I like to pride myself on the fact that I rarely get sick. Even when I do, my symptoms tend to be mild and usually go away within 24 hours. I’ve gone years without throwing up or calling in sick, and Allie has watched in disbelief when I say I feel ‘slightly nauseous’, only to have her get the full blown flu a few hours later.
But this year has been a doozy: I’ve been sick 3 or 4 times, for at least a few days, and almost every time I’ve been bed/couch ridden. Even right now, I’m sick on the couch, and I’ve just called in sick for the first time in ages. So what gives? I’m still eating whole foods, and I’m staying active. What am I missing? Actually, something that I think we all forget to think about when it comes to healthy living: stress.
This year has been insanely stressful:
- my school work load was ridiculous with third semester projects and reports
- my work life saw lots of changes in the last six months (many positive ones)
- I had very little time for myself, between classes, work, volunteering, side projects and planning the blog
- I was going many nights with barely 6 hours of sleep
- I was ‘coping’ with all the stress by having a glass of wine
In our quest for better bodies and glowing skin, we often put mental health on the back burner. Probably because it’s not visible proof that we’re healthy goddesses. You can’t show mental health in an Instagram picture. Which is why I think the wellness conversation revolves around weight loss and the look of our bodies.
We forget that our bodies are deeply affected by stress: stress suppresses our immune system, and that can show up in so many different ways. Stress targets your bodies weakest system, and often we don’t realize those headaches, backaches, allergies, and digestive disorders are all coming from the daily stress we’re constantly under.
And the thing is, you can be doing all the right things, and eating all the right food, but if you are not managing stress, then you’ll never feel your absolute best. And even nutritionists (and dieticians) who know this, who preach this, are subject to stress-related illness caused by their careers, busy lifestyles and endless to-do lists. Cause sometimes life gets crazy, and we get caught up in it. Which brings me to my next point:
The Nutrionist Paradox
Okay, so this is something I made up, but I feel is totally an issue right now. As nutritionists, we feel like we have these amazing standards we have to uphold– days filled with yoga, meditation, serenity and green smoothies– and if we’re not doing these things all the time, we’re essentially frauds. Because if we can’t live like that 100% of the time, how can we ask other people to make healthier lifestyle choices? We feel that as wellness enthusiasts, we have to always be healthy and vibrant (and white, but that’s another story). And we’re not allowed to get sick, or feel stressed, or eat white sugar, or binge watch Netflix, or have bad days.
And that’s bullshit. It really is. I mean how unrealistic is that? You would never expect a doctor to be healthy all year round (and we also don’t expect them to eat well and be in shape). I know many chefs who eat junk food and never cook at home. While I believe that nutritionists should live their message, and practice what they preach, I don’t think they’re exempt from the human experience.
But to be honest, I think this is less about nutritionists, and more about the fact that nutritionists tend to be women–and women have these unrealistic standards of flawless perfectionism. This is not their fault, because this is the burden society places on women: to be young, pretty, giving, and nurturing. We’re overachievers simply because we don’t think we’re good enough. A fellow nutritionist Sarah Berneche posted the other day about how women don’t allow themselves the time to self-care, because we feel guilty, and it really resonated with me. We don’t allow ourselves to have needs, because society tells us we can’t.
And lady lover that I am, I’m not blaming men–I think women are equally harsh critics of other women. I know I’ve certainly seen a successful nutritionist post about feeling under the weather, and immediately I start to discredit her qualifications to give health and wellness advice (Uh if you’re sick, then obviously your vegan/paleo/nordic/superfood diet doesn’t work). The standards are impossible, and unrealistic. I mean, no wonder so many nutritionists come from backgrounds of disordered eating and body image: because we feel the pressure to be thin, and glowing as women, and if we’re not these ideals, than we’ve failed as humans. We’re driven to wellness either because we’ve overcome these struggles of idealism or because we’re still chasing them.
Give Yourself Some Lovin’
So why am I ranting about all of this? Because I want us to start being mindful about how we treat our bodies–and if we’re being fair to ourselves. I get that life gets hectic and that’s the way it is, but really look at your lifestyle right now:
- Are you pouring yourself a nightly drink because you’re so freakin’ exhausted + stressed?
- Has it been awhile since you last did some self-care? Like a bath, meditation, journaling or a hobby that is in no way related to your job? (Reading books about nutrition is work, ladies!)
- Are you getting enough sleep? Is your email the last thing you see before you shut your eyes?
We are not immune to stress. We are totally imperfect creatures. And we are so much more than our physical bodies. I urge you to find that time each day to take care of your body and your mind with love, compassion and rest.
Let me know in the comments below if this is something you’ve experienced + how you handle it.