As we talk about healthy aging and owning our journeys for National Women's Health Month, we were inspired by Jess Suchan from Body Bliss By Jess. We met Jess when she created and demo'd a delicious tropical smoothie using our Daily Beauty Collagen at ExpoWest. So we invited her to share her path to forming a healthier relationship with food and exercise. Read her story...
Forming A Healthier Relationship with Food and Exercise
By: Jess Suchan @bodyblissbyjess on InstagramAs a Holistic Health Coach who specializes in helping women rebalance their hormones naturally, I often see a pattern of restrictive dieting and over exercising. We push ourselves into low calorie diets and high intensity workouts, thinking that if we just eat less and exercise more, we’ll lose the weight, feel more confident and have the energy levels we need to power us through the day! And I get it, because I’ve been there myself but I promise you, there is a healthier and more abundant way…
As a yo-yo dieter for over a decade, I had orthorexic tendencies (the obsession with eating the “perfect” foods) and would have a meltdown if I went over my caloric goals or put on a single pound after *enjoying* a night out with friends. As a way to punish myself for overindulging the night before, I would FORCE myself to the gym where I’d either follow a high intensity circuit training routine or run on the treadmill while counting down every minute and hating every second. If I had an extra 500 calories of food and drink, I would research how much exercise I’d need to do in order to burn it off. And if I was too tired or hungover to make it to the gym, I’d say “screw it” and go for a bottomless mimosa brunch and tell myself that I’d start my diet and exercise regime again on Monday. As a result, I viewed food as either “good” or “bad” (btw, food is not a meal) and exercise as punishment for veering off my plan or not being skinny or fit enough. It was a destructive way of thinking.
Listening to My BodyAt the end of the day, I didn’t know how to listen to my body and blatantly ignored the messages it was sending me to slow down (i.e. migraine headaches, bloating, fatigue, irregular/missed menstrual cycles). The food I ate wasn’t because it was nourishing or supportive but because it was low calorie or fit within whatever fad diet I was trying. The exercise I selected wasn’t because I enjoyed it but because I thought it could burn the most calories. I viewed walking as a waste of time and rarely took rest days because I was afraid it would set me back and cause me to put on weight. At one point I was taking a 60 minute bootcamp class (fasted) 5-6x per week and would dread the drive over, so much that I’d have to pump myself up by saying things like “you will be so happy you did this once it’s over” etc. I dreaded my workouts and resented myself for not losing weight or seeing better results even when killing myself every week.
After hitting my breaking point, suffering debilitating migraine headaches and severe hormone imbalances (losing my period for over 3 years!), I decided enough was enough and began tuning into my own body, keeping a food and mood journal to investigate what foods made me feel the best (physically and emotionally) and promised myself that I’d eat foods I loved, that I’d slowly add back in fear foods like carbs & fat, and I would ONLY engage in exercise that I actually enjoyed!
Flash forward to today and I am a health coach who has regular, pain-free periods, I eat carbs EVERY DAY, my energy levels are naturally high (without coffee) and I nourish my body with foods I know make me feel amazing and that taste amazing too! I’ve maintained my weight without having to obsess over the scale and I’m done with fad diets and masculine style workout routines. What I realize now is that MOVEMENT is a reward and a privilege, but it should come from a place of joy and focusing more on how it makes you feel (happy, calm, energized) vs. what it will make up for (alcohol, sweets, rest days, etc.). And from a hormonal perspective, over exercising (especially from a place of self-criticism), is a sure fire way to kick hormones out of balance... and for what?
Questions to Ask Yourself About ExerciseHere are a few questions to ask yourself to form a healthier relationship with exercise & make a decision that will be most supportive in the moment:
- How are my energy levels?
- How did I sleep the night before?
- What phase of my menstrual cycle am I in? (for those of reproductive age)
- What stressors have been present in my life this week?
- What ways do I feel like moving my body?
- Which forms of movement do I look forward to?
- What will recharge vs. deplete me?
Questions to Ask Yourself About NourishmentAnd when it comes to nourishment, I recommend asking yourself these 3 simple, yet powerful questions before each meal:
- What am I TRULY craving?
- How do I want to feel after I eat? Examples: full, happy, calm, energized
- What meal can I make that will satisfy my cravings?
My Current Relationship with Food and ExerciseIn this season of my life, my favorite way to start the day is with a glass of water followed by a journaling/reading session by candlelight & the morning light. Then I make up a BIG latte with my Body Bliss Coco for Chai Latte Blend, homemade cashew milk and a scoop of Great Lakes Chai Collagen Peptides! I am truly OBSESSED with it. I take my dog for a long walk while I sip my latte and listen to a podcast or take time to listen to the sounds of nature. I recently joined a rock climbing gym with my husband and we have been loving learning a new skill together so we go a couple times a week, incorporate 3-4 days of strength training and seek out weekend hikes whenever possible (I am not a fan of hard hikes so I always look for something that’s about 2-3 miles without a constant incline because I want to ENJOY my time). I add the delish Great Lakes Mixed Berry Collagen into my water when I’m on the move, especially because I’ve learned how much stronger and energized I feel when I incorporate more collagen!
I wholeheartedly look forward to my workouts and I base my goals around getting stronger, climbing tougher walls, or just having a good time vs. weight loss goals or punishment! When I get back from my workout or walk, I have a big breakfast filled with foods that make me feel the way I deserve inside and out. For example, right now I’m obsessed with egg scrambles on avocado toast with a side of fruit but it shifts depending on my cravings, menstrual cycle and season!
When we look FORWARD to our routines and rituals, we are able to form habits that are sustainable, and we realize that our bodies have our backs and that we CAN feel better without restriction.
Can you relate to my story? I’d love to hear your experience with building a healthier relationship with movement/exercise/working out and food! Follow me on Instagram @bodyblissbyjess or shoot me a DM. I’m here to support you!
Xo Jess Suchan