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Posted on Mar 18, 2013 in Dear Diary | 21 comments

What is Health? (Baby, don’t hurt me.)

Ha! After reading the title of this post, hopefully all of you have the song “What is Love” by Haddaway (made famous…er by the cinematic masterpiece Night at the Roxbury) stuck in your heads too. WELCOME TO MY HELL.

Also, hi. Happy Monday and whatnot. Today marks the official 1-week-til-baby day for my sister. Her due date is technically March 25th, so this weekend I’m headed down to Houston. Depending on the timing, I’ll either be welcoming the new little nugget (SQUEE! BABIES!), or I’ll helping my sister keep her sanity as she pushes a football out her hoo-ha in any way I can if the baby takes a little longer to come.


Cue the episode of Friends, “The One Where Rachel is Late.” And man, this post is already full of delicious, outdated cultural references. Go me.

So, my weekend was actually pretty low key. Not a ton to report, which is a good thing for once! I’ve been able to do quite a bit of work on my second book, and get some ideas down for my upcoming (impending?) HUNGER GAMES-THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTY, which will be happening next month. Yes, I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to the planning of my Quarter Quell, and it. Is. Glorious. It might even blow last year’s Harry Potter party out of the water.

Man, I love my birthday.

So, somehow the planning of said party has made me mildly (very mildly) introspective about the nature of celebration, and how it relates to healthy living. You’ve probably already noticed a bit of a pattern with me, in that I really love to celebrate things. Blogiversary? Dog’s birthday? Mastered 6 chords on the ukulele? Let’s celebrate! And usually my kind of celebration involves food, as all good things do, which means I constantly am making excuses as to why I can break the “healthy” rules for one meal, one evening, one weekend. It’s a celebration, after all!

I’ve been trying to work on this. Trying to be “better” about my food choices, about eating out, about constantly “breaking the rules.” However, as I pinned yet another Jell-O shot recipe to my birthday party board, I started to wonder if I’ve been condemning myself for the wrong thing. Yes, this is a weight loss blog, and I am someone who is constantly trying to shape her life around healthy habits. But what IS health? Is it really just down to the nuts and bolts of what I put into my body, how much exercise I do, and the like? Of course not. Health is much more complete and complex–at least when it comes to total health, not just nutrition and fitness.

Okay, sure, I don’t think anybody’s going to give you license to eat a dozen cupcakes in one sitting cause it’s OMG!so healthy. But I wonder instead if the truly unhealthy thing about me right now is my mentality. I shouldn’t be getting on my own case about eating a cupcake, I should be scolding myself for always looking for an *excuse* to eat a cupcake. If I want a cupcake, I should have a cupcake (well, not right now, since I gave up desserts for Lent, but you know what I mean).

I’m struggling with a similar thing when it comes to revamping the ratios of my diet. I’ve said a few times now that I’m trying to focus on protein and healthy fat, over carbs and sugar. But I have an entire lifetime of thinking “fat is bad” to overcome in doing so. So yeah, it doesn’t really feel “right” when I’m ordering a steak instead of a salad, or eating half an avocado with my breakfast. I’m still trying to break my old thought-process when it comes to “dieting” (low-fat! Nonfat! Skim! Low-cal!) and it takes time. But I think that my overall health and happiness deserves that.

Nobody is going to make the argument that it’ll be healthy for me to get schwasted and have an epic time at my birthday party (at which, I should mention, there will also be cupcakes, hahahaha). But it IS arguable that the minor “damage” I’ll be taking that night is outweighed by the happiness and personal satisfaction that might come out of it. I’m sure I’m not really phrasing things correctly, but I think you all kind of know what I’m getting at by now.

For me, healthy living as I think a lot of us think of it–whole grains and kale salads and running 3 miles a day–is not something that will ever come naturally. Yes, I am a more informed, more restrained person than the 250-pound, binge-eating version of myself, but I am simply never going to be the girl who would honestly rather have a piece of fruit over a slice of cake. I will NEVER want to go for a jog, when I have the option to sit on my butt and watch episodes of anything on Netflix. I mean, I *might* do those things anyway, but it wont be because I WANT to. I’m just not hardwired that way. So instead of trying to completely revamp my life, deny myself the things I know that I like–and will always like–and leave room for deprivation to lead to unsatisfaction, and unsatisfaction to lead to unhappiness, and unhappiness to lead me right back into binge eating (or some other equally destructive behavior), I make smaller changes. I try to make good choices, and still leave room for the occasional bad one.

Consider this my official statement saying that I’m done trying to constantly fit my life into whatever standards of “healthy living” I’ve worked up in my head. After all, it’s not some all-or-nothing kind of thing. It’s not like once I stray outside the boundary lines, I’m gonna get kicked out of the healthy living club. The healthy living police aren’t going to come take away my domain name. From now on, I will work healthy living into the kind of lifestyle I know that I want, which means that, yes, there will be TV-watching the occasional plate of cheese fries. But there will also be brussels sprouts and long walks with adorable schnauzers and good times spent with great friends.

