As a blogger/influencer/someone who shares their day-to-day life publicly on the Internet, I receive a lot of unsolicited advice in the form of DMs on Instagram, e-mails direct to my Inbox, and comments on my blog and social posts. It comes with the gig, and I understand that people feel brave behind a computer screen and may overstep their boundaries when their intentions are good.
But I’m not here to vent about the mean or judgmental comments I receive from my followers (haters and lovers, alike!). I’m here, instead, to talk about the comments I get from my readers and followers that worry me. The ones that make me say to myself, “It’s such a shame that the media puts these obsessions, worries, and anxieties on people that are just trying to live a healthy, balanced life.”
Someone recently DM’d me on Instagram to tell me not to season my food with oregano, because studies show it causes miscarriages. I mean… in that case, how do people in the Mediterranean even have babies? And on the same day, someone told me that I shouldn’t cook my vegetables, because essential nutrients are lost when you heat vegetables to a certain point. I sighed so hard on this one – it’s hard enough for people to figure out what “eating well” means, and now we have to confuse them by telling them they shouldn’t eat vegetables unless they’re raw? They’re vegetables! Raw or cooked, they’re great for you! Much better than a salty bag of Lay’s!
And the thing is – their hearts are in the right places. And I’m thankful and grateful that people care about me (absolute strangers, in fact!) enough to send me messages. But there’s a larger issue happening here. These people are trying to “help” me, but what they’re doing is projecting their own obsessions and insecurities on how to live a healthy life on me. “Why isn’t Ali doing X? Doesn’t she know that can kill her?!” Sigh. No, it won’t kill me. And I honestly feel sad that people think the occasional BPA-lined can will end their life prematurely.
The truth is that it’s not even their faults! It’s the media. The media is giving us SO much information every day about how we need to live our lives in order to be our “healthiest.” Unfortunately, it’s doing the exact opposite: confusing us and causing anxiety and stress, which is unhealthier than eating corn syrup. Yes, anxiety and stress is unhealthy for the mind which causes physiological problems, way more problems than eating sugar can.
I recently overheard a conversation at a grocery store, where a girl told her friend, “Oh I’m craving an apple!” and then after discovering that there were no organic apples available, she announced to her friend that she wasn’t going to have an apple, because it was “infected” with pesticides and would cause her cancer. Literally, she said eating that single apple would cause her cancer. I wanted to so badly say, “Eat the apple, I promise it won’t kill you. Rinse it, enjoy it, and move on.” And of course, an apple is on the “dirty dozen” list, so we should try to buy organic when we can and that decision alone is a privilege – not everyone can afford organic produce!
These days, if you don’t drink matcha in the mornings, avoid gluten and sugar, only eat organic and non-GMO, drink solely from metal bottles, use reusable food storage bags, avoid plastic, put oat milk in your coffee, buy brands only made from recyclable products, eat probiotic foods like sauerkraut every day, drink thick smoothies overflowing with superfood nut butter, exercise daily, take essential oils, track your sleep through an app, use non-toxic skincare and home cleaning products, jade roll, detox after a “bad weekend,” take collagen and adaptogens, create daily “routines,” apply face masks at night, and stay out of the sun, then you’re not living your best, healthiest life.
Where do you draw the line?
Okay, now that I’ve vented, I’m sure you’re sitting there, tapping your nails (hopefully polished with non-toxic polish, because God forbid those chemicals seep into your nail beds and cause a hormonal imbalance!) asking, “Okay, then what’s the secret? Where do you draw the line? What advice do you take and what advice do you ignore? How do you live your healthiest but maintain your sanity?”
Unfortunately, I don’t have that answer for you, because, and get this: the healthiest way to live is whatever works best for you. Whatever allows you to achieve BALANCE. Let that word sink in for a second: balance. Not all or nothing. Balance.
And what it truly is, is a mindset.
How do you achieve balance? Moderation. I’ve talked a lot about the 80/20 “rule,” which I’ve applied to not only my diet but my life. 80% of the time, I eat well, exercise, and do everything to nourish my mind, body and soul. Then, 20% of the time, I listen to the lustful Ali. I let the dishes sit in the sink overnight to stay up binge watching The Sopranos until midnight, I drink a bottle of wine with a friend over dinner, I go to the store JUST to buy those sugar-laden, MILK chocolate covered almonds, I let my son watch Sesame Street on my iPhone so he’ll sit peacefully for 5 minutes so I can relax, I don’t wash my face before bed, and I buy a plastic bottle of water while I’m out running errands.
A lot of you need “plans” and “rules,” and unfortunately, I can’t give that to you. But I have some ideas to help you change your thinking about living healthy in general. And it may involve a total mindset overhaul. But again, I only am sharing with you what works for me, so you’ll have to do your own soul searching and research, because what works for me may not work for you.
