Editor's note: This article was originally published on Tiffany Rudd's blog, Feel Great in 8. It has been republished here with permission.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how we often judge health in our society strictly based on size and weight. I hope you don't mind, I'm going to get personal here for a minute to prove that it just isn't true.
Thirteen years ago, as a freshman in college, I was at the lowest weight I can remember. I got so many compliments on how fantastic I looked and how skinny I was. I even remember telling people my weight loss was probably just from all the extra walking across campus.
But, the truth was, I was sick. I was anorexic, barely eating and only in front of other people, and walking across campus was exhausting. I was tired all the time, my brain was foggy and I constantly just felt miserable. I was skinny, but the absolute opposite of healthy.
Now, four babies and 30 pounds later, I probably wouldn't be called skinny but I am healthy. I wouldn't trade bodies with that version of myself for anything. Luckily, my goals have changed. I exercise to have energy, not to burn as many calories as possible. I eat to nourish my body, not to control or deprive. And I work to be loving and accepting of my body, even its flaws.
I hope as you are working on a healthier lifestyle, that you will put healthy, not skinny, first on your priority list. Here are eight of my best tips for making sure you're working toward the right goals.
1. Don't go hungry
If your body is hungry, it is trying to tell you something and you need to listen. When you fill your diet with mostly healthy foods, you shouldn't feel hungry. If you do, you need to eat more. Going hungry may lead to weight loss, but it definitely won't lead to a long term healthy lifestyle.
2. Don't choose exercise you hate
No number on the scale or body shape is worth being miserable. Plus, you won't stick with any exercise long term unless you enjoy it, or at the very least, don't hate it. Keep searching until you find an exercise you don't dread.
3. Don't set an ending date or an ending number
A healthy lifestyle isn't about sticking with a diet for a certain amount of time or eating healthy until you see a certain number on the scale. It's about continuing to care for your body and nourish it for the rest of your life.
I don't know about you, but to me, a world where I never get to enjoy a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut or some Ben & Jerry's ice cream just doesn't sound like fun. And, making any food completely off limits just makes me want to eat only junk food all the time. So, just try to make healthy choices most of the time and allow yourself some indulgences.
5. Do ignore the scale
There are so many better indicators of health than the number on the scale. One of the things I try to focus on the most is how I feel. No matter what the scale says, when I am eating well and exercising I feel great. I have more energy, I'm less moody and I can think clearly. These things are worth more to me than any number.
6. Do eat real food
If your focus is only on weight loss, it is easy to reach for "sugar-free," "fat free" and "zero-calorie" foods that are full of unhealthy artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated oils. Instead, fill your diet with delicious, real foods and skip the "diet" foods. They don't taste as good anyway.
7. Do focus on how you feel
In my opinion, feeling great should be the main goal of any healthy eating and exercise plan. I hope the Feel Great in 8 Challenge helps people learn to eat and exercise in a way that makes them truly feel fantastic.
8. Do be patient and forgiving
Changing your long term goals and the way you eat and treat your body isn't easy. Give yourself plenty of time and unlimited slip-ups. Remember, healthy doesn't mean perfect.
Giving up your health to be any size or to see a certain number on the scale just isn't worth it. Choose healthy.
Tiffany is a momma of 4, wife, foodie, blogger, and creator/host of the Feel Great in 8 Challenge. She loves cheesy workout videos, dark chocolate, watching movies with her husband, and riding her beach cruiser around the neighborhood like a kid.