Navigating the Never-Ending Cycle of Health Trends
With an endless stream of advice and information being fed to us regarding health trends, we can find ourselves in a constant cycle of seeking that perfect health routine. While navigating through these tips and tricks, I’ve found it’s incredibly important to remember our bodies are all different and have unique needs that are always changing and evolving. We’ve all tried new things — from face masks to du jour eating plans — but each time I hop on board with a new trend that seems appealing without assessing my current needs, I usually end up feeling worse.
Health trends go in and out of vogue, but the long-term solution for me has been to figure out what works for my body — and that solution may not be the same as what’s right for my best friend or the co-worker sitting next to me. In the decades I have worked on healing my body after surviving thyroid cancer and in seeking to prevent breast cancer (via a preventive double mastectomy for the BRCA genetic risk), I experienced debilitating migraines, severe panic attacks and low energy. I tried nearly everything to fix them, testing out every eating and exercise program under the sun, and was instructed to eliminate seemingly every possible food group to little avail.
For years, this cycle left me at the mercy of what I was told to do without paying much attention to how it made me feel. If I saw someone was healing themselves by eating only bananas, there was a moment in time when, out of desperation to feel better, I would have tried anything and took that challenge upon myself. At times, I have eaten only raw food, more meat, less meat, no meat and so many different combinations in between, but like Goldilocks, I struggled to find the right combination. I found that, because I was so focused on what others were doing, versus taking the time to assess how each program made me feel, the state of my health went backwards.
For example, a couple of years ago, when I went through a predictable “I want to be in the best shape of my life when I turn 40” phase (I’m sure many of you relate), I was encouraged to cut carbs and eat more animal protein and fats. Working towards the strength I had always desired, I bumped up my meat and butter intake and supplemented with gelatin and other animal products. A vegetarian for most my life, this way of eating felt more like a chore than a boost, and, in the end, my immune system ended up notably weaker. In the short term, I built muscle and strength, but soon after, I ended up getting sick for months.
After going through this experience and enduring another persistent illness, I was finally guided towards an eating system that was particular to my internal body type. Soon thereafter, I began to heal from the inside out. This time around, I started to listen to my own body’s intuition and made my decisions from a new vantage point. Now, even as I set new wellness and fitness goals, the ultimate test is how each new program makes me feel.
The fact is this: we are not all meant to be running marathons or bench pressing our own body weight in every phase of life or eating the same foods. So many other factors play into building strength and wellness, both physically and mentally. Instead, by focusing more on intuition and checking in with your body, you can find what works for you and quickly respond to any changes you may need to make over time.
Following what we see working with others when there is no personal buy-in can cause mental or emotional burnout and physical fatigue. We are not all the same, and this applies as much to health and wellness as it does to fashion, music, professions, friends and travel destinations. Listening to our inner knowing is the best way to create a long-term, sustainable program to support our well-being in every area of life. To me, this means taking the time to self-reflect and constantly ask myself why I am doing something. Do I like it? How do I feel in my body if I say “yes” or “no” to this decision? Will it make me feel well? How do I feel when I eat or exercise a certain way? This simple step of making decisions based on a desired outcome or feeling allows for more trust in ourselves and in turn, leads to our taking better care of our bodies.
Personal health and wellness is so important — it comes not just from research but also learning to understand your body’s cues and feedback. Trial and error for yourself, and when needed, with the guidance of a licensed professional or doctor, can lead you to the correct balance for you in any given moment. What works for your sister, best friend or a top celebrity may not feel right to you. So don’t let yourself be pressured by the health trends around you — listening to your body is the best way to get to your healthiest self, mentally and physically.
Getty image by Remains