Getting healthy doesn’t mean giving up what you love

A while back, I tried to go vegetarian. I started choking down tofu, cutting meat out of my regular recipes and forcing myself to try vegetarian restaurants. I thought my new diet would make me healthier. But when I visited my naturopath two months later, I was more depressed than I’d ever been. My cholesterol levels may have been lower, but the diet wasn’t working for me.

Maybe you’ve tried a similar diet change, like cutting out gluten, eating less sugar or drinking less wine. Or you’ve started a new fitness regimen to get stronger or lose weight.

And if your new routine is making you happier, that’s great. But what if it’s making you even more discontent than you were before?

What good does it do you to be eating a perfect diet if you’re miserable? What’s the point of a workout routine that leaves you in pain?

If we want to be truly healthy, we have to find a way to balance health and happiness.


Why Happiness Matters to Your Health

These days, many of us are putting ourselves through the wringer for the sake of health and fitness. We treat our bodies like cars, as if a quick tune-up, fresh tires and a souped-up engine will get us better gas mileage.

But we all know our bodies aren’t machines; we can’t just clean up the oil and expect them to run more efficiently. The mind and body are connected, and happiness is critical to our overall health.

According to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, happiness — a sense of fulfillment, purpose, connectedness and love — has been proven to reduce our risk for having a heart attack or stroke, increase our chances of living longer and boost our success with losing weight.

The mind-body connection matters. We can’t be healthy without being happy, too.


How to Find Your Balance

My work is all about making people happier. I focus on health and fitness as a way to get there, but happiness is the goal.

And often, my clients will tell me that eating a certain food makes them happy, regardless of whether those foods are technically good for them or not. So they choose to be happy with what they’re eating, and the joy they get out of eating what they like may even diminish some of the negative health side-effects.

A healthy lifestyle is all about tradeoffs.

If you prefer a particular type of workout but it causes you pain, you may choose to get your exercise and endorphins through a more gentle form of movement and using a suspension trainer. If you genuinely enjoy an occasional glass of wine, you may be willing to put up with any inflammation or headaches it causes you.

So ask yourself: What makes me feel happy? What makes me feel healthy?

If there are things that make you both HAPPY and HEALTHY, look for opportunities incorporate more of those things into your life.

If there are things that make you HAPPY, but NOT HEALTHY, consider whether you could still enjoy them in moderation.

And if there are things that make you HEALTHY but UNHAPPY, think critically about whether they’re adding any real value to your life. If they’re not, it could be time to let them go.


You Don’t Have to Choose Between Happiness and Health

Pursuing a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be a slog. You don’t have to give up the things you love to do or the foods you love to eat.

I’ve learned that for me, a strict vegetarian diet isn’t healthy, because it doesn’t make me happy. So now I’m a flexitarian; when vegetarian meals bring me joy, I eat them. And when meat brings me joy, I eat that instead.

It may take some personal exploration, but doing what makes you happy will ultimately make you healthier, too.


Discover how we can help you unlock the right balance of happiness and health!

Written by: Ian Rubin, MA CPT, CHC
Owner & Founder, Wellness Success Coach
Ian is passionate about helping people find their most well selves. After struggling with his own wellness, Ian jumped from jobs in supplement sales to diet consulting to personal training. He eventually decided to use his knowledge to help people to achieve their best self in a whole way. This meant going beneath the surface to find the source of his clients’ struggles and supporting them in reaching their wellness goals.