Health as an enigma: why I think we all need to define what “health” is really about

My sister recently bought a house in Windsor, which is just far enough away by car to require a podcast en route. Last time I drove down, I listened to one from “Office Hours” (a favourite of my nerdy side!) where they interviewed Ellen Berrey about her book, The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice. I am not particularly well-versed in this area, but she did speak the language of sociology and as she talked about the way that the word “diversity is a hallowed American value, widely shared and honored,” I couldn’t help but think of my own work and the way that the concept of health has come to be taken for granted as universally worth pursuing, without critically considering even the definition of it. Her discussion about the way that the idealization of diversity can actually obscure real inequalities again got me thinking about the way that we idealize health—and particularly the appearance of it. Very rarely do we sit down and define what “healthy” really means to us.

healthy

I couldn’t help but think of some of the people I’ve met who will do extreme things in the name of health—cutting out all carbs, going on extreme diets, running themselves ragged, spending tons of money to lose weight, etc. I see it all the time in my personal life but also as a personal trainer and a professional in the world of health and fitness. Unfortunately, I often see this turn into a slippery slope. My own experience with taking the pursuit of thinness in the name of health too far and straying into disordered eating territory is just one example of the way that trying to be “healthy” can actually compromise that which we’re after in the first place.

Why is this important? In a world where we see all kinds of images offered up as “healthy” (search that hashtag on instagram, for starters), it is more important than ever to be careful not to unquestioningly assume that “health” is defined in a way that fits with us or that serves us. When I was underweight, the natural association between losing weight and getting healthy proved false—just one example of how “health” is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Consider this: with “health” held as an unquestionably worthy pursuit, the association between a thinner body and a healthier body can drive people to do things that are perhaps unhealthy (going on starvation diets, taking diet pills, etc. come to mind), albeit in the name of health. In my humble opinion, I say we get honest about it: it’s not about your health if it’s driving you insane mentally or compromising your quality of life in the process. If we talk about it as being about our health, we’re contributing to that “enigma.”

You eat whole foods and you have a happy relationship with your body, you move it in ways that feel good, but if you don’t look like the images of health offered up in the media, are you actually unhealthy? If you’re, dare I say it, “overweight” by some chart’s standards, are you shit out of luck when it comes to embodying a healthy subjectivity? I don’t think so, but I do think we need to talk about this stuff more (hence this blog). When the images we see of health are all of a narrow range of body types, and when the fitness models on the cover of fitness magazines engage in arguably unhealthy pursuits (cutting out water for photo shoots, engaging in restrictive dieting, etc.), then it’s easy to get confused—so take it easy on yourself. I don’t see the magazines and marketing gurus out there likely opening up the images of fit bodies to encompass all of those that really can be considered fit any time soon, but I do see blogs, social media, etc. as avenues for us to start to open up the definition of “health” to be more realistic and more based on what’s right for each and every one of us. I did just that on this blog not too long ago, and I have been doing my best to come back to that when I get down on myself or my body.

Cheers to blogging!

Do you consider yourself “healthy”?
Have you ever taken the time to define what “healthy” means to you?
What are the parameters you set for yourself when it comes to being “healthy”?

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Chocolate, authenticity, and living out loud

So, I just dug into some Reese’s cups. It’s 10 o clock, I already had some dark chocolate after my Pork Palace party earlier, and I can honestly say I’m not hungry.

So what’s up?

There’s a post in me and it’s one that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

I think a value that I missed when I made my original list is AUTHENTICITY. Whether it’s in terms of relationships, my message to the world, or whatever, I am all for being real. I interpret the “no filter” as some of my friends put it as part of this and I really think things are easier when we are as real as possible.

I don’t think I’ve been all that real with myself and I’ve been holding back.

My whole point with this blog is this: Happy and healthy go together.

My whole point with this post is this: I don’t feel all that healthy.

I feel like a hypocrite. It’s hard not to be frustrated with yourself when you aren’t living up to what you want to or what you know is right for you.

So here goes.

