“Lower carb is the the way to be healthiest”
“You can eat as much fat as you want these days”
“Running is great exercise”
“You should get 7-9 hours sleep a night”
“More fruit and veg is always a good thing”
(Sarah here) I’ve heard (and in the name of transparency, I’ve probably said at some point!) these kind of statements and many others banded around recently and I thought I’d put something out there…I’m not sure there are actually any ‘definites’, ‘absolutes’ or ‘always-es’ in health and wellness! Whilst “more fruit and veg” might seem like it’s always a good thing, it might not be for someone who already eats 10 portions a day but isn’t getting enough energy or protein, or for someone struggling with IBS. “7-9 hours sleep a night” might usually be recommend for most but it could be more appropriate for someone who is stressed and has an ongoing health condition to be getting more, or for a parent to just do their best in a ‘new baby’ season. Lower carb might do amazing things for one person but actually be really damaging for a stressed, over-exercising human (I’ve got the t-shirt to prove that one!).
You see, as cheesy as it sounds, we are all totally unique, right down to the very DNA that makes us. There is no one else like you and your finger print on this world will never be repeated. Even within a family, what works for one won’t work for another because context REALLY matters. It matters what YOUR context is. Not a very attention grabbing headline right there so you might not see it spread across social media very often but it’s essential all the same.
Are your hormones all over the place? Do you sleep well? Do you move your bowels daily?! (That’s important you know!). What’s your mood like? Do you have a health condition? How do your joints feel? What’s your digestion like? Do you get headaches? What do you enjoy? What’s your health history? Do you have much ‘down’ time? How active are you? Are you stressed? How much money have you got? All of these factors should have an impact on the lifestyle choices we make and will mean my choices are different from yours. I need a minimum of 8 (more like 9) hours sleep to be healthy because of an autoimmune condition (and historically overdoing the exercise and stress bit!) whereas Andy can thrive on 7. I also need to be extremely careful not to eat gluten (because I have Coeliac disease) whereas Andy can be healthy eating it because his body doesn’t recognise it as a threat. Some people need more carbohydrate than others to feel good, whilst others know a higher fat diet works best for them. Some get their healthiest movement in by doing boxing classes whereas for others this would be too much and walking is their healthiest form of activity.
There really isn’t any point in comparing to the way others do it, jumping on some diet bandwagon or forcing yourself to do what you’ve ‘heard’ works. In fact if it’s not right for your body it can get you in a sticky mess (been there, done that!). Treat yourself as an ongoing experiment and try and work out what works best for your health in each season of life (and that’s you mental health too!). Start with what you’re doing now and ask some questions…How do you feel? What’s your energy like? Mood? How about your bowels? Any digestive issues? Are your finances tight right now? Maybe you need more or less sleep. Maybe try a jog or bike ride. Maybe those ‘superfoods’ you’ve been stretching the budget for aren’t really necessary. Tweak it. How do you feel now? Too much or too little? Be aware of your OWN body and see how it feels.
Remember that we’re aiming for healthy bodies first and foremost. Being ‘slim/lean’ doesn’t equal healthy, we HAVE to stop the comparison game, no one body should look like the next (nope no-one has this perfectly ‘down’, we’re ALL working on it). Your body might change in the process of getting healthy but this is just its indicator that it wasn’t at its healthiest place before and doesn’t necessarily mean you need to keep pushing it to change more. We’re on our own journey and are each moving up that mountain at our own pace. Learn to listen to the conversation YOUR body is trying to have with YOU. What is your context?