Tag Archives: perfection

Perfect Health Doesn’t Exist

I opened my email inbox the other month and had a newsletter from a health professional in my network. I clicked through to read what she had to say about the germ-infused winter season and immediately felt my insides prickle. She said that we need to start pointing the finger of blame back at ourselves when we’re sick, citing that our immune systems aren’t doing their jobs because of physical and mental stresses that we aren’t keeping in check. I like this health professional and trust her a lot. I get her point. But I can’t agree with her.

Yes, it’s true that our immune systems are the foundation for our health. And we have a lot of control over how resilient (or not) our gut health is based on what we eat and how healthfully we live. But it’s also true that there are quite a few things out of our control from one season of life to the next. Take me as an example…

This past winter I cut way down on alcohol and caffeine, started sleeping longer every night, and replaced lots of household products with plant-based, plastic-free, fragrance-and-dye-free alternatives. I also dialed down my high-stress workouts and replaced them with some yoga and plenty of quality strength training for hormonal balance. Lastly, I’ve stuck to my routine of eating plenty of fruits/veggies, whole grains and lean protein, but added a boost of healthy fats to balance out omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in my diet. All of these lifestyle choices would suggest that my immune system should be fairly strong. Maybe even ironclad. Right? Wellll…

 

 

Ironically, winter 2017-2018 was not just a miserable flu season in America but also a miserable time in my household. I got sick more in the last few months than in the last 10 years combined. Three stomach bugs, countless colds and sore throats, and hormones responding to the inflammation by bouncing all over the place. Needless to say, my complexion went down the tank, too. I’ve been looking like I just hit puberty lately. Lol.

But I’m trying so hard to be healthy!” my mind has been screaming. “This isn’t fair!” Sometimes, it’s not enough. Sometimes, toddlers aren’t good about covering their sneezes and you end up with projectile snot literally in your mouth. Enjoy that visual. Sometimes, stressful life events occur like family deaths, job changes, seasons of travel, and physical injury. The list goes on. Sometimes, life just isn’t under our control. And that’s okay. Because nature didn’t intend for our bodies to be perfect. It intended for them to be flexible and resilient.

(Random aside: I took strange comfort in Lindsey Vonn’s reaction to falling short of the podium in the 2018 Olympics; she reflected on how one moment in life you’re on top and then things can change quickly. The fact that even the most impressive athletes in the world are not removed from struggle demonstrates how connected we are as humans in our plight. It’s nothing to badger ourselves over or feel shameful about.)

The idea that our health should be perfect sets us up for false expectations and failure. It’s the reason why people come into the gym and think they have to hold themselves to a lofty standard of exercising every day or else they’re falling short. And then they quit because of the fear of failure. If perfect health is as easy as following “all the right steps” then why do healthy and active individuals get cancer? Why do we get sick when we’re actually eating healthier than ever before? Why are we more prone to injuries and wrinkles as we age? We can eat all the health-food-junkie products on the planet and exercise every day, and we will STILL fall ill at times. We will still have moments of weakness and pain. And that’s okay, too. This is normal. I’m telling you: THIS IS NORMAL. Because perfect health doesn’t exist.

 

 

Our DNA isn’t stagnant. I’ve talked about this before. It ebbs and flows just like our gut health does. In this way, Mother Nature designed us to be able to respond to life’s inevitable challenges on a cellular level. You see, our DNA expresses itself differently under varying degrees of inflammation and stress. Sometimes, there’s little we can do to control the way that certain genes express themselves because we may be more predisposed to a health condition according to our genetics. While it’s true that there are lots of gene-testing services out there, many people are still unaware of their own situation and what they are more (or less) predisposed to. But we don’t necessarily have to know all the answers up front… if we’re willing to live in wellness.

When we’re dedicated to being flexible in body, mind and spirit, we open ourselves up to transformation throughout the lifespan. Staying active about self-care is all we can control. We get the privilege of choice in our lives! And I like to think that makes us a lot more powerful than perfectly-designed, stagnant beings.

