Healthy Mind AND Body: Why Choose When You Can Have Both?

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For almost as long as I can remember, I was identified by, and identified myself through, my size. From childhood all the way through high school and even into college, I was known as the tiny girl. I constantly heard things like, “Eat a cheeseburger” or “Jeez, you must be anorexic.” Most of the time, I didn’t pay those comments any mind because I thought, “Hey, being skinny is a good thing and instead of being insulted, I should just be happy.” In reality, I was extremely self-conscious of my body. My hip bones poked out past my stomach, my arms were like twigs, and curves were nothing but a far-fetched dream. Now, is there anything wrong with a thin, petite frame? Absolutely not, but at just 87 pounds, my body had nothing left to fight off infections and illness. During my freshman year at Iowa State, I had the flu at least 4 times, as well as walking pneumonia and mono. I had tried and tried to gain weight but it simply didn’t happen. Couple constant sickness with previous health issues and yeah, you could say I was falling apart. My physical health began to eat away at my mental health, and ultimately, I nearly broke.

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You may be reading this, rolling your eyes, and thinking, “Aw, poor skinny girl. Life must’ve been so hard,” I get it, I really do – We have this idea that as long as you’re thin, you should be happy with your body, but it’s just plain not true.  We hear all of the time about weight loss journeys, whether it’s some celebrity or your friend from high school. All over Instagram, we see #transformationtuesday posts in which people have lost 15, 50, or 150 pounds. I love hearing those stories and seeing those posts and I feel such joy for the men and women experiencing pride in their appearance. However, a healthy body is not always a thin body. True health, to me, is being healthy in both mind and body.

For a long time, I struggled to gain weight. I could eat and eat and eat and nothing changed. I wanted to have curves like other women my age, but more importantly, I wanted to be healthy. When I made the difficult decision to leave Iowa State after one year and return to the cedar valley to attend UNI, as well as be closer to my family, I returned feeling defeated. My mental health had taken a nosedive and I was feeling hopeless… Then came my 20thbirthday. Women, I know you know what I’m talking about when I say that a switch flips when you enter your twenties and it feels as though your metabolism just snaps in half. Right in half! All of the sudden, that habit I’d developed of eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, turned its back on me. I started gaining weight… in all of the wrong places (cue every woman ever nodding in understanding). All of the sudden, my stomach did stick out past my hipbones. My arms, in my eyes, resembled trunks rather than twigs. I hated the way I looked and guess what, even after gaining weight, I was still sick all of the time. I remained self-conscious of my body, albeit for different reasons, and I was still drowning in poor mental health. Thankfully, with time and positive changes, it got better.

As I reflect on this time of my life, I struggle to reconcile how I feel today with how I felt then. Why? Because in December of 2016, I started practicing yoga, as well as actually considering what I was putting in my body, and it changed my entire life.  If you practice yoga, you know that while it is not typically considered a strenuous workout, you certainly can still break a sweat and cultivate strength. While the physical benefits of yoga alone are great, it is the change I’ve seen in my mental health that has kept me coming back for more. Is my body stronger and more toned? Sure. I think it looks pretty good! Am I more stable and stronger mentally? Hell yeah.

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In fact, I feel better now than I ever have before. I wake up each day, feeling good, and am able to tackle my daily life without questioning my ability to do so. Well, mostly… I am 24 and a first-year teacher, so a little bit of self-doubt comes with the territory.

What I’m getting at here is that I have been extremely thin and unhappy. I have been heavier than I’d like and unhappy. Ultimately, my weight didn’t really matter. For a long time, I equated a curvy, 105-pound body with happiness. Now, I’ve learned that true happiness comes from being healthy in both mind and body.  I hope you’ll find whatever it is that helps you strengthen your physical body, whether it be weightlifting, running or an asana practice, and couple it with an exercise for your mind: yoga, meditation, journaling, or whatever works for you.

Below, you’ll find some mindset shifts I had to make in order to develop a healthy body and mind:

Instead of… Say…
“I’ve gained weight.” “I’ve gained mass, that with a little bit of effort, can be turned into muscle!”
“I wish I could eat whatever I want, whenever I want.” “I’m making healthy choices to fuel my body which means that when I do have a treat, I don’t need to feel badly!”
“If I looked good, I’d feel good.” “I need to take care of my mental health along with my physical health.”
“My friends look good without even having to work out.” “Everyone is making their own personal effort, big or small – If I focus on what I’m doing, I will look (and most importantly) feel good too!”
“No matter what I do, it doesn’t make a difference.” “I will keep trying! I’ll find what it is that works for me.”

It may take months or even years, but if you put in the work, I guarantee you’ll be happy with the results!

Bio

I’m Taylor Ronan! I’m a Pre-K Special Education Teacher, newlywed, and dog mom. I live in Cedar Falls with my husband Cody and our two chocolate labs, Denver and Mya. I enjoy reading, practicing yoga, running and of course, writing!

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