This is a guest post written by Michelle Myers
Being healthy is not a bad thing. Exercise and making nutrient-dense food choices have positive benefits. But after 15 years in the fitness industry, do you know the pattern I’ve seen?
When it comes to health, most people teeter on one of four extremes:
Extreme #1 – I don’t work out and eat what I want.
Extreme #2 – I work out frequently so I can eat whatever I want.
Extreme #3 – I’m meticulous about healthy eating so I don’t have to work out.
Extreme #4 – I train and eat like a lean, mean machine.
And you know what? None of these extremes are best for well-rounded health.
Extreme #1 puts you in a high risk category for poor habit-induced complications, like high cholesterol, obesity, low energy levels, and liver damage, just to name a few.
Extreme #2 forgets that eating “whatever you want” will always catch up to you – whether it’s the lack of actual nutrients in your body or the consumption of too many calories.
Extreme #3 misses out on the benefits that exercise provides, like boosting the immune system and mental health, heart disease prevention, and increasing physical strength and stamina.
No surprises yet. But what about Extreme #4? The person who both prioritizes healthy eating and exercise? What could possibly be wrong with that?
In short, nothing…if it is kept that simple. But we don’t make it simple. Very few live in the “happy zone” of simply prioritizing movement and nutrition 80-ish% of the time.
We add in carb cycling. And intermittent fasting. And obsessive overtraining. It becomes impossible for us to have a normal, functioning life.
We can’t just go out to dinner with friends. (What if dinner isn’t until 7pm and I’m supposed to have all of my calories eaten by 6pm?) Traveling is a nightmare. (My routine is so complex that being out of my normal surroundings is a stressor and effects every decision we make.) I can’t make just one meal for everyone; there’s my meal and what the rest of the family will eat. (They’d never eat what I’m having and vice versa!)
Are you starting to get my drift? It’s okay for eating and training to matter to us…but when it starts to be the focal point of every decision we make, it’s gotten to an unhealthy place both mentally and emotionally.
I meet “Extreme #4” people daily, and they’re in phenomenal shape. Their bodies look amazing.
But they aren’t satisfied.
Instead of seeing the progress they’ve made and all they’ve accomplished, their focus is on the remaining flaws, no matter how small or even nonexistent those flaws may be.
You know why? Because there is no physical appearance, max rep or superfood that can satisfy our souls. We were purposefully created to crave relationships, both with our Creator and with people.
And no matter how much we love training and eating right, those things can’t love us back.
I can speak with authority because I lived in Extreme #4 for four years myself. I reached a level of physical “perfection” that caught enough attention for modeling jobs, male head turns and female jealousy. Other women told me they wanted my body. I was constantly praised for “how great I looked on camera.”
And I was miserable. Because when my training schedule was over at the gym, I came home to my condo by myself to eat maybe a cup of egg whites with salsa and finish my daily gallon of water.
I could have had friends…but I pushed them aside because friends might interrupt my routine. They might ask me to go to a restaurant that I “couldn’t” eat at. Or they might try to keep me up so late that I might sleep through my 4am alarm clock for my fasted 5am workout.
Those were some sad, lonely years. But daily, I thank God those years are not only behind me, but they happened in the season they did.
Because then, I didn’t have three sweet lives who call me “Mommy.”
Now, I do.
My three kids are watching me and learning from me daily. And kids don’t just learn by our words. They learn by our actions and behaviors.
When we look in the mirror and give a disapproving glance…they learn.
When Mommy can’t eat the same meal as everyone else…they learn.
When Mommy is too tired to play outside with them because she already exhausted herself at the gym…they learn.
When Mommy dwells on her body’s imperfections…they learn.
When everyone else is eating and Mommy “can’t”…they learn.
This is what I know to be true. Motherhood has given me the clearest vision of unconditional love that I can grasp in my humanity. Becoming a mom was ultimately what kicked whatever remained of the “Extreme #4” inside of me to the curb.
Health…real health is a lot simpler than we make it. Health is what we naturally do as children.
Our bodies crave movement, rest and nutrients. Kids fall asleep when they’re tired and wake up when they’re rested. They eat when they’re hungry, and they stop when they’re full. They can’t sit still for too long before they need to move and “shake their sillies out.”
So what changes those habits?
Simple. They watch and learn from us. And along the way, most will change to either copy our habits, or they’ll choose to resent our habits, and swing to choose another extreme for themselves.
Here’s my challenge for us: Don’t adopt a health habit for yourself that you wouldn’t want your child to copy…either right now or as an adult.
Think about it:
Would you ask your child to fast and eat all of their calories in a few hours each day?
Would you take an apple away from your child because they’d already eaten all of their allowed carbs?
Would you choose a certain meal plan or workout routine for your child over a soul-enriching personal relationship?
I doubt it. So choose for yourself what you would choose for your kids. Choose for yourself what you want them to choose when they’re in charge of their own decisions.
Because whether we give thought to it or not, they are watching, and they are learning. It’s just up to us to decide what we teach them.
Michelle Myers lives in Asheville, NC with her husband and three children: Noah (5), Cole (3) and Shea (6 months.) She’s the founder of Cross Training Couture and She Works His Way. She’s also the author of The Look that Kills: An Anorexic’s Addiction to Control and Famous in Heaven and at Home. You can find Michelle on Instagram as @michellelmyers.