In short, if a client came to me as their trainer or instructor and asked me if I thought their exercise regime was balanced and they showed me what I’ve been doing, I’d have to be honest: straight up no way. I’m not going to launch into a big definition of fitness here, but it’s not about just being able to run marathons or looking jacked (though those are fine and dandy and come with the territory–maybe). I like linking to other people who have summarized already the things I’m trying to get across so for this one, check out Ben’s post on what fitness is (he refers to Crossfit’s definition)–or just know that it’s holistic and encompasses:

1. Cardiovascular/Cardio Respiratory Endurance

2. Stamina

3. Strength

4. Flexibility

5. Power

6. Speed

7. Coordination

8. Accuracy

9. Agility

10. Balance

…how many of those do I REALLY work on? Yoga helps with balance and flexibility. My spinning, cycling, running, and swimming help with stamina and endurance. But…I am not agile because I don’t ever think about it. I don’t really work on mobility, even though I know I should. Unless someone’s chasing me, there’s not much speed in my life. Accuracy and agility and coordination and all those sports-like aspects only come into play if I’m trying to kick your butt on the tennis court–and that doesn’t happen near enough.

Ditto for diet. I’m not sure what the “perfect diet” is — but I believe this: food should be real. Recognizeable ingredients. Something you can picture in nature. You should eat it sitting down, relaxed, and before you’re hangry. Life should include some foods just for the hell of it, but most of the things you put in your body on a daily basis should help you move towards a healthier state.

On top of this, I’m not really valuing sleep.

I don’t think what I’ve just said is revolutionary. Lots of bloggers decide to use their blogs as a way to stay accountable–Tina’s awesome blog started out as a way for her to keep herself on track. I’m thinking of this in the same way. After the presentation on blogging that I went to at the Canfitpro conference, I realized there are as many blogs out there as there are people who could possibly want to read them. And I also realized something: I’m not using this blog to win people, customers, friends, admirers, or readers. I could write all of the things I do here in my diary, but I like to share them because I know that there are other people who can relate. If who those people are changes over time, I have to be okay with that.

I think we often judge ourselves more than we should. I hear voices saying “Cheryl, why are you trying to eat less grains? Isn’t that ED coming back into your head?” When I know for a fact that ED is no longer controlling me and when I know that if I gave up bread for a week and then craved toast, I could and would eat it if I wanted to. I know that I’m the one in charge.

…so what’s the hold up?

Change is scary.

I want to change my exercise approach — and I am but it’s a bit slow. I deserve to not only be healthy in those couple of aspects but in all of them. I want to eat more real food and worry less about the other junk that seems to be filling me up a little more than I’d like. I want to eat by design — at least to see if it makes me healthier, which is the goal now. I want to focus on the great things that I’m doing instead of worrying about the little things — I’m doing a much better job of putting things into perspective and on sticking to the mantra “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no” but I still catch myself catastrophizing and being a yes woman on occasion.

…since I’ve redefined healthy and happy to be harmonious and one and the same and all that jazz, I know that I can and will do this. There’s no failing when your goal is being your best — if that makes any sense.

Again, change is scary. But scarier still is sabotaging myself. Sure, eating some chocolate isn’t the end of the world. But when it makes me feel like a hypocrite and then drags me down? That sucks. No, if I stay the way I am, I won’t be a bad person. But this nagging feeling that I’m not trying my hardest or giving myself permission to be as awesome as I’m meant to be is bringing me down and I’m sick of it. It’s not really about making the changes on the surface–it’s about the changes inside and the shifts that are necessary for anything to really change:

  • Instead of thinking change is scary — Isn’t it cool how we can always try something new?
  • Instead of worrying that I’m going to fail — Isn’t it awesome that we can learn by doing and take mistakes as lessons?
  • Instead of thinking that I’m going to be judged — Isn’t it great that I can be a leader for a whole new group of people?
  • Instead of thinking of this change as risky — Isn’t it awesome that I have the freedom to do whatever I want?
  • Instead of being ashamed that I’ve been holding myself back — Isn’t it empowering to live out loud and to share this whole journey?

