Growing up, I was considered one of the athletic kids . I spent 20+ hours at gymnastics each week, I was always picked to be Sporty Spice (even though I desperately wanted to be Posh), and while I outwardly complained about running the pacer test in gym, I secretly loved it. And like most kids, I really didn’t care what I put into my body when it came to nutrition. I would have happily traded my Lisa Frank trapper keeper had it meant that I could get five extra servings of those glorious cafeteria french toast sticks.
Fast forward to college where I started to understand the value in nutrition. Did I follow a nutrition plan? No. But I knew that going to bed earlier, skipping the shot at the bar, and eating a somewhat regular dinner could only help my athletic performance. This is when I started to notice that while being an athlete was still cool, being healthy was not. I was given a hard time for leaving the bar early or for skipping out on the trip to Dairy Queen. Rather than defending my choices, I gave excuses. “You guys go without me, I’m too tired” or “I really wish I could but I have to study” or “I am totally broke. Go without me.” I mean, all of those excuses were valid, but they weren’t the main reasons why I was opting out.
The “health nut” comments and my excuses continued once I entered the working world. When I was given a hard time for ordering salad, I would brush it off by saying that I was still full from breakfast, even though a salad would probably have filled me up more than any other option on the menu. When I got made fun of for carrying around my obnoxiously large water bottle, I justified it by saying that I was getting over a cold and needed to stay hydrated. But at some point, I asked myself why I was going through all this trouble to “cover up” the fact that I was consciously making these choices simply because they made me feel good. The simple answer? Because to most people, being healthy is synonymous with being boring, rigid, and uptight. And even if those are untrue stereotypes, nobody wants to be mistakenly categorized as “the health nut”. At least I didn’t want to be.
It’s taken a long time, but I can finally say that I’ve learned to embrace the “healthy girl” label. And it hasn’t hurt that health is an “in thing” right now. Rather than giving excuses, I try to explain my choices, while totally recognizing that there is a fine line between being informative and being preachy or arrogant. And if people are still taking digs, I have to remind myself that they are probably coming from a place of insecurity and probably some displaced curiosity.
So what’s the point in sharing all of this, Liz? Simply put, be proud of the decisions that you make regarding your health. Your body is truly the only thing that is one-hundred percent yours in this life, so care for it. Nourish it. Be kind to it. And who knows! Maybe once you embrace your healthy quirks, whatever they may be, you’ll inspire someone close to you to make a healthy change in their own life. Here’s to the health nerds.