Six months ago, I was kind of a mess. I have always been passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, but in retrospect, the lifestyle I was leading was anything but healthy.
I was struggling with some minor health issues – frequent cold/flues, digestive distress, and recurring infections. I was working long hours in a stressful environment. I was also doing vigorous workouts almost every night. This combination left me feeling totally wiped out and uninspired.
I know that this stressful cycle is fairly normal and many of us feel exhausted by our daily lifestyles, but I finally begun to realize that this way of life was unsustainable for me. Wearing and tearing our bodies in the name of our careers, our fitness, our “bikini bodies,” or daily stresses is extremely harmful in the long run. After all, we only have one body.
I don’t know if I ever really thought about that before my mom pointed it out (moms just know everything, don’t they?) I had been working on my feet every day and then heading to the gym to do heavy weight lifting after work when my knees begun to ache so badly in the evenings that I could barely stand up. I used the excuse of not wanting to lose my fitness abilities or not wanting to wimp out on the gym just because I was tired from work. But my mom reminded me, “Those are the same knees you’re going to have your whole life,” and that I need to take care of them.
Honestly that thought had not occurred to me. I had been more worried about staying fit and toned, and not even considering the ramifications that my behavior might have on my body down the road. This was a bit of an “aha” moment that has been applicable to many other areas of my health and well-being.
I was inspired even more to honor my body and prioritize life-long well being when I saw this Instagram post from healthy business-woman Sophie Jaffe:
So much gratitude for this body.
For the imperfections.
For the weight it holds to protect me when I’m sad.
For the purification system that naturally occurs each month, like clockwork.
So grateful for the scars from falls, scars from birthing my children, memories like tattoos forever on my skin.
I’m so grateful for the brown marks on my face because it reminds me of being pregnant + the way it changed while growing babies.
I’m grateful for my heartbeat. For the constant pumping of blood that happens every single millisecond + I don’t have to do a damn thing to make it happen.
Im so lucky to have 2 legs that can walk me around every single day on my hikes + adventures.
So blessed to have flexibility at all.
So lucky to have knees that forgive me after all the impact I put on them with running, jumping, dancing.
At 32 years young, I love my body for what it is, more than I ever have before.
I love the imperfections, I honor the strength + recovery + beauty in every cell.
What do you appreciate about your ONE body?
I absolutely love this philosophy of having gratitude for your body, even its imperfections. Since coming to this realization that I am going to have this ONE body my entire life, I have changed my outlook on the way that I treat it. Here are some of my ideas for how to honor your one and only body, and make sure it is healthy and well for your entire life.
Take a break.
If possible, take a little time off work and give yourself a break. Often we get into a routine of waking up, going to work, coming home and being too tired to do much else before we start the whole process over again. If you can’t step away from your job, at least schedule in time for rest and self care.
Rest and recover before you get sick.
In college I went through a vicious cycle of stressing out so much over exams or presentations that I would literally get really sick after it was over and be out of commission for days to a week. This was obviously my body telling me that it needed rest, and if I wasn’t going to rest willingly, it would force me to. The key is to keep your stress in check through things like yoga, breathing techniques, being with friends, getting outside in nature, etc. and not waiting to rest and recover until your body actually forces you to. You’re better off to rest for a few hours one night instead of working on a project than being too sick to go to work or school for an entire week because you didn’t rest your body.
Don’t beat yourself up.
Literally. After a long, stressful day at work on my feet and running around the whole time, I would go to the gym and run or lift heavy weights even though honestly I barely felt like standing up. When you do this, you are giving your body a beating for no good reason. Yes, we want to fit in exercise into our busy schedule, but the motivation for exercising is to be healthy, right? So if you are running your already-tired body into the ground, is this really healthy? I think not. After a long stressful day, I recommend choosing a walk in nature or some restorative yoga as your movement for the day. Let your body recover and heal before it has to go through everything again tomorrow.
Don’t push it with injuries.
As I mentioned above, even though my knees were super unhappy while I was lifting, I kept doing it and kept amping up the weights. This is just asking for injury that could take months or even longer to deal with. Don’t stop working out altogether necessarily, but listen to your body as you exercise and choose your workouts selectively. I have decided to step away from the heavy squats and deadlifts for a little while and choose more mindful exercises and body weight workouts. If you keep pushing when your body is trying to tell you something, you’re likely to wind up with an injury that could impact the wellbeing of your body, possibly forever.
Your body is so different from anyone else’s that you see at the gym or on Instagram. I have definitely felt pressured to increase my weights when I’m lifting because I saw someone else on Instagram that was lifting way heavier than me. Why do we do this to ourselves? If we want to have a healthy body throughout our lives, we need to start listening to OUR body. Not anyone else’s. Stay strong and confident with what you know is right for your own unique body and don’t let others sway you.
Eat what makes you feel good.
Rather than trying to fit yourself into a mold when it comes to the way you eat, eat based on the way your body responds. Don’t force yourself into being a strict vegan if you feel much healthier when you eat some organic eggs and chicken every now and then. Eat what your body is telling you to eat and don’t feel guilty about not fitting into a certain dietary mold.
From here on out, I choose to honor my body and treat it with the respect it deserves for carrying me throughout my daily tasks, being the vessel in which I accomplish my goals, and repeatedly healing when I mistreat it. I hope this inspires you to honor your own body and treat it with the respect it deserves! After all, it is your closest companion.
*Image via Sophie Jaffe