Gosh, I hope this is making sense in some way. I promise that more practical stuff will come out of me some time soon. The 30 day challenge I mentioned before should be a kick in the butt to get organized and regular with that accountability stuff — and it’s coming up quick. Things are going to settle down soon enough after a whirlwind summer (I think I’m craving some routine and stability even though I’ve loved living free for the last little bit). Life is good.

 

 

Start it right

 

Morning! I’m feeling particularly accomplished this morning.

I had three boot campers with smiles (or something like that) on their faces this morning, including Bee whose blog, Bee Goes Bananas, I’m sure you’d love if you aren’t already a reader!

After bootcamp, I decided to go for a morning run. It’s not uber hot out and I was feeling energized and pumped up (I guess my girls’ awesomeness rubbed off on me), but I was also feeling hungry so I had a quick energy gel and then hit the trails.

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…and then the trails hit me.

It’s not as bad as that looks but I was dirty. I hustled home and to prove that there might have been blood and sweat but not tears, I snapped a photo. Girls don’t sweat, they glisten…remember?

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If this isn’t a good look for me, I’m so shit out of luck because I  glisten like a pig every time I work out! I think this morning I probably did about 5 or 6 miles (we ran in our bootcamp workout–the one I posted yesterday) but I’m not sure since my garmin was dead and I frankly don’t care.

I refuelled with last night’s yogurt plus some kamut puffs and a banana. It was yummy, but it got yummier when I threw in some almonds and some chocolate soy milk. Oh hey, creating it as you go, you’re delicious!  The hungries I felt after my run are just proof that cardio = working up an appetite. All of a sudden it’s seeming kind of weird that people start working out and training for marathons and triathlons and all that to LOSE weight. I eat MORE when I train — not only physically do I need the extra calories but I definitely justify some things (i.e. the chocolate in this break) based on the workouts I do. Hmmmm…thoughts?! I think it was in Gary Taubes’ book that I read something about this whole phenomena…about how silly it is that we take up endless endurance exercise to lose weight when people also work out in this way in order to “work up an appetite” for instance if they have a big dinner to look forward to. Very interesting. Still, I loved my run this morning, I like riding my bike, and I enjoy swimming…so since that’s not my motivation I’m not crazy, right? 🙂

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Now it’s time for me to get organized and get down to business on my writing! I promise myself not to blog ALL DAY LONG but that doesn’t mean I won’t probably get distracted reading blogs and all that fun stuff…oh well! I have this spare time, I might as well enjoy it. Starbucks here I come. 🙂 After my life coaching session, I’m going to hit up a yoga class since my workouts are done for the day. My main goal: stay upright, since I have a knack for falling over these days!

Have you ever bailed on a trail run? Did anyone see? No one was around when I fell so I had to laugh at myself instead of having the pleasure of providing entertainment for someone else!
What do you do with free time? 

 

Vacation thoughts

In the past, a vacation was something I looked forward to and prepped for incessantly. I would worry about what I was going to look ilk eon the beach in a bikini and I would always set a weight loss goal centred on the day of my departure.

Usually, I didn’t lose any weight.

Often, I got more anxious about the pressure and ended up feeling fat. That means I missed out on the fun of the anticipation of a trip.

If you haven’t guessed, things have changed for me!

I’m heading to a resort in Virginia for a weeklong bike trip and I am feeling all kinds of excited. Even with my tumble earlier this week, I’m excited for some quality riding in the hills and to meet a lot of like-minded, energetic people!

Other notable things I’m excited for:

  • drinking beer
  • watching the tour
  • playing golf
  • swimming
  • having some new tennis partners
  • seeing the scenery
  • sleeping in
  • the road trip
  • time to read books
  • spotty wireless – aka even more time to read books

Really, I’m excited to get away and to step back from everything, even though everything is awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I feel a little sad leaving. So much positive stuff is going on right now and I’m having so much fun this summer that it’s almost bittersweet to go away. Enough complaining-I’m lucky to be going on this trip and I’m REALLY lucky to be in such a happy place right now.

