How to Quit Dieting and Live Your Healthiest Life
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
This is not an article about how to lose weight. I’m not going to tell you the secret fad diet that will change your life or debate the benefits of HIIT workouts or encourage you to join Peloton.
My primary goal isn’t getting you bikini-ready for summer or teaching you how to highlight your assets and downplay your “flaws.”
In fact, I’m not even a doctor, or a health guru, or a fit-fluencer, so you can take this with a grain of salt. But in this past year, I decided to focus on long-term healthy living and it has yielded better results than any diet.
While my fitness journey used to focus on how I looked on the outside, personal health challenges forced me to focus on how my body was functioning on the inside. So, like it does for so many people, my personal health journey actually arose out of necessity.
Over the past year, I have developed some personal behaviors that have helped me live my healthiest life. I’m hoping some of these actionable goals might help you do the same.
Living a healthy lifestyle to combat chronic illness
If you follow me on Instagram, you may know a few things about me—I love to travel, I work at Disney, I’m currently pregnant, and I’m “into” “fitness.”
I always considered myself a “healthy” person because I worked out a lot and was privileged to be traditionally “thin.” But it wasn’t until I sat doubled over in pain in a small village in Morocco that I realized something was not right—and no number of burpees was going to make me better.
According to the National Health Council, almost half of American adults live with a chronic illness. Most chronic illnesses are attributed to unhealthy behaviors and sedentary lifestyle and they are far more prevalent in developed nations, where we rely on convenient packaged foods and spend most of our time sitting at desks.
In mid-2019, I finally decided to go through a series of medical procedures to determine what was causing my bouts of debilitating pain, persistent nausea, and fatigue. I was losing weight, but I felt far from healthy. The doctor confirmed what I had already deduced—I had early stage Chrohn’s Disease.
(This may be a photo of me at my thinnest--I had lost almost 15 pounds since my constant nausea robbed me of any desire to eat.)
Chrohn’s is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes inflammation of the entire intestinal tract. My symptoms comprise the mild end of the spectrum—on the severe end, it can cause ulcers, require removal of damaged parts of the intestines, and lead to cancer. Less than one million Americans suffer from this illness, which means research on treatment is still limited and the drugs available for treatment are still untested for long-term side effects.
I was distraught with my diagnosis. I did not want to have a chronic disease and I certainly didn’t want it to progress to a moderate or severe case. But I also didn’t want to resort to injectable drugs for the rest of my life.
So I decided it was time to make additional lifestyle changes to achieve remission on my own. When I thought about my health over the course of my entire life, my objective became focused on reducing inflammation, eliminating chronic illness, and providing my body the best chance to prevent disease from advancing. I want to continue to comfortably travel the world for the rest of my life.
(Traveling in Turkey at the end of 2019, after achieving temporary remission through dietary and behavioral changes.)
While I won’t propose all disease can be prevented by healthy living, I do think we have the ability to provide our bodies the best advantage possible to stave off disease or avoid it all together.
I can honestly say that following these steps have helped me feel the best I have ever felt in my life—even with a chronic disease. My husband joined in and claims he feels more energized, focused, and that he has reduced pain and inflammation around an old sports injury in his back.
(This was the day we found out I was pregnant--5 weeks along. I had had to achieve remission prior to getting pregnant to avoid complications. Though pregnancy did incite a flare up during my first trimester--which was the WORST.)
Whether you are battling a chronic illness, pain in your body, trying to lose weight (which is a worthy goal if that is the journey you are on), or just want to live a healthier life, below are some practical tips on how I started my fitness journey. I hope it may inspire you to do the same!
(*Self-management of certain diseases isn’t for everyone. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. The drugs for those with advanced Crohn’s Disease have greatly improved many people’s quality of life. However, in my case, the side effects seemed worse than my symptoms, so I chose to decline my doctor’s recommendation to medicate. It should also be noted that my doctor never provided any advice for self-management or lifestyle changes.)
HOW TO LIVE YOUR HEALTHIEST LIFE--Get your head in the game
Focus on your long-term goal—not your six-pack
Have you ever felt “guilty” for eating a carb? One misstep and you feel like you’ve failed your whole diet. I’ve heard people lament over their sad lunch as they eat a piece of chicken on a bed of lettuce. How many people torture themselves by going to the gym just to berate themselves when the numbers don’t change on the scale?