During my time as a health editor, I've learned a thing or two: Reformer Pilates is a great workout if you hate sweating, coffee is good for you (it's the milk and sugar you need to be wary of) and sun safety in New Zealand is no joke.
I've also learned some more profound bits of wisdom. These tidbits of knowledge didn't come to me in a press release and I didn't discover them in an academic journal, they're things I've learned from watching the online habits of and listening to our readers.
Some are more frivolous, and others I think we can all relate to. And at this point in the year - when we are thinking about New Year's resolutions and working on parts of ourselves we are unhappy with - I thought we could all do with some health and fitness reminders, if you will.
1.) We should focus on the exercises and foods we like, not what's trendy
A lot of people want to look like they live and breathe wellness - like regular Gwyneth Paltrow's. They wear yoga pants, go to exhausting fitness classes (does anyone really enjoy CrossFit?) and drink turmeric lattes, not because they actually enjoy these things, but because wellness is having a bit of a moment.
I was guilty of this early in my health editor days. I once ordered a beetroot latte simply because it was a very pretty pink - I reasoned that the drink must be chock full of healthy goodness if it's a beetroot latte. Didn't matter that I don't actually like beetroot, it was very cool and I felt my trendiness and health status would sky rocket immediately. Despite the drink's popularity, it was disgusting - think watery juice - and I ended up sharing my partner's real latte and throwing the beetroot water in the bin. Money well spent, am I right?
Let us all learn from the beetroot concoction: what's 'in' may not work for you. I want you to forget what is trendy at the moment and don't do activities simply "for the 'gram". Eat foods and participate in workouts that you enjoy and that nourish you - mentally and physically. Doesn't matter how dorky they are! Enjoy dancing in front of the mirror? There's your workout. Love stinky Brussels sprouts? Have a plateful!
Life is too short to be doing something you don't really enjoy.
2.) Looking after yourself doesn't need to be complicated
I've spoken to many health and fitness professionals through my role, and the same information seems to be popping up again and again: eat well, exercise regularly and look after your mental health (this one is much trickier than looking after your physical health). And yet, we seem baffled (or is that exhausted?) when we think about how we should look after ourselves.
To help clear up the confusion, I've outlined 10 tips that will help you on your health journey:
3.) Loving yourself is more important than any body hang-up you have
Despite your Facebook friends seemingly having it all, everyone goes through tough times and struggles with accepting certain parts of themselves. Everyone has body hang-ups they want to work on.
How do I know this?
The most popular stories I work on are almost always weight loss and diet-related. These stories explain to readers how to get into shape when they are time poor, how to lose weight without giving up treats and ideas for lasting weight loss results. The sad part? These stories typically perform better than those about self-love or accepting ourselves, which is what I think we should be focusing on - loving the unique person we are, wobbly bits and all.
I've learned that dieting fails more often than not (what works is a lasting lifestyle change), but learning to cherish your body ('flaws' and all) is what's important. It's all well and good to lose weight for health reasons, but if it's purely for aesthetics, do you really want to skip dessert for the seemingly perfect body?
If we, as a society, stopped with the ridiculously Photoshopped advertisements, stopped the filtered Instagram posts and began treating everyone of all shapes and sizes with respect, we wouldn't feel the need to be so hard on ourselves. This may be idealistic dreaming, but a world where women - and men - didn't feel the need to hide their bodies away in fear of someone pointing out their insecurities, sounds pretty good to me.
It is difficult but remember: your curves may have or will nourish a baby one day. Your hair is representative of your heritage or culture. Your body hair is meant to keep you warm and is completely natural. Your skin may have acne, but it could be a lot worse couldn't it? (FYI those with oily skin apparently don't age as fast as those with dry skin, so there's that).
Let's celebrate what makes us different but not place too much emphasis on appearances. Does it really matter how thin you were in your heyday when you're 70-years-old? Not at all. You'll (hopefully) remember all the food you ate on that journey across Asia you did. The drunken night you spent singing karaoke with your friends (do they care if you're a little chubby? I should hope not). Or how about the vacation you took with your partner and kids? There is so much more to life than worrying about your body and skin.
Whoever you are, and whatever you are going through, I'll leave you with a quote from the great Emma Stone: "You're a human being - you live once and life is wonderful, so eat the damn red velvet cupcake."