Take Your Power Back

stretching There is so much conflicting research data on health and fitness, how do we know what to believe? The answer is much simpler than you might think. Power!


Recently I’ve noticed a particular topic of discussion going around the Internet related to health and fitness. It’s the discussion of what’s right and what’s wrong, or in other words, how to be healthiest, live long, and pull off the health and fitness results that you want to achieve. It’s a conversation that has gone on for as long as I can remember really, but it’s interesting for me to think back over my journey in health and fitness, relating to this debate and realize how much my opinion, involvement, and overall stress-levels pertaining to this topic has changed. Let me explain.

The Never Ending Debate

A few weeks ago I read a very interesting accounton fitness fanatic, Kelly Olexa’s blog, where she describes her history of confusion over the abundance of conflicting advice in the health and fitness industry. She did a great job in conveying the frustration that it seems many people feel about figuring out how to be healthy and how to achieve the health and fitness results that they are seeking. I can absolutely relate to her feeling of overwhelm and confusion. Here’s just a handful of the conflicting information I have heard over the years:
Calories are the #1 most important, key to weight loss. Calories don’t matter as much as the type of food or the portion size. Fruit is good. Fruit is bad and full of sugar. Certain fruits are good, like berries.
Berries are bad, because they are full of pesticides. Fruit messes up your hormones. Organic food is best. Organic is misleading and not really different than conventional food.
Fish is good. Fish is bad and full of mercury. Wild caught fish is best. Coffee is bad. Coffee is good. Soy is good. Soy is bad. Corn is really bad.
Red meat is acidic, high in saturated fat and bad. Just kidding, red meat is actually good, and saturated fat is ok. Protein powder is good, protein powder is bad. Supplements are good, supplements are bad.
Dairy is bad, dairy is good, nope dairy is bad again. Wheat is bad, wheat is good. Nuts are good, nuts are bad, only truly raw nuts are good. Nuts are ok, but mold is actually the culprit.
Eat tons of veggies. Be careful with certain veggies like cruciferous ones, for example, which may affect thyroid function. Sugar is bad. Corn syrup is the devil.
Raw sugar is ok. Stevia is good. Stevia is bad. Agave is good. Agave is bad. Carrots are full of sugar and make you fat. Canned food is bad. Canned food is ok.
Water is good. No wait, only certain types of water is good. Metal water bottles are good. Metal water bottles are bad. Plastic water bottles are really bad.
Glass water bottles are best, wait what are you washing your water bottle with? Cleaning products shouldn’t have chemicals, some chemicals are ok, wait what chemicals are in the actual threads of the fabrics, only wear organic fabric, hold on… organic fabric isn’t actually that great.
Breathing is good, nope… breathing is bad (ok I am getting a little carried away here). Now on to exercise…. Running is great. Running is bad. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is good. HIIT is bad. Long steady state aerobics is best. Short 20-30 minute high intensity circuits are best. Yoga is good. Yoga is bad. Weight training is good. Only do bodyweight type resistance training. Swimming is good, nope swimming is bad because of the toxins in the water.
I really could go on and on. You get my point. Sometimes the greatest insight comes from stopping the go-go-go, do-do-do, read-read-read, taking a step back, and asking, “Wait a minute, what’s the point in all of this, anyway?”

Who Is Right?

When you stop and think about it, it’s a wonder that we can even find anything to eat in the maze of “do this,” and “don’t do that.” How do you know who is right? There are research studies “proving” with very convincing data that each one of these points above is very true or in other cases, very false. Further, the discussions, and sometimes, arguments between each side of a point can become very passionate, each side being so sure that they are right and the other is wrong. Figuring out how to be truly healthy could drive you mad. Quite the irony. I think that it is awesome to educate oneself and to learn about new things relating to health and fitness. A big part of what makes life worth living is the quest for growth, and new ways to step things up and take it to the next level. But I also think that there comes a point where it crosses the line of being helpful, and goes into the zone of harm. You know what I mean. You’ve maybe even felt yourself hit that point where you stop feeling empowered, and instead feel helpless. It stops feeling like stepping things up and starts to feel more like sheer overwhelm. And I can tell you exactly why I think this happens.

