Welcome to Wellness Wednesday!
For my inaugural Wellness Wednesday post, I’m going to share a bit about my own experience with wellness. Please let me know what wellness means to you and what wellness tips you want to know more about in the comments!
From a very young age, I knew how to listen to my body. I knew when I was hungry, when I was tired, when I need vegetables, when I needed exercise, and when I needed some quiet time—I was a relatively intuitive young child. As I got older, though, I learned how not to listen, and how to even silence the voice of my body. The transition from middle school to high school was difficult—it seemed all my peers were starving, sleep-deprived, high functioning, and hyper-stressed—and I began to feel guilty for not being like my classmates.
Listening to Ourselves
It seems my peers constantly talked about the extreme levels of stress they were putting their bodies through, whether it was because of academics, sports, eating disorders, extra-curricular activities, or any other reason to feel completely overwhelmed. Stress as a symbol of self-control was a dangerous cycle for me, one in which the greater my stress and anxiety and depression, the greater a sense of power and control I felt. Looking back, while there was a lot of work I had to do to heal, one of the simplest solutions took me the longest to grasp.
Challenges of Listening
I was so deep into the negative self-talk that it took time just to find the voice of my body again, to even know it still existed. I was afraid that I’d lose control, or my body would change too drastically, or I’d suddenly become a “lazy” person. I spent much of my time practicing, yet at first I couldn’t hear anything. Not even a whisper. Slowly but surely, with the support of many people in my life, I started to hear the voice of my body, my voice. I even began to respect its wishes, even if I didn’t always like them.
As I started to listen in some ways, I stopped listening in others—I would get enough sleep, but exercise past my limit; I would eat enough to be satisfied, but then work extra hours—and I had to check back in with myself again and again. It took time, and sometimes felt terrible, but then I also noticed another, subtler change… my body and mind started to feel better. When I began choosing to rest and honor what my body needed, instead of deciding what my body “deserved,” I began to care less and less about how I looked, because I couldn’t argue with the fact that I was enjoying being in my body more and more.
Striving for Balance
I’m not perfect. Sometimes I overeat, or skip the gym; sometimes I exercise too much, or don’t get enough sleep, or overwork. Except now, I feel different about those choices. Now, these choices are guiding me, instead of ruling and controlling my life. To me, wellness is about balancing my cravings with healthy choices, and indulging or abstaining when it feels right to do so. I don’t believe in “good” or “bad” foods. I like to joke that I follow the happiness diet, an extremely simple diet: “If it makes me happy, then I eat/ listen to/ embrace/ spend time doing it.”
I don’t define happiness solely on the yumminess of the food, but how it makes my body feel, because eating well, and eating some treats sometimes, both make me happy. Being able to move my body and have energy makes me happy; putting nutrients into my body makes me happy; surrounding myself with positive messages and people brings me joy; taking some quiet reflective time alone when I need it–these are all parts of my “diet.”
Listening to my body’s needs makes me happy, because I can do all of the tasks and activities that bring me joy. I’ve had to choose my wellbeing over obsessing over size, and joy over my disorder. I still fall into old patterns and thoughts, and I still struggle with loving my body exactly the way it is.
Re-defining wellness has made a huge difference in my life, because it’s pushed me to stop focusing on what I look like, and instead on how I feel. To me, wellness is about ensuring my body can do everything I want it to, not that it can look every way I wish it did. Wellness now encompasses my physical, emotional, and mental health, not just a number on a scale. For a very long time I was afraid to listen to my body, because I thought I wasn’t supposed to.
Now, I know that my body knows best, and that when I take care of it, it takes care of me, which is more valuable to me than any number. Throughout my Wellness Wednesday posts, I hope to encourage you, reader, to listen more to your own body, to appreciate everything it can do, and be compassionate with it, to love it unconditionally. This isn’t a journey of measurable goals reached, or achievements made—I believe the wellness journey is a journey towards love, and I hope you enjoy coming along with me, while we continue to remember how to listen, together.
BeachBumPoet Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, these are some of the resources I used on my own journey to recovery: