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How I finally figured out what being healthy really means

How I finally figured out what being healthy really means

It’s not just about eating right and working out.

"I’ve learnt that exercise in any form, while not always fun, is good for my mental health and energy levels."

It’s not just about eating right and working out

I’d like to think I lead a fairly healthy lifestyle. It’s taken a lot of trial and error. I’ve had to find a level of acceptance and compassion.

I’m not a doctor or an expert, I’m just a woman pushing 40 who wants to live a long, healthy and happy life.

Over the last two decades, I’ve tried various diets. I don’t subscribe to any specific way of eating now, but I’ve learnt a lot.

I was vegetarian for five years in my 20s. While my eating habits were not completely healthy (I ate a lot of spinach and feta pizzas), I did learn that I’m content not to eat meat every day.

I’ve also learnt that a vegan lifestyle is not for me. My body just can’t handle it. When I went “high protein” in my 30s, I looked healthier because the weight just dropped off me.

I lost 10kg so fast that my downstairs neighbour thought I’d given birth to a baby. It just wasn’t very sustainable.

I learnt that I need vegetables and that there is a limit to how many grilled chicken breasts I can stomach. I also learnt that I don’t need to eat loads of refined carbohydrates to function.

In the hopes of better gut health and less bloating, I’ve dabbled with gluten-free and wheat-free eating. It’s great, but it’s also inconvenient – wheat is everywhere!

However, balance is possible, and I’ve discovered a host of alternatives grains.

Intermittent fasting worked for me and helped with my insulin resistance. A word of warning, be careful about fasting and taking medication.

I learnt that it’s okay to go to bed feeling a bit hungry, and that anything I eat after 8pm is more than likely “junk food”.

I cut out sugary treats for a month and saw amazing results. I see a dietician and she weighs me on a scale that can tell if I’ve lost or gained muscle or fat.

I lost fat and my moods were more level. Now I just limit my intake of treats and continue to see a steady drop in fat. I like to think I’ve found a comfortable balance – I eat all the food groups in reasonable quantities.

When it comes to supplements and certain foods, “but it’s natural” does not make it okay for my body. I’m on a few medications and I check online for potential drug interactions.

I got it into my head that drinking green juice would make me healthy. However, leafy greens are packed with Vitamin K, which works against my blood thinners.

I have regular blood tests to check my clotting factor and after a few days of hitting the leafy greens very hard, it showed in my blood tests. For me, it’s just not worth it to counteract the benefits of my chronic medication.

With exercise, I’ve found I really need to listen to my body. I joined a fitness group that works out in my local park. I skip a week or two here and there, but then I try other things to keep my body moving.

I’ve learnt that going for a 10-minute walk with my dogs is better than not moving. I’ve had a few injuries and did not just push through the pain. When I hurt my shoulder, I saw my physio and we worked on exercises to strengthen my problem area.

For six weeks I did modified versions of planks, push-ups and burpees. Later I started to experience knee pain. I found some great videos online about exercises to strengthen all the muscles in my legs to better care for my knees.

I’ve learnt to modify rather than give up. I’ve learnt that exercise in any form, while not always fun, is good for my mental health and energy levels.

To me, a healthy lifestyle is a mix of nutritious food, regularly moving my body, avoiding negative people, and a lot of self-compassion.

Sharon Paine

Change expert, Sharon Paine, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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