This month I want to address (and normalize) something that we all experience in ebbs and flows throughout a journey to better health…that pursuing a healthy lifestyle in this world is hard…FREAKING HARD.
This doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it or that we should just throw up our hands and give in to what the world wants (aka faster, cheaper, busier) but I do think it is important to acknowledge WHY it can be such a challenge and present you with some strategies/ways that help me to push on despite the hard.
Hard #1: Social Pressure
It Began in College
I first really started getting into health my sophomore year of college. I was finally living on my own, with a kitchen and the ability to grocery shop at “cool” places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods which we didn’t have in the town I grew up in.
I was taking a full course load and working full-time hours on campus, which left little time to cook so I had to really rely on meal prepping. I would shop every Sunday and get everything washed/prepped for my week ahead…which, no surprise, some of my roommates and friends thought was “weird.” Understandably so, as they ate most of their meals out or from Jimmy Johns, frozen pizzas, etc. I would get asked why I worked so much, but the reality was I wanted to be able to afford organic meats and produce and nourish my body well as I realized early on that the “typical” college style of eating wasn’t going to work for the life I wanted.
It Continued in the “Real” World
Fast forward to the real world and getting jobs where I would pack two meals and a snack every day instead of going out and that was also considered “weird.” Or when I moved for grad school and would get teased when ordering out for asking for certain things omitted at restaurants- my friends would literally tell the wait staff that “I was going to be difficult” and though it was annoying, I didn’t let that stop me asking for what I wanted for my health.
It Is the Worst as a Parent
And now, as a parent, I feel this probably the most I ever have when it comes to social events and feeding children. It is just the norm to feed kids absolute garbage- mostly sugar, artificial food dye, and overall not even REAL foods that are “snacks” and “just what kids eat.” I fed my daughter really clean (this book was amazing for any new or expecting moms out there) for her first two years but was suddenly face to face with other parents and people forcing sugar on her or scoffing at the snacks I’ll bring to events.
I’ve also heard from other moms that “feeding their kids healthy is just too much work” to which I reply, “Yes, yes it is.”
Here’s the thing though- we are the ones responsible for their future health. We are, for better or for worse, choosing the trajectory of their health and future with the choices that we choose to make for them, one meal at a time. It is a HUGE responsibility and not something I take lightly. But I get it- socially we are told to give them formula, give them rice cereal, and get them on the standard American diet as soon as they’re able. Why would it be considered normal then to feed them any differently?
I have learned that both mine and my childrens’ health is MY choice and no matter what anyone else thinks, I need to hold firm on our boundaries to do the best for my family.
This is also a really great test to see if we ever got over our fear of peer pressure in school or not as we may well be 30 or 40-something people still trying to keep up with the Jones’ and not step out of line for fear of seeming “different.”
Hard #2: You Have to Live in An Alternate Reality
Speaking of, once you pass the test of assessing if your high school peer pressure fears are still lingering, you then have to accept that you WILL be living “different” than a majority of the world.
And this, transparently, I have really struggled with over the past few years, again especially since becoming a parent. Before I couldn’t have cared less about other people’s choices, but now having kids and seeing just how many SICK kids there are in the world, it saddens me that “normal” isn’t questioned.
I get really tired of being the “healthy” one at events and either being criticized for it or having to keep my mouth shut when parents are popping Tylenol or Motrin weekly instead of getting to the root cause with their kids.
What’s that phenomenon/saying- the more you know, the more it torments you? That’s my issue is that I simply now know TOO much about all the toxicities of this world and food quality and children’s health that it mentally pains me to sick back and watch it happen.
I’ve had to learn to let it go to some extent and put my efforts into getting the information that I know out there (like through this article, newsletters and Instagram). I won’t be able to help everyone, but I can help someone.
I’ve also had to recognize that what and who I surround myself with is my reality and it has made me realize I have a massive need for other crunchy-minded individuals to make me feel community. I can’t continue to be the “different” one and expect everyone who isn’t to get on board. Instead, I need to seek out like-minded people so my reality can become an alternate health-focused reality.
Hard #3: Availability of Healthy Items
It’s also so hard to find healthy items, especially if you don’t live in a health-conscious area. Over the past few years we have moved away from the city for more land/freedom, but at the expense of healthy options.