That being said, I wanted to make a point about something health-related that I see and hear a lot of: like me, a lot of people go on extreme diets or try cleanses or at least work out harder in anticipation of a vacation. Fine, you want to look your best. But I also hear a lot of people saying that they’re going to totally let loose once they’re wherever they’re headed. While I’m all for lightening up and maybe enjoying some sleep ins and extra rest days and a few extra treats while you’re on vacation, when it comes to health, I have a couple of thoughts. List form seems appropriate:

  • If you have to take a vacation from your “diet” — it’s just that, a diet. And diets are really stupid — why not just come up with an eating approach that isn’t restrictive but that makes you feel good and keeps your body healthy, based on where you are?
  • If you feel guilty over missing your workouts, is that really a balanced and health-promoting thing. My thoughts are, as you know, that your exercise should be something you want to do. Not a requirement or something you force yourself into. i.e. if you’re on vacation and you don’t want to do it, why are you doing it? Why don’t you do something else — take a surfing lesson? Go for a hike? Explore a city by foot?

In short, if you feed yourself and move your body in a way that serves it to be healthy (not to look a certain way at all costs or because someone tells you to), a vacation doesn’t mean letting all of that go. There’s no “on” or “off” and there’s not really anything to be anxious for.

And I like this cuz maybe it’s why I feel kind of bittersweet about going:

The truth is all the awesome I’m enjoying right now is gonna be here when I get back. And no one said things have to stand still while I’m gone. All those things I’m looking forward to are just moving me towards an even better healthier happier spot. And one thing I’m adding into the mix is this promise: I’m going to chew no gum while I’m gone. 10 day kick start seems like a good way to kick my pack a day habit. I feel bloated and I don’t know if I’m chewing to keep myself occupied or to deal with nerves or to give myself a reason to feel like I have a problem (whoa, too much self analyzing here), but I do think I should just leave that habit in the dust. So there you have it: my pledge! If my breath stinks, hook me up with a mint and NOT a stick of gum, mmmkay?

How fitting is it that I just got this reminder in my inbox?:

Here we go! 🙂 And don’t worry, my blog won’t be totally dead while I’m gone. Some great gals have helped me out already with guest posts, I think I’ve got some more on the way (?) and I intend to update periodically. 😀 Cuz I love blogging, in case you didn’t notice.

What do you think about my take on vacations?
What’s the last vacation you’ve taken?

A treat

Oh baby you’re getting posts left right and centre from me–what a treat!

I must have been looking for that treat for myself — and I found it…I’ve two trips to Kiwi Kraze this week already, but more on that later! The real treat is actually how much fun I’m having running around and doing all this fitness and blogging. Hi, what I want to do for the rest of my life… ;)!

Luckily, I ran around enough that my hollow leg must have been justified yesterday. After a sweaty spin class — I have a new playlist I’m just itching to share — I had a quick shower and dinner break before making my bootcamp debut in London.

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I’m on a kale kick — this time with avocado and sausage and sun dried tomatoes! Quick and delish!

Just let me say, I had an awesome and really good looking group of girls. It’s so cool when I see like minded healthy people coming together. And it’s really cool when I get to kick their butts–or at least give it my best shot.

Last night’s workout went like this:

Warmup – cones (it’s standard and fun and works!)

Muscle conditioning – favouring this in lieu of much cardio with the heat!

10 to 1 squats and pushups

plank / plank up down / high plank / plank up down / plank

superman series

(we repeated this and we took the second countdown with partners and switched up the plank series to have mountain climbers instead of the up/downs)

marathon abs: 2 rounds of 20-25 raised leg crunches, raised leg oblique crunches, leg raises, and sit-ups

Cooldown/stretch

It was a sweaty, buggy, and I think awesome workout, but only time and the extent of how sore these gals are when they giggle or walk around will tell the truth! I’m anxious to hear, though!

One of my boot campers was a star who I was so glad to have with me. Breanna and I met a while back at the campus gym in one of my spin classes. She was one of my all star morning spinners who always gave it her all. I had no idea she had a blog until last year and since then I’ve been glad to be a friend of hers — she’s definitely got an awesome thing going over at Bee Goes Bananas! 

