This past weekend I went to cheer on my friend Meghan as she kicked butt at the IronGirl Duathlon.
You probably guessed by the name that it is an all-female event. There were females of all ages. In fact, I saw a 71-year old cross the finish line! There were all shapes and sizes of women as well. I know everyone of them had a story and somewhere in the story there is something in them that strives to live a healthy lifestyle. I’m willing to bet that a “healthy lifestyle” means something different to each of them.
I participated in this event back in 2006. It was a great experience and I loved it.
There were a few cheesy moments at the IronGirl. I remember crossing the finish line and hearing the announcer (after butchering my last name – a common occurrence) say, “welcome to your new healthy lifestyle”. I thought it was so funny. Apparently, I wasn’t healthy before that event. It did make me pause and think that I was definitely healthier than I had been in the past. Today, I think I’m the healthiest I’ve been in my life. A lot of that has to do with my definition of healthy. At most points of my life, I’ve considered myself a healthy person. I have always been active and I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater – though as I said, my definition of health has shifted. It has morphed and changed greatly throughout my life.
I have gone through all sorts of phases and fads – who hasn’t? Okay, if you haven’t, don’t tell me. I would like to believe that I wasn’t the only one who loved the Snackwell’s fat-free products. Anyone?
That whole fat-free craze was a doozy and I was completely sold on it. I really thought that as long as it didn’t have fat in it, it was good for me and I could pretty much eat as much of it as I wanted to. What? An entire box of honeycomb cereal isn’t healthy? Bummer.
Around the time of the Irongirl back in 2006, I was really starting to get in shape. I was biking a ton and was starting to get into running.However, my diet wasn’t the best. Don’t get me wrong, I ate plenty of whole grains, fruits & veggies and lean meats, but I was also eating a ton of processed food. I was trying to lose a few lbs and got into the habit of eating things like fat-free/sugar-free pudding, fat-free/sugar-free yogurts, reduced-fat crackers and cookies, fat -free cool whip, and I was buying splenda by the case. No joke. I was literally a giant chemical. To me, I was healthy. I did lose some pounds, I was working out regularly and thought I was eating so many “healthy” things.
Things started to change for me the next year. I started reading more about the food I was eating and taking a look things like partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. Meghan and I even gave each of those things up for lent and after each of those 40-day segments, I never went back to including them into my diet. I also read a couple of key books: Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (Side note: I read of each of these on a vacation. Brette really loved it as I was shouting out facts about how much feces is in meat as we were lying on the beach!) Both of those books were so inspiring and motivating for me to clean up my diet. I really took a hard look at what I was putting in my body and started to put more focus on eating real food. I was also paying attention to where my food was coming from and how it got to my plate. This was a turning point. My definition of ‘healthy’ started to change drastically.
Over the past year or so, it has changed even more as I’ve realized health is not just eating well and exercising. To me, it’s a much more complete package. I believe it can be different for everyone. Living a healthy lifestyle does not mean you have a perfect body or that you are a mega-athlete. At least not to me.
Here’s how I define my healthy lifestyle. I will admit, I am far from perfect at all of them; they are a work in progress. It is all about the choices we make every day. I try to make choices that reflect the following:
- I eat real food. I do have a focus of whole grains, lots of veggies and fruits, and lean proteins. I don’t eat to much processed food and I try to listen to what my body tells me. With that said, I don’t think any food is really off limits. I think things like cookies, chocolate, red wine, butter, and all things bread have their place in a healthy diet. I think eating a variety of foods helps me not get bored and it can help me keep things in moderation. I also know where my food comes from. When I do eat meat, I’m picky about it. I’m not interested in a side of anti-biotics. I keep it local as often as a I can. All the cool kids are doing it.
- I work out. I do it because I like it and it makes me feel good. I’m also very competitive so training for various events makes me happy. Exercising is also a great stress reliever for me and I tend to have more energy when I work out regularly. And it’s a great thing to do with friends!
- I stay connected. I’m blessed with a wonderful family, truly awesome friends and hands-down, the best husband ever. I think having an active social life and a strong support system is one of the most important healthy habits. I know these people have my back and that’s huge.
- I am nice to myself. I will admit, this is the hardest one for me. I am constantly reminding myself that negative self-talk does not make a healthy life. So I don’t have rock hard abs. Never have and never will. However, I’m very strong and athletic. Not to mention, I make a killer cioppino. Take that abs! Seriously, we can all take a lesson from this one. Be nice to yourself and remind your friends to do the same.
- I dig the outdoors. The past few years, I’ve been doing quite a bit of gardening. I think it’s very therapeutic. It also helps with number one on this list – eating real food. I also spend a lot of time biking and running outdoors. It is so good for the soul. I get to enjoy the beautiful parks and trails that the Minneapolis/St. Paul area has to offer and it is a great opportunity for “think” time or just to clear your head.
So, that is what I’m doing to lead a healthy-lifestyle. I’d love to hear your opinions and what healthy means to you? We are all on our own journey and I do not believe there is a right or wrong. Though I might challenge you if you are still buying splenda by the case….