A lifestyle that is mostly healthy, but more importantly, sustainable. Which, in my opinion, is better for me than a year of stringently healthy dieting and running, followed by a burnout that causes me to backslide even further down. I think I’m *finally* getting the concept of the whole 80/20 thing that healthy living…ers sometime preach. While, granted, my ratio might be more like 70/30… on a good day… I finally get the idea that I don’t have to strike for the 100% perfect ideal. I can allow myself “permission” to have it both ways. Kind of.

So, yes. My birthday will likely be the epitome of UNhealthy living. But after my night of Capitol-inspired debauchery, I’ll get up. And hopefully I won’t making proclamations about my need to start all over again, or how I need to “undo” the damage I did the night before. I’ll just pick up where I left off. I’ll continue on.

What is health to you? When you think of health, do you only think about your body, or do you account for your mind and emotions as well? When it comes to “healthy livng,” do you feel like it’s more important to set a high standard for yourself so you constantly have something to reach for? Or is forming a realistic lifestyle the key to long-term success?


  1. Healthly living to me is remebering that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. So long as I can keep that in perspective and not live in one extreme I think I am doing alright.

    On another note, I am SO excited for your bday party! 🙂

  2. I think healthy is a state of mind, when I’m happy, I make better choices. Part of being is spending time celebrating things. Healthy is probably knowing that celebrating birthdays demands quite a bit of cake and gin and that celebrating Friday requires much less of those things!

  3. Health means having the steak salad 🙂

    As someone who loves all the bad foods (cheese and chocolate everything)I know I’ll never stick to the low fat/whole wheat/no sauce options 100% of the time. I do know that thinking of quality instead of quantity has helped a lot.

    So yes, there’s 3 varieties of dark chocolate in my pantry, and 2 types of brie in the fridge BUT they’re all smaller portions (because of price)and usually better quality (organic, less sugar etc), so that’s helped me turn down anything that I can label as “inferior”, knowing that I have something worth holding out for at home.

  4. I love your attitude! Healthy living to me is staying active and enjoying things that make me happy. I know from personal experience that while I can house half a dozen cupcakes and love every minute of it I will also feel wildly nauseous in a few minutes. I definitely live by the idea of if I eat something heavy I will counter it with something light. I typically eat whatever on the weekends and then do a little reset on Monday. I really enjoying being active so it doesn’t always feel like work but when it does I just remind myself that I will be happy once I finish! I definitely live a less than 100% healthy choice life but it’s my life and it’s perfect for me.

  5. i love this. i think health definitely is complex and you shouldn’t overdo one part of “healthy” at the risk of another part! health is a complete picture and enjoying things in life (like you are planning to do with your birthday party) are healthy because you know you will have fun and be with friends and it’ll be a good time. obviously the cupcakes and booze might not be so healthy but it’s also not like you’re indulging like that every day. i think balance is key to health. love this topic!

  6. I can’t even attempt to give a response because your entire post outlines it perfectly. I could not agree more 🙂

  7. This post made me so happy for you. I agree 100%. Part of being healthy is being happy – and if you’re constantly in state of feeling inadequate cuz you’re not living up to someone else’s standard…how can you be happy?! Also – Terra is queued up on my kindle – can’t wait to dig in!

  8. I look at it as keeping myself well. Keeping myself from getting sick and getting to feel as good as I can.

  9. Health to me is, as you said, everything in moderation. Are there weeks that I push off exercise in exchange for a dinner out or happy hour? You betcha. Are there times that I’m emotionally/physically exhausted and simply thinking about exercise is daunting? Yup. But as long as you get back on the (proverbial) horse and regain a happy balance between food and exercise, I think you’re doing what’s best for yourself in the long run. You can certainly have your (birthday) cake and eat it, too!

  10. I applaud your efforts to find a good balance! If you are really interested in doing something to help get your butt in gear WHILE trying to help you find a balance, let me know if you want to play this: (We will play for a month again in May!) I would highly suggest giving it a whirl, and it would definitely be a lot to discuss on this weight-loss blog! (And yes, you can still indulge in the occasional cupcake or plate o’ cheese fries! BALANCE!)


  11. I know this is (only a little bit) off topic, but can we talk about how “The one with all the embryos” is pretty much the best episode of Friends?

    P.S. BABIES. I can’t wait to see the 3289493028432 pics your family will take.

  12. I totally agree with this post! I try to follow the mantra of “everything in moderation.” I enjoy pizza and wine and fries and fried things and ice cream… just not all at once. And not endless amounts. 🙂

    <3 from a fellow Falls Church resident!


    And I need to read you more often. I think I say that every time I come here because you crack me up. Also, I wish I was in the area because I would totally come to your Quarter Quell.