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When I admitted I was heading for froyo post-class, she even hooked me up with a 2 for 1 coupon. Did I mention I love her? We had a good chat about blogging, life, and all that good stuff. And I remembered something: I need to spend more time with this gal! ❤

I split the coupon with my friend and fellow fitness instructor Angela. This is a cool gal and she confirmed that with her rockstar haircut and kind kind words on our drive home. 🙂

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And FYI, I think I just abused the coupon got the heaviest froyo ever. It must have been all the fruit — cuz I never put fruit on!

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if froyo is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

That seems like a pretty good bedtime thought, doesn’t it? If not, knowing that my alarm is set for the crack of dawn to do this all over again should do the trick. Look out bed, here comes my face.

How often do you go for dessert/froyo/ice cream?
How come you didn’t come to bootcamp tonight?
Do you have many blogger friends in your city? 

Old and new

Howdy!

Reasons why I’m smiling:

  • sunshine
  • plans for a bike ride this afternoon
  • seeing a friend last night at spin class
  • it makes people think I’m up to something…

Still no internet at my apartment = an excuse for spending the morning at Starbucks. I was going to go to the gym and try a core class but to be honest, I would rather save my energy for the ride this afternoon and since my hip feels tight (not painful, just weird and unnerving because I’m a worrier), I’m just erring on the side of extra recovery.

And I had stuff to do…like finishing the Human Kinetics Advanced Exercise Nutrition course I registered for ages ago to get myself rectified as a fitness instructor/personal trainer. I wrote the exam this morning (online) and besides getting 2 questions/50 wrong, I have no complaints. I emailed the results and my up to date first aid card just now and I cannot wait to cross this off my to do list (it’s been on there for wayyy too long!). Yay for productivity.

Also yay for last night’s dinner–a pasta mix with kale that needed eating, turkey sausage, onions, and garlic. A little bit of butter and some parmesan cheese instead of sauce made for perfection on a plate!

This sat surprisingly well during my spin class! I also loved the playlist (which I kind of threw together just using songs I wanted to hear) and seeing an old friend (it’s been too long!).  Like I whined, I am apprehensive about my hip. During some of the standing climbs, things felt extra weird (my lower back is tight too, which makes sense). At the expense of being one of those people who complains too much, I’ll stop now. I foam rolled last night and I took the time to do my physio exercises for 10 minutes first thing today. 10 minutes. So pathetic that I’ve been too lazy to do them lately…PRIORITIES! Why was I saving them for bedtime when I would inevitably want to skip them and fall asleep? Silly.

When I got home last night, I was seriously uninterested in my usual yogurt snack. I was really interested in my leftover turkey, but I went with a snack of tuna instead because I really want leftovers today…

I mixed in half greek yogurt and half mayonnaise and threw some red pepper in to spice it up. I used to eat tuna as a snack every damn day and I was so sick of it for way too long…but when your mouth starts watering at the thought of something + you are legitimately hungry, I say go with it, even if it’s something weird or for me, something I thought of as an ED-approved behaviour (i.e. since ED said it was okay, I kind of during recovery said that I shouldn’t have it. silly! back to yesterday’s thoughts).

When I went to bed, I took some medicine because my throat’s been sore since I got home this weekend. I slept for about 9 hours (bliss) and then got up and started my day off with another bowl of oats. Breaking out of the cereal rut, one bowl at at time. This time I added an apple, raisins, walnuts, and brown sugar plus soy milk. Yum. I read Katie’s oatmeal ideas shortly after and wished I’d been MORE creative. The good news is I get to eat breakfast every day for a really long time, so there are plenty of opportunities to get creative and delicious!

After my morning spent working on that course and doing all kinds blog reading (I’m going through withdrawal, a little, because it’s not the same on my phone!) and drinking a ton of coffee, I ate a quick lunch (an almond butter, sprout, and carrot sandwich with extra carrots on the go) and now it’s time for me to head to an appointment! I’m hoping to meet up with a friend this afternoon before my bike ride. Tonight is a staff meeting at the gym so I’ll be busy busy and tomorrow I should have internet again. All will be right in the world.

And just an FYI, we’re 230 days from Christmas. Had to throw that in there…

What are your favourite oatmeal toppers?
What are you counting down to?