How To Be Healthy
*Why would you want my perspective on this? You might not, and there's nothing wrong with that. I just want to clarify, when I say 'healthy' I don't mean 'attractive to societal and cultural standards' which, as a dancer I know the dangers of getting mixed up in.
'Healthy' to me, means energetically consistent, holistically balanced, lessened chronic pain and illness, a mostly even-keel mood, a good relationship with self, a natural feel for what your body needs, rejuvenating sleep cycles, dependable lungs, muscles that work for the tasks you do most, limited toxic cravings, and just overall feelings of wellness and longevity. That kind of 'health' deals less with any accepted standard and more with our relationship with ourselves.
Tips For A Better Relationship With Your Personal Health
1. On a very basic level, care about your body. Listen to how it feels. Don't talk down to your body. Don't think of it as separate from all your hopes and desires and challenges, because it's right there, physically emBODYing all your thoughts.
2. Take a single moment, every time you eat or drink, to acknowledge the miracle that food is, and how delicious and nourishing and soul-fueling it can be. Maybe it's a prayer or a simple 'thank you'; maybe it's just a thought in your mind, but get in the habit of taking that moment. It will change your health from the inside out.
3. Take every piece of advice and diet fad with a grain of salt, and with a sincere look at yourself and what works best for you. Keto is not for everybody--you have to like fattier foods and not be obsessed with carbs (hence, keto is not for me). Vegetarian and even vegan is going to look vastly different on different people and there are hundreds of 'right ways' to go plant-based. Gluten-free can be a venture into whole foods, OR it can be packed with extra sugar and oil. Cleanses work better on some than others, and there are a thousand different kinds. As a general rule, if you hate a diet, it probably isn't going to work.
4. When in doubt, drink water. Put whatever you like to put in it to make it yummy. Who cares if you'll have to pee more. You'll be more energized and balanced. You'll have fewer intense cravings. You'll think more clearly, and you'll sleep better. You'll get sick less, and your skin will glow.
5. Your relationship with fitness is unique: some of us need a class setting or a trainer or we will avoid working out at all costs. Some of us need to be outside. Some of us work out best in front of the TV, or with our pets. Some of us need something 'zen' like yoga or pilates. Some of us need to be hardcore AF and feel like we're pushing ourselves to our limit once a day. You're working out primarily so you can feel your best, so use your feelings and intuitions to find what works for you. No one thing is the best for everyone. Trust me.
6. Forgive. Do not WASTE ANOTHER SECOND getting upset at yourself for 'falling off the wagon' or 'failing' or 'being lazy'. They are starting to back this up with physical science: telling yourself you're 'bad' for eating/not eating or not exercising is doing more harm than good. The cells of your digestive tract and muscle groups and lungs constantly converse with your thoughts. Getting mad or sad about some treat you ate or some workout you missed is just fuel for more resistance, and it brings down the people around you who seek their own better health.
7. Focus on gentle solutions, not problems. When my throat gets scratchy, I make a pot of lemony miso soup and go to bed early. When my muscles ache, I drink chocolate peanut butter protein and run an epsom salt bath. When I'm sad, I let myself cry and ask for hugs and google cats. When I'm sleepy or moody, I go outside or dance around or take a power nap. When anything 'out of the ordinary' happens, like a random pain or skin reaction, I listen in, observe, google holistic approaches, and let myself relax. I never assume the worst, no matter how bad I feel or even if I end up at the doctor. Most maladies are one-offs or false alarms, made worse by worrying about them.
8. Prioritize therapies that work for you. I like chiropractors and acupuncture. I like physical therapy. I like group meditations and breath work. I like self help books and zen podcasts. I like art therapy and talk therapy. I like long days at the Korean spa, Chinese acupressure, and Thai massage. I waste no energy wondering whether to prioritize one or all of these things. I have found very affordable versions of all of them and in my chill time I stretch and hang upside down and self massage. There are SO MANY good therapies out there, often covered by your health insurance or a cheap subscription or day rate, or even accessible through self care (Theracane anyone?). Pick one or try them all, and show your body how much you appreciate it.
9. All that being said, the last and perhaps most important factor in good health is: letting go of the judgment of others. No more commenting on celebrities' bodies (unless you want to just acknowledge how great they look). No more body shaming. No more judging your family member or friend or neighbor for their diet/exercise habits (however strict or loose). Just stop telling people what to do with their bodies. Our health is interwoven with our genetics, our media consumption, our friends, and our psychology. No one on this entire earth has perfect health or all the answers, and new research is constantly changing the game. When you release judgment of others, you help release judgment of yourself-- which is such a crucial part of #6 (see above).
Just My Take
This is only one perspective, but it might be more valuable in context:
I'm a 33-year-old woman and my body is as capable as it ever was in my 20's or earlier. I feel more in tune with my art and ability than ever. My skin is clear and low maintenance. My energy is pretty solid throughout the day; I have no problems waking up early or having sporadic bed times. I can regulate pretty fast after long travel days. I have no injuries or chronic pain and haven't taken a single painkiller in 4 years. I can have 1 or 2 drinks with no major consequences (5+ drinks, though and the hangover is malicious), but I don't crave alcohol and probably only drink once or twice a week. My stamina is good. My memory is decent and in recent days, with a lot more breath work and meditation and a much less punishing work schedule, my focus has been pretty sharp. I rarely feel dehydrated or lethargic. My fitness levels are solid and my heart feels strong. I haven't felt truly sick in almost two years, and before then I might have caught a cold or flu once a year. My period cycle is like clockwork with the moon and I don't get cramps or consistent PMS. I haven't had a psoriasis break out in over a decade, an asthma attack in nearly 5 years. Other people mention their health declining in their 30's--my health has only improved, and in really cool, nuanced ways: I feel more efficient, lighter, more effortless. I feel more in tune.
I don't take any supplements (sometimes I try to start but forget after a few days). I don't count calories. I love the things I eat and I let myself have treats all the time. I eat how I feel like eating: sometimes it's a huge vegan taco feast; sometimes it's a massive salad; sometimes it's more than half of an extra large pizza with plain old cheese. Whatever it might be, I let myself really enjoy it.
My mental health is in pretty decent shape too. Though never perfect and often emotional in big indescribable sweeps, I'm pretty level headed, pretty grounded in self awareness and optimism, pretty open to discussions and new experiences wherever I go. I'm at the point where I can calmly observe when I'm triggered or operating out of 'fear mode' and either step out of it or let it pass, unjudged. I feel wiser, and yet more open to truly learning, than ever. I actively work to not tie my mood and overall worth to post likes or blog views or resume credits, or any outer world 'accomplishments'.
All this health flexin' isn't written to brag or trigger you. I'm just sharing one set of experiences. A lot of people see me as strict in diet or exercise, but the truth is I just curate a happier relationship with my health and do what feels good to me--it's cheaper, less stressful, and more satisfying.
The point is, only YOU can really figure out the answer to the title question, so just relax and be open to what your body has to say. Prop it up, give it a little gratitude and faith in its own strength, and you might feel like you can achieve or overcome anything.