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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my good friend, Lauren, author of Lauren Fowler. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and yoga teacher who promotes a non-diet approach to nutrition and health. She wants everyone to connect to their bodies intuitive wisdom rather than following diets. She encourages the tools of intuitive eating and health at every size. Stop by LaurenFlower.co to read more about nutrition, intuitive eating, heart-based health, and yoga.}

A few years ago, when I was trying to heal a lot of digestive symptoms, I ended up learning a lot about digestive health. While most of it was helpful, it was also overwhelming at times, and I felt there was always more I “should” be doing.

While I did make some dietary changes and supplements (mainly a probiotic), my digestion got dramatically better when my stress levels decreased. To put it another way, it was summer, and I was spending most of my time outside with friends while also eating lots of chips, dip, and wine. My stress was done, even though I was eating foods that others may consider not great for digestive health.

It was then that I realized there’s no point in perfecting my health because perfect health doesn’t exist anyway. The stress from aiming for health perfectionism was more overwhelming than just enjoying my life.

Too often, we forget that health is multifactorial and more than our physical health. When we talk about good health, most people just focus on nutrition and exercise while ignoring mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. The truth is, it’s all interconnected and emotional stress can show up as physical symptoms within the body.

Aiming for health perfectionism may involve focusing on extreme routines, like following restrictive diets, intense exercise programs, or a ‘to-do’ list of stress-reducing activities that just overwhelm. While there is a place for dietary changes, like removing potential food sensitivities to aid with health conditions that interfere with your quality of your life, a lot of these don’t have to be lifelong or more restrictive than is necessary. The same applies to intense exercise – for example, professional athletes may be at the top of their game, but often it comes with side effects of high injury rates or their bodies breaking down.

There is a difference between health perfectionism and engaging in healthy behaviors for a better quality of life. Healthy behaviors are individual to you, and they are behaviors that will improve your well-being without being so restrictive or overwhelming. It could be behaviors like trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, get an overall balanced diet, moving your body more, getting enough sleep, and practicing self-care.

When you can focus in on the category that is missing – a lot of people are missing the self-care – that will likely make a bigger difference in your overall health than controlling every ingredient that enters your mouth. Your body is more resilient than you think, and it can handle change and flexibility.

Your body is always changing, and there’s no way to control every event that happens to you. For example, I just moved across the country, and the last month, I haven’t practiced as much yoga as I usually do. I’ve eaten different foods and being in transition meant my stress was higher than usual with all the things I had to do.

In the past, I may have stressed out about not getting in “enough” veggies or missing a workout, but my focus this month had to switch. Going with the flow meant spending more time with friends than on my yoga mat and eating at restaurants more than cooking.

I’ve been focusing on getting enough sleep, regular balanced meals, and practicing self-care, and I still feel good without any drastic decreases in my health. I’m also excited to start cooking more again and getting back into my yoga routine.

Your health – or body – doesn’t have to be your project in life. When you start engaging in healthy behaviors, it can be easy to take it to the extreme by always following a new dietary plan, new workout routine, or reading endless amounts of self-help books, especially if you tend towards perfectionism.

Yet, it can easily turn into trying to constantly “fix” your health, when it’s not broken to begin with. You are not broken or a project to work on. Your health will always be in flux, and by focusing on engaging in healthy behaviors that work for your personal lifestyle most of the time, you can do the best you can. I say “most of the time” because your body can handle flexibility and missing a day or week of vegetables isn’t the end of the world.

Life is meant to be lived, and your health can help improve your quality of life without needing to be perfect about it. Engaging in healthy behaviors can help give you energy, so you can get out and do the things you love in your life.

It can take time to let go of health perfectionism, especially if there’s fear of what “could” happen if you eat a certain food again or miss a workout. With time and trust, you can learn to find freedom and flexibility in your life and actually improve your overall well-being.

I can’t tell you what to eat or the best health behaviors for you. While health professionals can guide you, ultimately, you will know your body and mind the best. Focus on how you feel in your mind and body to guide your daily behaviors. Trust your intuition!

Don’t miss out on moments of your life because your health wasn’t “perfect.”

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