The Most Important Step

It happens because somewhere along the way, we have lost touch with the most important step in growth and learning about our body. I believe that it is a wonderful thing that we have so much variety in the world of research, and there is a purpose for all this diversity. The purpose in having so much research and data is not to take what these experts in a given field say as black and white, across the board, fact. The point is to listen, take the information, but then stop and check in with yourself to find out if this particular conclusion is right for you. That is the missing step. Somewhere along the way, we learned to turn off our own internal guidance and let someone else just lead us blindly through the dark, hoping that somehow their expertise and years of experience will be able to solve our problems for us. Yet this is not the purpose of educating oneself. The purpose is simply to give us some perspective in which to use to make our own decisions based on our own lives and bodies. Just because some particular studies with some other particular group of people showed some specific result, doesn’t mean that the result is going to be exactly the same for you. The challenge is, we have become very numb to the idea of listening to our own internal guidance and the feeling of checking in. What does that even mean anyway? How do you “check-in” with yourself? Is there a 1-800 number or something? A blood test maybe? A checklist? That is the dilemma. We have become so dependant on other people telling us what is right and wrong for us, that we don’t even know how to ask ourselves that very simple question – What is right for me?

Checking In

This is where it get’s tricky, because the only references I have to offer are what has worked for me, and going back to my point, what has worked for me, may not necessarily work for you. But don’t let that deter you. The truth is, sometimes the process is simply trying something, and then listening, or seeing how it feels. That is what the term “checking-in” is all about. It’s a feeling. Some of the ways that I have learned to check-in with myself are through:
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • journaling
  • quiet time
  • stretching
  • deep breathing
  • going to my “happy place
In general, checking in is paying attention to your mood, thoughts, and particular feelings on a topic. By doing any of these things listed above, what you are trying to accomplish is to learn what your intuition, or inner-voice, sounds like. To open yourself up to what some people call your gut feeling. The more you focus your attention on being open to it, the easier it will become to tune into it. Eventually you will get to the point where you won’t even need to listen for it, you just naturally go with what feels right.

Stop Trying So Hard

The bottom line is, we make a much bigger deal about health than it really needs to be and I know that sounds like the opposite of what you would expect me to say. Health doesn’t need to be so hard, but we make it that way, because of our fear of what happens if we are NOT healthy. It’s our fear of disease, fear of death, fear of what the world will be like years from now, fear of what other people will think of the way we look; it’s our fear of all kinds of stuff that causes us to try so hard. But it’s the trying so hard, the worrying, the stress of the “what ifs” that is causing a great deal of the lack of health. What kind of a life is that to live? Yeah, it’s true, there are TONS of things to fear in this world, but that doesn’t mean that we have to focus on them. I understand the idea of prevention, but there are so many things that we have absolutely no control over. You can have the best intentions, spending your every waking moment doing everything in your power to create the healthiest, purest environment to live in, but the reality is there are toxins, poisons, bacteria, fungus, and carcinogens around us all the time. You can’t live a fulfilling life in a bubble, and even if you did, you’d probably be worried about what the bubble was made out of! I’m not saying to give up on being healthy, what I am simply saying is to relax and loosen up a bit. Focus on doing the best from where you are at right now. Step by step. Rather than focusing on perfection, focus on growth. Concentrate on having fun with it. Taking steps and making choices to do a little better and a little better… your definition of better, not someone else’s. At the same time, be ok with where you are right now. In the grand scheme of things perfection isn’t possible, so the point in all of this isn’t to do everything “right,” it’s to have fun and do what feels good. Life isn’t meant to be lived in fear and overwhelm. Health can be simple and something that brings happiness and fulfillment, but it doesn’t need to be a never-ending quest for perfection. Worry less, listen to what feels good to your body, smile more, dance more, and most importantly… take your power back. Was this helpful to you? Let me know. I would love to hear how you feel about this topic.
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