I realized my post yesterday came off as, “It’s really hard to be content! Look at all these things you have to work on!” and that’s not really what I meant. I mean…it is…but not in a, “YOU HAVE TO WORK ON ALL OF THE THINGS!” kind of way. I intended it more along the lines of, “DO NOT PLACE ALL OF YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS IN ONE LIFESTYLE CHANGE!”
I think I’ve just been really frustrated for years by messaging around happiness and health. I hate…hate fad diets that make it seem like if you can just stick to this ONE DIET and lose the weight then everything in your life will be better! You also see it with mental health issues. “Getting off social media made 80% of people less depressed!”
I think I really started confronting my frustration around quick-fix health and happiness hacks after a yoga+ workshop I went to a few years ago. It was taught by a yoga teacher but it was more than just a yoga class. It was marketed as a betterment class targeting women. And I went in 100% open minded, ready to learn new tools for my arsenal of health and happiness. BECAUSE I KNOW IT TAKES A LOT OF TOOLS. Every day my needs change a little from the day before and I like being able to tap into a lot of resources when I’m spiraling.
But one of the BIG messages from this class was the instructor’s own journey with mental health and how…basically…once she was able to focus on her yoga practice and mindfulness and her inner voice, she stopped needing her mental health medications. And she never once added a disclaimer or even any messaging supporting anyone who needs those type of medications. It was just, “My anxiety was so bad I needed medicine but then I changed my life in this way and I no longer needed it anymore! This is what it can do for you!”
And you all KNOW how well that sat with me. I kinda tuned out almost the entire rest of the workshop. I really wanted to step up and say, “Hiiii…um…it is very much okay to be on medications to treat your mental health condition. Some of us can’t cure our depression or anxiety with mindfulness and there is no shame in that.”
I think that opened an awareness in me, to listen to the more subtle messaging around lifestyle choices and mental health. And then I started hearing it around physical health too. People who swear certain power foods cured their cholesterol problems. Or fad diets that cure diabetes. Or how every weight loss proponent in the world acts like losing weight is the only metric in achieving health 100% of the time.
I think it’s natural to want a turnaround point. I changed this ONE THING and suddenly my life got better! It is such a powerful narrative. It’s my favorite narrative! I’ve written here before about how I always wanted that amazing weight loss story. I wanted to be able to say, “I started running and look how much better my life got!” And actually I wrote that exact post in different variations probably a dozen times over the years.
But I didn’t own up to how much monitoring calories/miles was taking over my brain. About how much I was hating myself when I ate “bad” foods and starving myself or binging depending on the cycle I was in. I got skinny, sure, but I was obsessed with thinking about and writing about and talking about that desire to be skinny. And even when I was skinny, I wanted to be skinnier. I didn’t like wearing bikinis or running in just a sports bra. I would hate my body in some outfits. I hated my body a lot if I’m being truly honest. You know what I never added to my narrative? Look at how much weight I lost! My counselor says I have body dysmorphia and a binge eating disorder!
Nope. I just conveniently avoided facing that for years because I wanted to just get down to my goal weight first.
Do you see how bonkers that is? I knew this “diagnosis” and really facing it would mean I would probably not be as skinny anymore because I knew that thinness was not actually health or happiness and so I was TRYING TO GET TO MY GOAL WEIGHT BEFORE I FACED THE MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS THAT MADE ME OBSESS ABOUT GETTING TO MY GOAL WEIGHT.
So, yeah. I feel like my journey is just proof of one thing: Health and Happiness is complicated and nuanced and different for every individual.
I don’t like people who tell their journeys in the style of a recipe: HERE IS WHAT WORKED FOR ME AND I KNOW IT WILL WORK FOR YOU TOO! Especially because it’s usually a lot of different components that change a path towards health and contentment. And some of them are invisible. Running kept me fit but you know what I think was impacting my health more: RUNNING FRIENDS. It turns out regularly seeing good people and having good conversations was really helping my mental health and yet I could only obsess over making sure my miles and calories always balanced in the “LOSING WEIGHT” direction.
I just wanted to write a follow-up with a bit more commentary from yesterday. I didn’t mean for it to sound like, “It is very complicated! So don’t focus on anything positive because it won’t work unless you do it ALL!” I just meant, “Do not beat yourself up if singular changes do not create permanent results.“
Actually…you know what? Don’t beat yourself up. Ever. Just always love yourself. Period. That’s all I ever want to say. LOVE YOURSELF.
Maybe there is a simply life hack after all.