For me, “living healthy” isn’t at all about the number on the scale. At all. For me, “living healthy” is about living a life that I enjoy, makes me feel good about my decisions and their impact on those and the environment around me, and most importantly, fills me with happiness. Physically, this way of living also makes me feel good most of the time. Not all of the time, most of the time. Because heck, you need the times when you’re in a sugar coma – they’re cathartic, they fill you with temporary bliss, and yes, that’s okay. I’m in tune with my body after many years of struggling to get this place. Many years of feeling guilt over every non essential food that entered my body.
Instead of focusing on every single food or wellness decision I make, I focus on bigger picture parts of my life that cause the trickle down effect and fill my life with love and happiness. What are those things? My friends, my marriage and other relationships, my work life balance, my son, and taking advantage of all life has to offer by traveling, going out to new restaurants, and experiencing new things.
When you shift your focus from food food food and focus more on the honestly more important things in life, you stress less, you’re happier, and the food decisions fall into place. If you’re happy and less stressed, you won’t emotionally eat (which was a huge life lesson for me.) The happier you are in general, the more you’ll realize that that pesky number on the scale or the size of your jeans really doesn’t matter. AT ALL. As long as it doesn’t cause other health problems (like cases of extreme obesity), there’s nothing to worry about.
There are times, sure, when I know I could curb my snacking or sugar intake to feel better and maybe drop a few pounds that are making my feel lethargic, and I do. It makes me feel better overall, I have better mental clarity when I eat better, but I don’t look at those snacks and sugar as “slip ups.” They’re just part of my healthy lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle, a journey, it goes on for a LIFETIME, hence, lifestyle.
I just want you to know this and let it absorb: your weight won’t make you happy. You’ll get to a certain “ideal” weight, want to lose more, or spend all of your mental energy on maintaining that weight. Instead, listen to your body and let your body tell you what it wants and what weight it needs to be at to sustain your happiest life. And I hate to break it to you, but that may be an extra 5, 10 or even 15 pounds. For me, it’s usually about 5-10 pounds, depending on the season of my life.
What about living clean?
And as for living a “clean” life in terms of the products you buy and use on your body and in your home, realize that it’s an absolute privilege to even be able to make those decisions and spend more money on “cleaner” products, so be proud of your conscious decision to make that change. And don’t stress if you forget your canvas bags on a trip to the market. You’re not a selfish person, you’re a real person. Did you know that living one day of veganism saves GALLONS of water? That’s huge! Every little bit helps. Take a step back and know that even the littlest of changes go a long way. Don’t let people make you feel bad who are all-in. That’s their prerogative and they’re living extremely (in a good way, but still extremely!) and that’s okay. It doesn’t need to be yours, if it doesn’t fit into your lifestyle.
Perhaps you can pick out which areas of your life you want to focus the most on going cleaner. It doesn’t need to be every single aspect of your life – that can be overwhelming and result in burnout or obsession. For me, I try my best to buy organic when I can, bring my reusable water bottle everywhere, limit my paper usage by using services like Dropbox, going digital with all my bills, and eliminating paper towel usage at home. I switched over to a completely non-toxic home cleaning regimen and a mostly clean skincare and beauty regimen. I try to eat my best and buy brands whose missions I believe in (like Siete Foods or TOMS shoes.) I don’t stress about every single little decision (like buying a can of beans that is BPA-lined), because overall, I live a balanced, clean and healthy lifestyle.
A note on the word excessive
If you read articles on “how to life a healthy lifestyle” or “how to live clean”, you’ll notice that almost all of them say, avoid “excessive” use of the not-clean and not-healthy products. Yes, if you eat sugar all day long everyday, that’s excessive, and will results in physical and mental health problems. But, if you have a donut one morning because you walked by a gourmet donut shop you’ve been hearing great things about and wanted to try it, that’s not excessive. That’s living. Take slow bites. Savor this experience. If you allow yourself these experiences, they won’t seem so forbidden and you won’t crave them 24/7 and then feel guilty when you eat a box of donuts, when you could’ve just enjoyed that gorgeous donut when you actually wanted it.
Somehow, this idea of excessive gets lost on readers and people think they have to totally eliminate these foods and products in order to live healthy or live clean. And this is where people fall short and miss the idea. This is where moderation and balance is ignored and obsession enters, leading to feelings of guilt, confusion, and sadness.
Perhaps part of this new perspective on your lifestyle will necessitate that you stop following people on Instagram or other social media channels who are excessive and clearly obsessed. If you don’t want to be like them (and analyze every single decision you make in life), then why are you following them? Find someone who lives a more balanced lifestyle! Find someone who inspires you to be a better version of yourself. Here’s an easy step to take: if you hate follow someone, UNFOLLOW them. Hate following is one of the most negative, unproductive things you can do. It can only make you into a more venomous person. Only follow people that you’d personally want to be friends with!
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my influence as an influencer, and what message I want to put out there in the world. I want people to know this: life is precious, we only get one life to live, and life is meant to be enjoyed and loved. Do your best to love your life. Don’t spend your life fearing it and looking at every decision as “good” or “bad.” Get messy, makes mistakes, have fun, get hurt, learn, get up and keep going.
Thanks for listening!