What motivates me to be healthy? What is the most important thing to know about food and health? And what to do when inviting a Nutritionist to dinner?...oh and there are vegetables my kids don't eat
What motivates me to be healthy?….I actually don’t think “health” itself works for me. Health is so intangible. Call me fickle but with very little time to contemplate what’s for dinner everyday, I haven't got the time to pontificate on health, its importance and how my desire for it should consciously influence the significant number of choices I make everyday. Being really honest, I think I only truly appreciate health, when I wake up and a bug has got me. That weariness, pain, effort that is required to do the simplest of things, always makes me think, I shouldn't take my health for granted but then I wake up, feel fine and carry on.
So how can I, a health professional, inspire anyone with such a fickle personal attitude to health?
It is what I attach to health that is really important to me. Health to me is strength, it is feeling energised and being able to enjoy myself, it enables the freedom to know and do what you want. That motivates me.
I’m a fully trained and qualified Nutritionist so obviously I believe food is the most important thing to work on. Wrong. Health and wellness is so much more than the nutritional composition of the food we eat. Healthy eating is beyond food, it’s beyond calories or g of protein, it’s beyond beating yourself up over everything you have or haven’t eaten or had to drink. I have read countless papers, listened to talk after talk on the latest research, all of which I am fascinated by and see as evidence for food absolutely having an impact on health. But what do I believe is most important about food and health? I believe it is knowing how to have a healthy relationship with food. How to love it, appreciate it, care for it, not obsess, overanalyse nor overlook it. (Bit like how we should treat our other halves!)
When have I felt my healthiest and what did this mean to me? Instantly, I know the answer. And no, it is not the case that I feel this way every day as I float out of bed and down to my rolled oats! When I was four weeks into my first ever commitment to a big physical challenge. I’d said yes to take on the London Marathon, at the time I could not run for more than 5 mins. I hated running. I hated the taste of iron in my mouth. I hated how minutes felt like hours as soon as I put a pair of runners on. But more than this hate, was a want to support a charity close to my heart so I said I’d do it. When I actually felt I stood a chance at completing the challenge, when I was able to do what 4 weeks previously had seemed utterly ridiculous. When I started to believe in myself. When I had space on my own without the ability to chatter, use my iPad, pen or push a buggy. Just be out there running by the river with a clear head. When I had the strongest physical body I felt I'd had in months/ years but most of all, when my mind was clear. I not only felt physically stronger but mentally, emotionally I was king of confidence which brought tremendous clarity. And that felt healthy. It didn't stop there, I had the confidence to give other things a whirl.
I jacked my job in to set up my own business. Being at my peak of wellness gave me the confidence to be free and make clear decisions. I had the energy and freedom, to think about all the experiences I might like to try, that I felt capable of. Wellness as I experience it, is physical, mental, emotional.….its when all these things combine to enable you to see, do and be who you want to be. We’re not at the peak of it all the time, at least I’m not, but it most certainly is the thing I strive for most in life.
This experience of increasing my levels of physical activity wasn't about being able to eat what I liked because I'd burned x number of calories, or even that my metabolism shifted so much I couldn’t eat enough. For me, it was not about the time I would complete the marathon in. It wasn't the angelic feeling of ‘I've been amazing and gone for a run already this morning’. It was instead the inner mash up of physical and mental wellbeing that ultimately was feeling bloody good in my own skin. It was the disbelief in myself at what I was achieving and the pride I was building, it was those positive conversations with myself in my mind about what I was doing and enjoying. And that is it, wellness for me became the greatest indulgence possible.
Your approach must be realistic, here's a personal favourite of mine
As a Nutritionist I feel I have to say somewhere in this blog, it really is “all about balance”. But this is a confessional right? Well then for me, rather than it all being about balance, it's all about being real. Achieving wellness in my book is not about depriving yourself or weighing off one good thing with one bad thing. Your approach must be realistic. A mum of three young kids like me has every right to stop in at the local chippy for dinner some nights and I love that my kids share the same love of ice-cream as I do! Two other confessionals come to mind here, this really is quite cathartic…1. I’m somewhat addicted to my slow cooker (it saves me chip shop calling every single tues and thurs there are after school things to get to and from), and 2. There are vegetables my kids don’t eat. Phew, its out there, that’s a biggy. EVERYONE expects the children of a Nutritionist to be perfect eaters…another reason I believe any approach to improving your wellbeing should be served with a significant dose of reality.
So challenge yourself, think beyond a dress size, a certain physique, be strong of mind and body, be free…what does wellness mean to you, is there a challenge you can sign up to? Oh, and go and enjoy your next meal, but serve if with no guilt and double helpings of pleasure and gratitude.
Remember, wellness is much more than just healthy eating. What it gives you is far more than a decent body.