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What is health? Some may say it’s how you eat, others may say it’s your weight or how much you work out, but many would say health is a combination of all these things. While that is true (to a certain extent), I’d argue that health goes deeper than just these physical factors. There was a time when I ate extremely healthy, worked out, kept my weight in check, etc., but looking back I would argue that I wasn’t really healthy at all. The reason? I was lacking the key ingredient to TRUE health – self-love. And while I have a long way to go to loving myself fully, the way I view health has completely changed these past few years. To do so, I had to make some big changes to my mindset and approach to healthy living, but it made all the difference in learning to live a truly healthy lifestyle that encompasses mind, body, and spirit.


Fat does NOT make you fat

I used to avoid fat at all cost. Unfortunately, all my favorite foods had, well, fat! Avocados, almond butter, almond milk, and chocolate are just some of my favorites, but the high fat content had me constantly limiting how much I ate of each item. I didn’t even cook with oil until fairly recently. The truth is that fat does not make you fat. It is essential for a healthy brain, hair, skin, and nails, and keeps you fuller, longer. The hardest thing for me was introducing oil back into my diet, but it too has health benefits (especially olive and coconut oil), not to mention it makes baked veggies and salads a whole lot better. Don’t skip on this nutrient; the health benefits are vast. So repeat after me: fat does not make you fat.

Work out for health… and release exercise guilt

I once worked out with the goal of staying “skinny”. Bad idea. Instead of enjoying my workouts and doing the exercises I wanted to, I stressed myself out whenever I missed a workout and saw exercise as a chore. If this sounds like you, you need to flip the narrative. Focus on the positives that come with exercising that aren’t based on weight or physical attributes; exercise increases strength and stamina and comes with a range of mental health benefits. Also, don’t feel guilty for skipping your workouts, whether it’s for a day, or a week, or a month. Life isn’t stagnant, and our bodies aren’t either. There will always be times when you have more energy and other times when you have less. Be kind to yourself.

Never count calories

The most significant piece of advice I can give in order to really reach a healthy mindset is to never, ever, count calories. I don’t care what a magazine, Youtuber, or celebrity told you. Counting calories will have you overanalyzing numbers, your diet, and leave you anxious if you don’t track everything you eat. It can quickly become an obsession. Let go of that extra stress and learn to eat intuitively instead. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you’re full, have some dessert if you want to. But to truly heal your relationship with food, delete the calorie counting apps.


Health as a form of self-love

All the previous pieces of advice are great ways to reach a holistic healthy mindset, but the one way to truly become healthy is to flip your internal narrative and see health as a form of self love. You were given this body to experience life on Earth with for a little while, so treat it well. Eat healthy and work out because it feels good, not because you “have” to. Watch your mindset change as doing things for your health transforms from a chore into something that brings you happiness. Build a foundation of health with self-love in mind rather than fear and body image. The former will sustain you and fulfill you on a much deeper level. 

Health looks different for everyone. What health isn’t is tearing yourself down for not looking perfect, eating 100% whole foods all the time, and shaming yourself for missing a workout. Listen to your body, be kind to yourself, and always seek help if you need it. 

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Ashley is currently a junior at Boston University. She is majoring in conservation and ecology biology with an interest in marine and wildlife conservation. In her free time she loves to practice yoga, read, create wellness content for her instagram @soulfullyashley, and surf when she can make it to the beach.
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