For me being healthy is so much more than eating green vegetables every day. It really goes beyond what I eat. It's not a coincidence that I feel healthiest when I have regularly exercised, spent some quality time with my loved ones, I feel accomplished about something and I am not overly anxious and stressed. In the past, when I had felt run down I would automatically change the way I eat and ignore other aspects of my life. Never in million years I'd think to go to the gym or have a long walk to de-stress: "healthy" was only food related.
How many times has a bowl of kale made you feel on top of the world? Not really, right? However, how many times have a good day with your best friend had given you a burst of energy, some positive vibes and motivation? Even more so when you are in love.
A healthy lifestyle starts when we realize there are other equally important, or more, areas of our lives that contribute to our overall well-being. Surely, cut down caffeine, sugar and alcohol and you'll feel better in a couple of days, but that is only a temporary fix. Your body will benefit from a "cleaner" diet, however you will thrive only if this diet is incorporated to other lifestyle practices.
Another point I've learnt over the years is that there is no such a thing like one only perfect healthy lifestyle. We all live different lives: moms, professionals, students, retired; we all have different needs and ages, therefore we all have various ways of living a perfectly healthy life.
It all comes down to this: listen to your body and let it guide you. Yeah, such a simple notion yet so complicated. It has taken me years to get in tune with my own body and still I'm work in progress. During the time I tried to heal my eczema through diet, I had researched so much about numerous diets and followed them to a T, but I had never felt great or particularly healthier than before. If you believe that your body is a perfect biocomputer you'll find it easy to understand that we don't need people to tell us what to do or not: your body knows how to heal itself, just give it time and follow its lead.
This is easier said than done so I'm going to try to summarize how I got in tune with my body and how I work towards a healthy and thriving life. This is not meant to be the perfect recipe for wellbeing (for the reasons explained above), but I hope I'll give you the inspiration of finding your ways to get to a healthier version of you :)
Ditch the diet books
Definitely this is not easy if you have relied on dietary theories all your life. I'm not against them, but they can hinder your understanding of your own body. If a nutrition expert tells you that you should avoid dairy completely because it helped them lose the weight or feel better, it's very likely you'll follow their advice without a blink of an eye.
Instead, don't be afraid of experimenting and try not to have prejudgements on nutrition. Carbs, for example, get bad press nowadays. Generally speaking, simple carbohydrates (white sugar, white bread, etc) spike blood sugar faster than complex ones (brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, etc..), but try for yourself before you give those cookies to your dog. If you use your body as a lab, you can experience first hand the difference of what carbs (or whatever you're trying) make and that will convince you more than any dietary theories to create an unique meal plan that works for you and you only.
When I was on the quest to find the cure to my eczema, I even tried to go vegan for few weeks, it's supposed to be so good and here in LA there are vegan restaurants popping everywhere. Result: I gained weight, felt bloated and no change to my skin. It was fun to experiment and now I know for sure that's not for me although a lot of people swear by it.
Don't be afraid to try and go against the new dietary trends. You'll be surprised how much you'll learn about your amazing body!
Exercise as a way to balance your body and mind
Exercising is definitely not the new kid on the block in the well-being world. We all know that lack of movement is detrimental. I can't define myself a gym bunny, I've never been and never will. However, I understand the importance of carving out some time to move my butt on a weekly basis.
One thing I learned is that not all types of exercise are equal. Pilates, yoga or a long swim have a more calming effect on our bodies and minds compared to a kickboxing or spinning class. Since I am a big proponent to find balance, exercise is a great way to do it. When I feel particularly tired or just have a very wandering mind, I choose a more energetic type of exercise to shake off all that mental tiredness. When I feel frustrated, angry or anxious a long relaxing walk in nature or a nice slow swim hit the spot for me.
Check in with yourself and see what your body and mind need to achieve the right balance. Have a couple of exercise options, one relaxing and one dynamic, to choose from. At the moment, my personal favorites are a long walk around the Hollywood hills where I'm totally surrounded by nature (and the path is uber stroller-able so Grace can come with me) and some leg circuits I make up at the gym to get the blood flowing.
Surround yourself with a supportive community
Only when I moved to Los Angeles from London I have truly understood how powerful friends and family are to my life. Relationships contribute to our sense of wellbeing. I agree with Aristotle when he says that humans are by nature social animals. Nobody thrives in this life on its own, we are not made to live alone, but to live in a community. More than ever nowadays I live a more 'isolated' mommy life than in the past when I worked in an office full of people and I can tell the difference it makes on me. It's not a coincidence that I feel terribly down and without energy when I have spent most of the day at home without seeing or talking to anyone. Also, if this goes on for few days the eczema comes back on my hands.
Sometimes it's not always feasible to go out and about with baby Grace but a good chat over the phone/WhatsApp or a Skype call is all I need to get my mojo back.
A community of people who love and support you is a great gift to appreciate and nurture. Wear your best smile and get out there!
Do what you love
We are all born gifted and with a vocation in life. Whatever that is we have the duty to nurture, grow and share our talents to the world. Some people are good at playing an instruments, others are great teachers or natural athletes. No matter what that is, keep doing what you love and fulfills you in life. Perhaps you can't make a living out of it and that's OK. I've always been very passionate about cooking and wellbeing and for years I read and experimented in the kitchen during my free time while I was an accountant during the day to pay the bills. Now Grace takes up most of my time, but I make sure I have few hours a week for my blog and for testing recipes. It's really something I love doing and it makes me so happy to know I can help or inspire by sharing what I know. Do what you love and people will see that special and unique sparkle in your eyes. No diets or superfoods can give you that, believe me.