Our starter home was smack-dab in the middle of millions of fitness studies, healthier restaurants and all the holistic practices- acupuncture, energy work, massage, etc. With kids came a want for more space and land to begin gardening and getting more connected with nature, but this meant living in a town where I can get an okay (and definitely NOT organic) greek salad from one restaurant. And don’t even bring up the word fitness…the nearest studio that I’d attend is basically back in the city we used to live (aka a 40-min drive both ways).
I’m not bitter (okay, maybe a little) but it has made access to things like Trader Joe’s, Costco and Whole Foods a whole-day event vs. a quick stop on the way home from work. It has required me to be a lot more intentional with meal planning each week to ensure we have what we need until the next shopping trip.
But it also has forced me to get a lot of my foods/products online (which my family teases me about all the packages but they’re often Thrive Market and other foods/supplements/products and not like a handbag). Buying online obviously saves me time from driving to the store, but also helps me guarantee food quality to the standards I have without settling for what’s available in my town.
On the flipside, being further in the country has given me greater access to raw milk from a cow down the road and a majority of our meat from a local organic farm…in the city I wouldn’t have had these luxuries so there is a bright side!
Hard #4: It’s Easier to Find an Easy Way Out
This is where I think a lot of our world is stuck- it is simply easier to eat out, pop a pill, or do a quick fix versus ACTUALLY change your life. Heck, they even make baby espresso makers for formula now to save busy parents time from having to hand mix it. Look everywhere- there is now a faster/cheaper/less work-intensive way to do life.
Some of this is awesome, but much of it has taken us away from our ancestral ways of WORKING HARD and working on the land. I have experienced this first-hand with gardening this year for the first time ever. It is a lot of work and time and discovery to actually grow your own food and so many people shy away from this because of that.
Or when it comes to health, I can’t help but roll my eyes at all the pharmaceutical ads we get on TV/streaming for conditions that are 1000% fixable through lifestyle change and root cause healing. The most recent one that made me cringe is a new sleep drug that Lindsey Vonn (the former olympian skier) is advertising to help with her insomnia. I’d love to pull her aside and review all of her functional markers and lifestyle to see what is impacting her sleep- NOT just give her a pill.
Regardless- we have to set ourselves up for success and embrace the hard. Yes, stopping to eat out is easier, but home cooked food is usually cheaper and tastes better. Yes, a pill may give you symptom relief, but it won’t heal you. Yes, a cleanse may make you feel momentarily better, but whatever you cleansed will come back because you didn’t change.
Hard #5: It is a Never-Ending Commitment
This my friends is the hardest pill that I’ve had to swallow- living healthy is forever. It’s not for 8 weeks or until that one vacation…it’s a choice Every. Single. Day. For. The. Rest. Of. Your. Life.
Embracing this reality actually has given me comfort over time because it means that there IS no deadline or “grade” to get on the exam. It is simply about choosing health or not with each choice we make (and sometimes making choices that we fully understand are not for our health…hellloooo margarita night….that we fully are okay with for a night).
I’ve also realized that with each new season or change in life comes new “hards” when it comes to our health:
- Exercise: Before having kids and when a majority of my work was teaching fitness classes, getting in a workout was never an issue (in fact I was doing TOO much working out). Fast forward to kids, I’m lucky if I can get through a full workout in the basement without a need for a snack or play break from a toddler.
- Cooking: Almost opposite to the above, cooking before was a challenge because I worked away from home a majority of the day and often had to pack three meals every day, which had to be meal prepped ahead of time. Now working from home, I have more access to cooking and foods in the fridge, but time is still an issue with said toddler and her needs.
- Self-Care: Self-care was hard before kids because I was so busy with life and work and having fun, but now self-care is laughable if I can get a shower to myself and the chance to pluck my eyebrows.
New season- different hard. Once we embrace that, we understand that it will take sacrifice to make sure we support our health in the ways we know we should.
And lastly, we have to be willing to unlearn what we thought was healthy in one season and be open to different thoughts/alternatives based on our bodies current needs. HIIT exercise was amazing for me pre-kids and now it is something I rarely do. Or before when I thought I’d have to be dairy-free for life, only to realize after doing some deep gut restoration I can now have raw dairy without any issues.
We have to learn to avoid the black and white thinking and embrace more of the ebbs and flows. Living healthy is hard, but it CAN be done and gosh, is it so, SO worth it!