The more time I spend in depths of health and fitness online, the more I wonder what it’s even about – everyone seems to have a slightly different definition which I think, leads to a hell of a lot of confusion.
According to the dictionary, health is defined as:
“the state of being free from illness or injury”
“a person’s mental or physical condition”
Of course being nourished and having an efficient and strong muscle mass can prevent physiological problems within the body and exercise has found to be very beneficial for mental health, but a lot of people who wish to embark on their ‘health and fitness’ journeys are actually signing up for (and focusing on) weight loss and gym memberships rather than fuelling the body with macro (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and exercising sensibly to support and protect their joints from too much wear and tear.
As a health professional, I work closely with other health professionals and I am very much consumed within disability. To me, a healthy lifestyle is ensure your body runs like a well oiled machine so you can live a well and meaningful life – and this is by no means, an easy feat and it will certainly never be a perfect journey or have a perfect ending.
If I’m honest, the messages that I see online are worrying. No matter what ‘diet’ you’re following, it’s wrong. No matter what exercise you’re doing, it’s never enough. For so many people now, it’s about being perfect so that huge active wear companies and food delivery companies will send you free stuff. We are forgetting that behind many of these influencers are people who don’t know a lot about health in it’s true form. Obesity is a huge problem and we should be commending the people who are doing anything to try and reduce their body fat.
Whenever I see someone referring to having a ‘perfect’ day dieting or ‘onplanjan’ it does make me a little sad inside. Our desire to become perfect is increasing on a daily basis and I would put good money that 9/10 people who claim to have had a ‘perfect’ day have had an almost perfect day. If you are having perfect days you might be gaining the physical body you desire, but what will the impact be on your mental health?
It’s why I’m a huge believer in ‘flexible dieting’ although I hate the term beyond anything else. How about we call it ‘normal eating within a calorie deficit or maintenance calories’? (Granted, it’s not the most catchy title). Sometimes this may consist of a meal Deliciously Ella would be proud of, another meal that would make her quake in her boots, and of course it could just be a meal replacement bar because I cannot be bothered to prepare lunch.
Working within your calorie goal (whether to lose fat, maintain or gain) gives you the freedom to eat what you like and you can feed your body as many (or as little) micro nutrients as your heart desires. It means you can go out for dinner with your friends, or have a Dominos on a Friday night (and know that I’m jealous if you’re doing that) – as long as it falls within your calorie allowance.
I often sit on Instagram looking at the pretty pictures of fruit and vegetables thinking ‘WHY AM I NOT HEALTHIER?!’ but then I realised in the grand scheme of things I am pretty healthy. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. I barely eat any refined carbs (mostly because the majority of them contain yeast – trust me it’s not through choice), I’m not a huge fan of meat and only eat chicken 1-2 times a week. I have chorizo a couple of times a week too. I’m not a big fan of root vegetables and will only have potatoes a maximum of twice a week. I don’t like rice or pasta. I don’t eat huge amounts of dairy. My only vices are Diet Coke or Pepsi Max and chocolate (unless you’re considering this dairy?!) and Parma Violets (random, I know). We go out for dinner maybe once or twice a month (and I always have dessert). I cook using mostly Fry Light, but sometimes Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut Oil. I have no more than 2 cups of coffee per day and about 1 hot chocolate per month. It’s about as balanced as I can get it.
I average 5000 steps a day on Fitbit and I’m trying to do 4 additional exercise sessions a week (either strength or a HIIT). This is new to my ‘routine’ though so results are TBC (did you know that 10,000 steps was a made up number – Google it and find out for yourself!)
If I’m honest, I’m pretty happy with my lifestyle. Granted the chocolate may have to go for me to lose the 21lbs I wish to lose, but this weight loss (or should I say fat loss) isn’t because everyone else is doing it. I have put on 14lbs since I’ve got married and when I did a comparison photo, boy could you tell and at the moment I don’t like what I see. When I was at my slimmest (which was still 10 stone), I had a figure that I was really growing to be proud of and something I had never experienced before having been a chubster from the age of 11. I’m not trying for #gains or attempting to #eatclean, I just want to be happy and look after myself.
I encourage you to stop thinking about the rippling abs, the bum a Kardashian would be jealous of or how much fruit and vegetables you can pack in your stomach in a day.
Start thinking about you’re actual health.
More muscle mass will increase your metabolic rate (meaning you can eat more!) Strong muscles will help maintain bone density and reduce arthritic pain. Strong muscles will prevent injury. Stronger muscles will help prevent wear and tear on your joints. A good core will help support a good sitting position which will aid digestion and allow your lungs to fill with more air. Your muscles will be used more efficiently and you are likely to feel less tired. Exercise will help your mental health.
A well balanced diet will provide your body with everything it needs to run smoothly and is also necessary to develop the muscle mass that you would like to now acquire after reading this blog post. I must admit that I had heard countless times about the importance of Vitamin B and Omega 6 and all the other zillion vitamins and minerals, but it’s only when I completed my course on nutrition that I actually realised how important they are. My bad.
To me, this is true purpose of health and fitness.