To some degree every person wants to look good naked. But the state of being “healthy” is a lot more than that. It’s more than superficially reaching a goal in external appearance, it’s more than eating nothing until you’re skinny and fainting, it’s the connection and symbiotic relationship between mind, body and soul. Think about how you feel when you eat sugar or junk food, it tastes good while you eat it but then you feel gross and heavy after. And when you eat a salad or something else healthy you feel fresh and clean afterwards.
Ever since I was 11 years old I wanted to change my body. I always thought I was never skinny enough, never pretty enough, never good enough because my body didn’t fit an impossible image I was obsessed with in my head. I was thin even then, but not thin enough for the ideal image I had for myself. Seven years later and I’ve learned to love myself and love my body, but I’m still focused on fitness and striving to be a more healthy person. This past year I’ve been dancing 2 hours every day, as well as occasionally running, doing Blogilates, and going to hot yoga once a week. A large part of my mentality for pushing my body so hard was that I wanted to be a stronger dancer, more attractive, and happier. While these things did make me happier and stronger, I didn’t start to look the way I wanted. I wanted to be more thin. But now my calves are defined from dancing on pointe, my thighs are muscular and my body can do great things it couldn’t before. I’m building a new image of perfection in my mind based on who I am, and strength will always be more appealing to me than just skinniness.
But now that you know the backstory, what I’m writing about is eating clean. Recently I’ve been making more of an effort to eat healthier, because even while doing all these active things the missing piece was that I was eating junk. This is why I didn’t achieve the results I wanted, because I would work hard and then eat something processed or unhealthy and reverse all the good I’d done. I thought eating clean was difficult, unachievable and time-consuming. I would go a day without eating anything bad but cave at night if I got hungry and didn’t have time to make myself something healthy. Or my body was so accustomed to the drug of sugar, I would go through actual withdrawals!! While it is true that eating clean is difficult and takes more time, it is absolutely achievable and absolutely worth it. Because now I feel way more energized and happy. Here are a few things I’ve learned throughout this process:
The first step to making any kind of change in your life is changing your mindset. By thinking “I can’t be healthy” or “I don’t deserve to be healthy” you will make that reality come true. The important part of making this change is setting a concrete goal, and having real reasons that you can bring to your mind every time you’re tempted to fall off the wagon. Every time you’re tempted you need to have something real driving you to say no. This goal could be anything, it could be to look good in a bikini or no longer have constant stomach pain from eating unhealthy foods (such is my case).
2. Eat More
While this may sound counterproductive, what I mean is that you should be eating more fruits and vegetables and things that are good for you and you’ll find that you have no more room in your belly or appetite for the unhealthy things. Even if your palette may be accustomed to yummy junk food, after eating anything enough you’ll most likely grow to like it. Or hate it, who knows. And by incorporating more healthy things into your diet, even if you’re not eliminating the bad things yet, you’ll see that you start feeling a lot better.
3. Cheat meals are important
Especially for those new on this journey (including me). A cheat meal is a magical thing, something to daydream about while you’re eating a salad and wish you could just bite into a juicy hamburger. Instead think about the hamburger you’re gonna eat at the end of the week, after doing so well the whole week that burger will taste SO GOOD. Oddly enough, denying yourself of things completely makes you want them more! Great! It’s hard to just completely eliminate things from your life, especially things that might bring you joy. For me, eating brings me joy, as well as the social aspect of food. If you like going out to get ice cream with your friends, you shouldn’t have to feel like you’re missing that part of your life. If you want to try a new restaurant and eat something fried, I don’t think you should deny yourself that experience. Just treat it like a lovely treat, and tomorrow morning you’ll continue like you did before.
4. Cooking can be fun
I am the worst at cooking!! I’m so bad at it. I don’t like to cook and I always end up screwing up whatever I try to make. But I have been finding ways to incorporate cooking into my life, because it does take time that needs to be set aside and it is an essential part to eating a clean diet. One way I’ve been making cooking more fun is blasting music in the kitchen, dancing around and singing while cooking (maybe that’s why everything I make doesn’t end up right? Hmm…) but incorporating things I love into something that might otherwise be mundane makes me more inclined to do it. Another thing is inviting friends over to make a meal together or catch up while you’re prepping yours. The other day my boyfriend (who happens to be a cook) came up with a great sriracha chicken recipe and we had a lot of fun cooking it together (he did most of the work).
5. Focus on how you feel
The most obvious and sometimes most overlooked reason why you should eat clean is that your body wants it. Your body needs it. Your body is craving it. If you have a strong, well nourished body it can have a HUGE positive effect on your physical and mental health. You’ll feel more energized and happy and the positive change will lead to more positivity. Be mindful of how you feel after you eat anything, be aware of how your body feels and ask yourself if it’s a good feeling. If it’s not, maybe that’s a sign that it shouldn’t be in your body.
6. Find your own process
I can’t tell you what’s best for you, no one can. What might work for me might not for you. The most important part of a journey to health is figuring out what is realistic for you, and what you’re ready to take on. Don’t be afraid to tweak your process, make mistakes, or think of some new crazy way to motivate yourself to be healthy. It’s your body and it’s your life, and everyone is different.