    1) Favorite Roxbury guest? Mine was Jim Carrey or Pam Anderson. 13-year-old me used to tape SNL (because it was past my bedtime) and watch it after Sunday school.
    2) I *am* going to make an argument that it’s totally healthy for you to get schwasted on your birthday and eat a dozen cupcakes if you want to. Like Christmas, your birthday only comes once a year. I think it’s healthy to celebrate it the way you want to. Even if that means you feel like crap (not guilty, but legit crap) the next day.
    3) I’m going to be a pusher here (ask Lauren about this). If you haven’t read it, pick up “Intuitive Eating”. I know you’re a weight loss blogger, but you are so much more than that. You’re a writer, a creative, and apparently a hell of a lot of fun. Putting so much focus on every.little.thing that goes in (and out) of your body can be super stressful, and when it comes down to it, your body tells you what it wants once you figure out what your cravings and hunger signals mean. I wish I could tell you that I’ve lost a buttload of weight since I’ve started, but I put my scale away, so I don’t know. My friend Emily (fit and free with emily) has been losing pretty regularly since she started practicing, and it was just the thing she needed.

    Anyway, I love the sentiment of this post. It’s good to see others are working through the same ideas that I’ve been struggling with.

  14. I really love this post. I think this is a mindset I’m coming around to every few weeks, and the more frequently I think like this and see the ‘bigger picture of health’ the healthier and more balanced I become.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about not trying to fit into to preconceived notion of what health looks like. I’m the baby in the family and it just so happens, the largest too (note: my dad is 6’5” so I have the tall genes…but with my sister being 5’10 and me being 5’9”…I also got the ::sarcasm:: voluptuous genes, woo). I’ve always been referred to as ‘shapely’ and having ‘curves’, and to be honest, as a kid I thought it was the BEST b.c I basically have the same body as my mom. SHe did a great job at showing me you should love your body, that is until I was a teenager and my mom became human…when I slowly started to notice her distaste of her own curves.

    Long story short, I think growing up in a world that consistently recognizes part of your physical as ‘different’ and of course via the media…fat or wrong, makes for a difficult foray into a healthy lifestyle with balanced food/activity/and most importantly mentality.

    The more time I take to step back and recognize that I will always be different and that my bill in life is to live in this body and keep it as healthy as possible so I can enjoy life, the more perspective I have on whether or not a calorie here or there should determine how ‘good’ I’m being at eating healthy.

    Slowly over time I’ve discovered my enjoyment of working out and I can definitely say which foods make me feel good and which make me feel bad. So this is what I try to work off of. I try realllllly hard to take guilt out of the equation and recognize my life as a bigger picture, recognize my body (my curvy powerhouse 🙂 as my main partner in life and in my health, and recognize the fact that habits take time to form and every little bit I do now to be healthy, will be a habit in a few years.

    I appreciate your honesty and the self-reflection you’re doing and I think this is SUCH a healthy perspective…now just keep remembering it when you feel like you’re in a funk!

    BTW…I’ve been loving the uke videos!

  15. You’re already there – just by writing this ‘manifesto’ if you will, you’ve proven you’re at the healthiest point of self-awareness, acceptance and a willingness to take the bad choices at some points. For me health is a series of small steps, one foot in front of the other, some more concerted than others, some intentionally askew. So long as I am moving forward.

  16. I am *so* ready for your new book to come out!!

  17. I’m coming to this post a couple days late, but you are so RIGHT ON! This is so me: “I am simply never going to be the girl who would honestly rather have a piece of fruit over a slice of cake. I will NEVER want to go for a jog, when I have the option to sit on my butt and watch episodes of anything on Netflix.” YES! As you said, I might do those things anyway, but I will always go for balance, for allowing myself a treat or an afternoon of laziness because, for me, being healthy MOST of the time and allowing myself some of life’s pleasures, too, is more important than being “perfect.” Whatever someone’s idea of perfect is! It makes me unhappy to think of giving up cupcakes or pizza FOR GOOD. It also makes me happy to think I could never run again. So there is healthiness — and happiness — in the balance!

  18. I really enjoyed this post since I’ve been thinking about some of the questions you just asked. What is health to me? It wasn’t until I really started trying to take better care of myself that I realized it’s way more than sticking to my diet and workout routine. Taking up yoga made me realize that if my head (and heart) wasn’t in the right place, I wasn’t going to be healthy. For me that’s meant dealing with difficult relationship issues, bad habits, and self-esteem.

    I’ve been able to stick to my diet and workout when I also set aside time to give my brain and heart a workout too, whether that’s been meditation or tough conversations.

    Not sure if that’s what you are asking about, but that’s what I’m thinking! Thanks!

  19. This such an interesting question! Health is definitely a crazy balance of living in a way that makes you feel at your best without having to overthink, obsess, and limit yourself?

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