I’m a Mayo Clinic Certified Health Coach, a Certified Personal Trainer with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant with American Fitness Professionals & Associates, and an author with my third book on the way—but I can’t tell you what “health” or “wellness” should look like in your life. I can’t tell you what gets you out of bed in the morning or what gets you fired up, either. Those things are yours to define and pursue, in your own distinctive way. But for so many of us, the question is: how?
I don't have a quick fix plan to prescribe. I have no 7-day fast. I’ve spent nearly twenty years in the weeds, talking with people about their priorities and ambitions and deconstructing what gets in their way: fatigue, anxiety, work, family, stress, loneliness, poor body image, systemic bias and injustice, chronic aches and pains, sleep and digestive problems, sheer distraction… and the list goes on. There are no magic bullets to solve these issues, so how do we break through them? How do we figure out what steps to take next?
We turn to our greatest teachers for guidance: our bodies. When we listen for the messages our bodies are sending and respond, in kind, with healing reinforcements—microdoses of time, community, daylight, movement, and air—we find our footing. And when we find our footing, we can show up for what matters and enjoy ourselves while we’re at it.
Our bodies offer all the information we need in order to thrive. Human beings are finely-tuned creatures capable of extraordinary things—and by that I mean everything from quantum physics to sustainable agriculture to hot fudge sundaes. We all have the same basic needs for sustenance, shelter, and connection, but the goals we want to achieve and the motivation we need to get there are as unique as we are. Modern society has a lot to say about what “beauty” and “success” should look like, but those rules are arbitrary, at best. They feel like an ill-fitting suit. When we stop yielding to those expectations and establish our own, we free ourselves to be present and alive in our bodies, on our own terms.
Pushing the boundaries around who we are, into curious, unknown territory,
doesn’t have to feel like hard labor. It can feel like coming home.
My mom is an epidemiologist, and my dad is a theologian. I grew up with a split personality between science and philosophy, but I landed in the arts. I was a theater kid who became a cocktail waitress and office temp with an eating disorder and chronic depression. I’ve also been a street mime, a singer/songwriter, a fruit wholesaler, and a magazine columnist. In 2003, I went back to school part-time at UCLA to study nutrition, physiology, and eastern philosophy. I became a personal trainer not to conquer my body, but to make peace with it—and I’ve been working on that riddle ever since.
To escape the uneasiness, I tried, first, to manipulate my body… then to accept it, then to nurture it, and finally to listen to it. On my last book tour, I spoke about recognizing our bodies as agents of change, but over time, talking with people on the road, I realized that to affect any kind of lasting change on a personal or global scale, we have to be present first—whole—not just in our bodies but in our ambitions and our peculiarities too. You know better than anyone else where you’re headed, and you probably have some ideas about how to get there. It’s just a matter of finding your way.
My new book, The Habit Trip: A Fill-in-the-Blank Journey to a Life on Purpose, is an interactive storybook with dogs, dragons, and a jumping spider, because why not? We’ve tried the age-old grim and somber way to change (and the perky, hyper-vigilant way too), and those haven’t worked out all that well. Maybe we just need a little playtime to dance around the edges. This book is a sun-bleached roadmap through ten areas of life to help you identify what’s working, what’s not, and what you want to do about the areas that aren’t.
In the end, we’re headed home—to our bodies, our instincts, our intelligence, and our collective pursuit of something worthwhile. If we can get our act together and recognize our value, we can get a whole lot of good done in this world.
I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready to get my swagger on.