.
So, if all of a sudden, I had the time and energy to go back to eating super healthy all the time while restricting myself and working out 5-6 days a week would I do it knowing what I know now? No, I don’t want to work out every day, I want to eat a burger and french fries on a Wednesday instead of on a designated cheat day and I no longer feel guilty about it.
It is all about balance. I have preached balance about food; the body wants balance, not extremes and when food is balanced in a healthy way the body will balance and you will be at the weight you SHOULD be at aka your bodies ideal healthy weight.
The balance that I never acknowledged though is the balance of life. Workout/be physically active when you can or need that boost of endorphins even if that means just a walk some days. However, on other days when you have the time engage in a more intense workout like running or weightlifting. Balance it out.
Eat foods that make you feel good in both a healthy way and also a comforting way. Get rid of “cheat days” and throw something special in throughout the week and you’ll start to see that the need to cheat goes away and so does the overeating.
I personally need physical activity as a mental outlet and also the feeling of healthy from nutritious foods, but I don’t need this all day every day. I need to be balanced all day every day, and I am sure you do as well.
This is a reminder to take care of ALL OF YOU.