A question I get in my office is often, “What does it mean to be healthy”? If you had asked me that question 10 years ago- back before I became a dietitian- I would have told you that being healthy meant going to the gym a lot, eating as few calories as possible and being thin. Honestly, this is what a lot of my younger years looked like… and then completely backfired when I graduated college and joined the working world.
Now that I have experience working in the medical field and my career, my ideas of healthy really center around balance, stress reduction and taking care of yourself. This is ever changing for me, but here’s what it looks like now:
Getting Enough Quality Sleep
I chronically functioned on about 5 hours of sleep for YEARS and I never realized how much lack of sleep affected me until I quit my job last year. I have always had difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and then I had to get up by 5am for work. Once I started my own business and could set my own hours, I realized how much better I felt getting adequate sleep each night. Honestly, I feel like a different person!
Getting adequate sleep is so important for both mental and physical health. Mood, appetite, the ability to focus and concentrate are all affect by sleep.
Getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night is now a priority for me, and here are some things that have helped me: I used to love having a nightly glass of wine before bed but alcohol can affect sleep quality. So now I will either skip it or have a glass earlier with dinner instead. I try to go upstairs around 10 and be in bed shortly after that. I also started using a white noise machine, which has greatly improved my issues falling and staying asleep. While sometimes there’s not a ton of flexibility in my schedule, I am cognizant of when I’m overdoing it and my sleep will somehow suffer.
My sleep routine is not perfect, but I have noticed a HUGE difference in the way I feel by making conscious decisions to improve sleep. This is also something that I bring up with clients, since poor sleep can affect appetite, metabolism and food cravings.
If I could pick my #1 wellness-related focus in 2018, it would be stress management. I feel like when I’m really stressed and I manage it poorly then everything else in my life goes to shit.
A few things have really helped me manage stress lately. The first is saying no to things. I have been pretty open here that this used to be a huge obstacle for me. I am always afraid of disappointing people.
I’ve done so much better at saying no in both my personal and professional life. Personally, saying no usually involves taking a few things off of my plate. Sometimes life is so stressful and busy, and something has just got to give. In my business, I’ve learned to say no to things that aren’t a good fit. This is sometimes hard, but other times it’s very easy…. like when someone emails me about a diet-y product that doesn’t align with my nutrition philosophies :)
When you say no, it’s okay to just say no- you don’t need a long-winded explanation to try to pacify people.
Another thing I’ve started doing more of is outsourcing things when they are time-consuming, stressful or take away from time that I could be spending with B. We actually started doing this more after going through pre-marital counseling before our wedding, where our counselor said that couples do not do this enough. This could be anything from house cleaning to a laundry service to meal delivery options. It just depends on what’s going on.
I used to be a 100% DIY girl, but now that I am working a ton, and sometimes 3 evenings per week, trying to figure out how to do stuff on my own can be time-consuming and even expensive. So I’ve started weighing the pros and cons and hiring people in some cases instead.
Being able to have more “me” and “us” time is huge for mental health and stress reduction!
Exercise has changed so much for me over the past few years. I used to love structured exercise, such as when I trained for a triathlon. Now, the idea of having to follow a schedule makes me cringe.
I am gravitating more towards no structure these days when it comes to exercise. I love walking to my office, or walking on the greenway when the weather is nice. Sometimes I’ll do deep stretching when I’m watching TV, or I’ll do a Kayla Itsines workout in the morning before I start my work day. I usually don’t have a set plan for things, I just know that at some point during the day my body is going to crave some movement. Today I actually walked to Dunkin’ Donuts for an iced tea!
Variety is the spice of life and that’s where I’m at these days with eating. We got a new cast iron skillet as a wedding gift and I’ve been having fun using it to try new recipes and cooking methods.
I have much less of a focus on quantity and more focus on quality. Spring and summer are my favorite times to shop at the local farmer’s market, and I’m starting an herb garden in my back yard. I would much rather enjoy a homemade ice cream cone from the creamery down the street than a tub of high protein, fake ice cream.
I also think I have much more grace with myself when my meals are not a culinary piece of art. Sometimes we’re just eating sandwiches or a simple spaghetti for dinner, and that completely works for us. We do our best to meal plan around our schedules… dinner after getting off of work later in the evening is usually very quick and simple. We always try to go out to eat at least once. We also love cooking at home on Friday, since it feels much more leisurely!
Everyone is Different
While all of this is what wellness looks like to me right now, it’s important to realize that wellness looks different for everyone- and can change as we get into different seasons of life. And that’s completely okay!