Social media is an amazing way to connect with friends and meet new people. But it’s also an amazing way to get cool DIY ideas and discover everything from exotic places to revolutionary eco-friendly brands, fun food ideas and ways to become your most fit self. But is there a dark side to all of this? Yes, we all know there is.
You might start to become consumed by the enormous amount of content adding to the social pressures some might feel to be beautiful, fit and fun, according to someone else’s standards. Beauty tutorials, fitness accounts and models posting swimsuit photos on beaches around the world seem to fill every feed (some real, some not).
If you are an active Instagram user, you probably relate to feeling overwhelmed and confused with all the visual information you receive. One minute you can be looking at world news, hunger and wars and a second later you are craving the most tempting sugary chocolate cake staring at you from the screen, but not before you get body shamed by the #fitspo accounts. I guess you have to be mentally balanced to receive all this input and not get demoralized.
One of my best friends, Malu, is also one of my role models when it comes to healthy living. She has been eating healthy food and exercising on a daily basis for the past few years. I always thought she was kind of obsessed and I couldn’t relate to her in that area, but guess what? I was wrong.
She was just conscious and determined. The best part? She is not a fitness trainer or a nutritionist, she is just a girl who happens to follow healthy habits (and is a lawyer, #girlboss).
I sat down with Malu to talk to her about her fitness habits to learn what someone just like you and me, no filters, does to keep healthy and happy.
Spoon: Do You Consider Yourself a Fit Girl?
Malu: Yes, I consider myself a “fit girl” but I would actually change that for “healthy girl,” I see myself as a girl who follows a healthy lifestyle. Nowadays the concept of ¨fit girl¨ is associated with being kind of a social media role model.
In my opinion, being an actual “fit girl” is to lead a generally healthy way of living, that includes the mind and the spirit along with the body. It shouldn’t be linked to just fitness — spending hours at the gym and eating a lot of protein to have killer muscles. I prefer healthy more than fit.
Spoon: How do you manage to integrate studying, sleeping, your social life and working out?
Malu:By organizing myself. Anticipation and information are the keys. For example, if you know that you’ll spend the whole day out of your house, be smarter; pack your lunch and some snacks. If you know you won’t be able to go to the gym tomorrow, try to walk more that day. When you start understanding the effects that food and exercise have on your body, you can start making healthier choices. In my case, I always have an apple, peanuts and a bottle of water in my bag, to avoid buying the first junk food I see.
I’ve always been “healthy,” but at some point, I started paying attention to what I was ingesting, to the quality of my exercises and tried to organize my schedule better. I have been exercising at least an hour a day for the last couple of years. But to be clear, exercising doesn’t mean working out at the gym. Exercising means moving your body, it means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, using your legs instead of the car, doing any kind of activity like yoga or pilates. It’s not all about working out, but keeping your body active.
Spoon: How did you start incorporating healthy habits into your daily life?
Malu: Social media has actually helped. I started to realize that healthy food didn’t necessarily have to be boring or dull. I found all these original recipes to make food more tasteful and fun with simple twists. Also, I started to demystify certain foods that are considered fattening or unhealthy like oatmeal or bananas, we should stop believing the myth of diet processed products with green packages being the healthiest option (even if the marketing is amazing).
Realizing that the one’s with the best nutritional value were the ¨one ingredient¨ foods: peanut is peanut, oatmeal is oatmeal. I cleaned up my cupboard and started fresh with real food, and replacing the classics for their healthier version (sugar for stevia/ refined wheat for whole wheat, etc). I also started making my own peanut butter and selling it to friends and some food stores, I cook a lot with PB and upload the recipes to get motivated! The food part was the hardest for me, I thought I ate healthily but I didn’t.
Spoon: Have you ever felt like you were pushing yourself towards unhealthy behaviors?
Malu:I wouldn’t call it unhealthy behaviors, but I did have a period where I was too obsessed and I didn’t even realize what was going on with my body. I was too skinny and working out like crazy. For a while, I had what its called body dysmorphia.
I was never ill or starving myself, but I was being too strict. I wasn’t enjoying life, I was depriving myself from pleasures like a couple of beers with my friends or from eating ice cream- which I really love- and that’s not a happy way of living. Now I understand healthiness as a journey and not a one-day goal, and it’s important to find balance.
I don’t have “cheat days” anymore or work out an extra hour if I had some drinks the night before. I am healthy 80 percent of the time and I enjoy it, but the other 20 percent is not strict at all.
Spoon: Have you ever received criticism for your healthy lifestyle choices?
Malu:Yes, at first my family didn’t get it at all. They would tell me that I should enjoy and what they didn’t realize was that I was enjoying but that my choices were different than theirs. Eating healthy is not eating boring, but it’s important to understand and learn to respect other people’s choices. Yes, it takes a little more time and dedication. But what does that even mean today? One less hour of Instagram?
My family has progressively understood that it wasn’t an obsession or a whim. They even take my choices into account, when they prepare pasta they ask me if I would like whole grain. If I take 5 more minutes to prepare my breakfast they wait for me — it’s nice.
Spoon: What would you recommend to people who wish to start changing their habits and keeping a more balanced life?
Malu: A healthy lifestyle is something that you work on every day, and a mindset. It’s important not to do it just to follow a trend or for an upcoming event. On the contrary, it should be taken as a long-term benefit. It’s an investment in your future as much as education is.
You know it has become a lifestyle when you wake up and you do it naturally, not as an obligation but as the way you chose living. And everything is connected, if you are healthier, then you feel better and you are in a better mood, the people that surround you feel that energy too and the wheel just keeps on turning. Look up for activities that you enjoy and have fun, do it solo or find your perfect workout friend/lover/buddy like I did and go for it!
This is an amazing journey of self-discovery, love, and respect. If my friend could do it, why can’t we? The key is to find and use our inner power to help ourselves physically and mentally. People are always going to judge, so forget about what others say and remember, taking care of the mind is as important as taking care of the body. Are you ready?