Hey humans. I’m not sure what brought you here, but if you are reading this, congratulations, you care about yourself enough to take a health journey with me! And that’s awesome, give yourself a clapping emoji. A little about me: My name is Katie. I’m a writer, filmmaker, and many other things (you may already be familiar with my work for Live FAST), and for the past eight months I have been dealing with a chronic illness. Rather than bore you with the details of how this has upended my life, I’d rather take a positive spin and turn all that I’ve learned last year into a column so that you can benefit from my days of endless research, meeting with nutritionists, wellness coaches, psychiatrists, integrative and holistic physicians, and naturopaths. Before you start to think, “Oh great, another superhuman/patronizing/unattainably disciplined health guru wants to tell me how to live my life” – I don’t, I promise. I didn’t start out knowing any of this stuff, nor taking very good care of myself for that matter. My self-healing didn’t happen overnight.
“Not Sick” vs. “Healthy”
I never thought I’d be writing a column about health and wellness; to be honest, for years I thought this was all overblown bullshit, or at the very least a waste of time. It’s not that I was supremely unhealthy, but I was a decently well person who figured “Why worry about this stuff if I’m never sick?” I rarely had colds or flus, never a major health scare. Instead, I focused on everything else life had to offer – traveling, dating, playing, working insane hours on Hollywood film sets, partying, pushing my body to its absolute limits in many different ways, and so on. The thing about living like this is that just because you’re not eating Jack in the Box all the time or chugging sodas or chain smoking doesn’t mean that you’re giving your body the tools it needs to function at optimal levels. To break it down another way, formal Aristotelian logic describes opposites as “not” something. The logical opposite of “cold” isn’t “hot;” it is “not cold.” As illogical as society tends to be, we are pretty good at thinking in these terms. This method of reasoning works phenomenally if you are taking the LSAT or justifying things to yourself “well I pulled three all nighters in a row but I’m not passing out so I’m fine.” However, this tends to unravel when thinking about big life abstractions. Does the fact that you are not depressed mean you’re truly happy? Does the fact that you’re not panicking mean you’re totally calm? Most people day-to-day are “not sick” but does this mean we are all healthy? No, it just means we are not sick. Which is great, of course, being sick sucks. But being well-yet-kinda-ehhh all the time does too. Which brings me to…
The Ubiquity of Toxicity
Think about how often you tell people you’re tired, or anxious, or feeling “off” or frazzled or inexplicably sad or brain fogged or a million other vague problems that don’t qualify as “sickness” but certainly make our lives more difficult and less pleasant, and how much more you’d accomplish and how much better you’d feel if you could banish the malaise that drags you down. I’m here to tell you something that sounds crazy, but it isn’t because, science: you feel like shit because you are toxic.
Not like Chernobyl toxic or Fukushima toxic, but regular person-living-in-the-21st-century toxic. And that, my friends, is linked to just about every health issue that has arisen since we industrialized. It’s hard to escape. Toxins are everywhere, in everything we eat, drink, breathe, use every day. But, don’t get all despairing, because your body was designed to detox and I’ll show you exactly how to support all those pathways for maximum efficiency. In fact, practically every wellness and diet practice is detoxifying at the fundamental level. I’ll also periodically address mental wellness and the toxic thoughts that bring us down, as well as the toxic substances that literally cause anxiety and depression and what can clear them out too.
The Myth of the Quick Fix
No matter what you do, there is no such thing as an immediate result that is also a lasting result. These two concepts are mutually exclusive. I think the reason most of us don’t stick with nutrition/wellness/self care plans is because they’re usually way too extreme and way too short-lived (the Master Cleanse springs to mind, along with a thousand other week or month-long programs). True health and true change comes from a decidedly slower and less sexy but much more effective approach. I spent five months eating protein, fat, raw greens and drinking alkaline water and not drinking alcohol or eating bread, cheese, sugar, before I woke up one day and said, “Whoa I can see all the definition in my abs all of a sudden.” But it wasn’t sudden; it was five fucking months. And ironically, my goal was not to tone up, but to clear the infections I have, yet this happened as a side effect. In no way am I recommending you do something this extreme – I am healing a crazy illness, so I have to be this way, but you do not, thankfully. What you do need to realize, however, is that this stuff takes time and anything promising to transform you overnight is about as accurate as Donald Trump’s tweets (i.e. boldfaced lies entirely founded on scamming you). Be patient, be kind to yourself, do not give up if you drop the ball for a day or a week or even more. Get back up and just keep swimming.
“Do the next right thing.”
A very wise friend of mine (shoutout to Jackie Shea at Too Sick and Naked) told me this very simple yet very effective mantra. The next “right” thing could be as easy as buying the fresh blueberries instead of the dried ones, or turning off the screens an hour before bed, or exiting out of Tinder because…well I don’t think I have to explain that one.
This column is about action, but small actions, and do-able actions that add up to big changes. This is something that my very impatient, very perfectionist, and very ADD self had a terrible time adjusting to, but the result is profound. I want to teach you habits you can actually do and stick to, and things you can do for a long time or practice regularly to make yourself feel better in every way possible. And I’m right there with you, learning and teaching as we go. When feeling good is the priority, the rest follows. Whatever your goals are, whether it’s weight loss or energy or mental health or allergies or digestion woes or thyroid/adrenal issues or anything else, if you focus on what feels good (barring illicit substances) you are guaranteed to get a result.
The other thing I want to emphasize is that “doing the next right thing” sometimes means doing something that is good for your soul and not necessarily perfectly aligned with your nutrition plan. This means you can “cheat” but not call it cheating, just call it being moderate and fair to yourself because you’re a person with a life that is hard and sometimes you want to be fucking indulgent. Cheating is a dangerous word to use because it starts to make us feel like failures when the cheating adds up, and then we’re more likely to say screw this and quit. So banish that word from your vocabulary.
Invest in You
I started my health journey because I literally had to save my own life, and I’m still working on it and heading closer to wellness each day. Improvement is not a straight line, and it’s full of frustrating setbacks and progress that often doesn’t feel or look like progress. And yes, I fall off the horse, I break my diet, I get mad at my circumstances and drink wine and stay up too late and all of that. However, I am generally quite focused on self-care and it has helped in ways that I didn’t even know were possible. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be sick to save your own life. Think of this as preventative care against all the future ailments you’d get if you didn’t take care of yourself now. All you have to be is willing and ready to commit to yourself. Think about how much time/energy/money you spend on your apartment, car, wardrobe, entertainment, and see if you can repurpose just a fraction of these resources to you and your body. Each week I’ll be introducing new simple steps you can take towards health.
That all being said, let’s launch this column shall we? Come back next week to dive in!