One of my favorite quotes of all time by Michael J. Fox:

 

 

Choose a healthy lifestyle because it will help you through the inevitable challenges ahead, not because you think it will clear your path of all obstacles.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

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Fitness Advertising; Naughty or Nice?

The fitness industry often campaigns ads that meet “fitspo” criteria; images of women who are extremely thin, usually in just their underwear or sports bra, alongside a caption that is supposed to motivate consumers to work harder to achieve the same “ideal.”

Although there are many studies which suggest that women feel deflated by images like these, they must manage to entice them, right? Otherwise, companies wouldn’t be using sexy advertising images to their advantage. To test this assumption firsthand, I conducted a “social experiment” in digital advertising by placing one empowering image and one sexy image on a popular women’s fitness site. I couldn’t believe the shocking results!

fitness ads

The images above are the ones I used to test women’s engagement (i.e. click-through) with the ads. I had a feeling the traffic would be a little higher for the image on the right, but when it was 243% higher, I was dumbfounded. I thought certainly the image on the right might be provocative to men, but to women too? Did it allure them because of intrigue/curiosity, desire to look attractive, disgust, or what? I can’t say that I will ever have the full answers.

With all the attention the underwear ad gained over the image of a woman looking strong, it made me step back and contemplate my strategy for reaching a wider blog audience. Man, it was tempting to think about turning up the heat and plastering intriguing images left and right on the web, but I knew that in the end, that’s not the brand image I want to represent. I don’t want to get attention by falling in line with the thousands of other fitness professionals who post pictures of their midriffs to Instagram. No, I want to hold a higher, more professional, and classy standard. Here’s why…

There are a lot of women like Sheena Lyonnais, a woman who was 26 years old and trying to get in shape for her upcoming birthday. She started looking for inspiration on Tumblr and, of course, found herself fixating on “fitspo” or “fitspiration” images. She had good intentions for herself, but when you’re caught up in comparing your body to others, it’s sure to be a slippery slope.

Check out the #fitspo images (below) that I recently found on Twitter. You can see how the line between inspiring and unhealthy/dangerous can get hazy with some of these images.

controversial fitspo 2

 

It wasn’t too long before Sheena, who had the best of intentions at the outset, found herself relying emotionally on running and would eat only 1,000 calories a day. She admits that she wasn’t at the point of a full-blown eating disorder, but that she was on a precarious and unhealthy path. Just one bit of proof that exercising more and eating less does not always lead to success, health or happiness.

I understand where Sheena is coming from in her struggles. I had a similar experience when I was first formally learning about fitness and nutrition in undergrad at The University of Virginia. I became so particular about trying to do things a certain way with exercise and food, to be as “perfect” at it as possible, and wound up becoming somewhat malnourished during training for a marathon. I became severely ill towards the end of my training. It took a few weeks for me to fully recover after the marathon since my immune system had been trashed.

It’s this sensitive situation between disorder and health that a lot of women find themselves in – struggling to maintain control over their lifestyles while constantly coming across images like this tweet (below). Oy. “Marry” your workouts?!

controversial fitspo

There are plenty of women out there who find these images inspiring and they push harder because of them; however, the majority of women feel judged and ashamed as a result of them. It’s not okay to shake a finger at someone over not having rock hard abs, just as it’s not cool to “fit shame” and assume that because someone is extremely healthy looking that they are doing something extreme.

It’s really a personal decision. It’s YOUR decision whether or not you buy into this fitspo and sexy advertising/marketing. I won’t judge you either way! What’s important to realize is how the images impact you, and only you, emotionally. If they feel suffocating then by all means, stop the vicious cycle. Unfollow people on social media and avoid websites that you know make you feel less than worthy. You’re never going to reach a place of being healthy and happy with low confidence. Build that up first, perhaps even while hitting the gym here and there, and the rest will fall in line.

On the flipside, if you don’t mind these images then go for it, but proceed with caution. You never know when a good thing can become a bad thing.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/17/fitspo-fitspiration_n_5574150.html