278: Health is a verb.


You can rock a swimsuit AND not like yourself.
You can have six packs abs AND suffer from dis-ease.
You can be an amazing athlete AND struggle with disordered eating.

Popular media culture loves to push health as a look, but the truth is health is a way of being.

In this week’s episode of the Grace & Grit Podcast, I talk about what it means to embody health and the practices that will help you do just that.

Have a listen. Share it with a woman who could benefit from the message.

Health is a verb.

Transcripts are auto-generated.

Welcome to the Grace and Grit Podcast made for women who want their healthiest years to be ahead of them, not behind them. Join your host, Courtney Townley right now. As she breaks down the fairy tale health story, you have been chasing all of your life, indispensable action steps and lasting change.

Hello, my friends, and welcome to the Grace and Grit Podcast. This is your host, Courtney Townley. And as always, I’m so grateful you’re here. I am at a coaching conference in Austin, Texas, which has been really interesting. Not only has the conference been great, but I’ve had the chance to meet so many people. I have never met in the flesh. And not just other coaches. But I’ve had the opportunity in Austin to meet clients that I’ve worked with for years, I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with all the friends, and even connect with other professionals in the wellness space, who I have worked with for years online, but never actually met in person. And it’s been a really rewarding experience.

But I gotta tell you, I’ve, I had some reservations. And here’s why. Years ago, I went to my first ever conference for online business owners in Dallas, Texas. And it was an amazing conference. But what was really interesting about that experience is I had been following certain people online for years. And when I met these same people in person, a lot of their behavior in the flesh did not at all match up with who they were representing them to be online, which was disturbing and bothersome to me. And it really turned me off to wanting to follow the information they were putting out online.

I know years ago, right when I was in high school used to call this being two faced when a person acts a certain way in one place, but then shows up and acts a different way someplace else. And this is kind of what I want to talk about today, sort of the two faced SNESs of health. We live in a world that pushes this idea that if we mold our bodies into a particular shape, that’s health. So if we have a certain body fat percentage, or we wear a certain clothing size, or we have a certain amount of muscle definition in our legs or arms, or even sort of a athletic energy about us, we’re healthy right?

And to take this a step further, I grew up in the dance world. And to this day, I still believe that dancers are some of the most incredible athletes on the planet. But are they the healthiest? I would argue now. If you judge them only by their body, you might say yes. But so many dancers that I was around when I was a dance professional. And please hear me out like this was many, many moons ago. So I realized that cultures change. But there was a lot of drinking and smoking and eating disorders and a lot of mental health issues. Also to perform at the level that these dancers were performing. They weren’t concerned about performing in a way that respected their body. They were doing whatever it took to make those dance moves look good. And then moving into the fitness arena showed me a lot of the same things. Here I was surrounded by people with incredible physiques. They appeared healthy. They got tons of clients because of how they looked. But behind the scenes, the same people were eating and drinking and smoking and not sleeping and so burnt out.

So the problem is that looking healthy and being healthy, are not necessarily the same thing. There’s the appearance of health. And then there’s the embodiment of health. And popular media culture loves to push the former appearing healthy, with very little regard for the latter embodying health. So I titled this Podcast today health is a verb BE has health, in my opinion is a verb, it’s an action. And health is not binary. It’s not something you either have or you don’t.

It’s also not static. So health is I’m always saying this multi dimensional, there’s a lot of components to health. There’s physical health, mental health, emotional health, environmental health, relationship, health, spiritual health, behavioral health. And health is also dynamic. It’s always changing, depending on the stress loads of your life. And when I say stress loads, I’m not just talking about mental stress, stress comes in many, many forms. So health is really a byproduct of how we choose to move through the world. Not a byproduct of how we look. And yet, I consult with women every single day, who had been chasing the idea of looking healthy. So they’ve been on this pursuit of looking healthy, with very little regard for actually being healthy. So what’s the difference? Well, the pursuit of appearing healthy, is very outcome focused. Going back to those things I mentioned earlier, it’s often a weight on the scale, it’s a body fat percentage is a particular look in a swimsuit. It’s a clothing size, it’s a certain level of muscle tone. The pursuit of appearing healthy, is also very connected to these Hail Mary approaches, I’ll do anything at any cost to create this look. We tend to be in a rush, when we’re pursuing a look. We’re very rigid in our approaches.

There’s lots of rules and regulations to follow. The focus, of course, is exclusively on physicality. And I would say that the pursuit of appearing healthy is largely rooted in the what, what to eat, what form of exercise you’re going to do, right, sort of the details of your approach, versus being healthy. Being healthy is not outcome focused. It’s values focused. It’s showing up in your life in a way that honors the things that you value. It’s also very practice driven.

It’s not about outcomes. It’s about developing practices. There’s no rush, when you’re focused on being healthy, becoming healthy. And it takes into consideration the wholeness of the human, all the dimensions of the human. If we’re really focused on being healthy, we have to be flexible, not rigid. Because life is always changing, those stress loads are always changing. So if we are not flexible in our approach, we cannot be healthy. And the body is really the vehicle not the purpose. And finally, I would say that, when we’re focused on being healthy, we’re focused on the what? So we’re so focused on the details of what we’re doing. But we’re also very focused on the why.

Why am I choosing to eat this way? Why am I choosing to move this way? Is it because I feel like I have to because I feel like I should, or because I’m truly trying to honor my body so it can support me in the way that I want to be supported. becoming healthy, is inside out work. It’s not outside in work. We can’t shape the body from the outside and expect to be healthy on the inside.

Becoming healthy is less of an exercise in thinking about the outside of the body, and more of an exercise in learning how to be in the body in a peaceful and harmonious way. This is what embodiment is. So how did we become disembodied? Well, there’s a really incredible therapist, researcher, author, by the name of Hillary McBride, who wrote a book called The Wisdom of your body, I highly recommend it, it’s a phenomenal read. And in this book, she explores sort of the broken and unhealthy ideas that we have inherited about our bodies. And instead of the body being a problem to overcome, she really talks about how our bodies can be the very place where we feel most alive, and sort of the seat of our spiritual, our spirituality and our wisdom.

But I’m mentioning this book, because there is a part of this book where Hilary McBride talks about how we have become disembodied. And she has this great analogy that I want to share with you. She talks about the body, like it’s a house. And you came into the world living in this amazing house, it was comfortable, you enjoyed being in it, you liked it. And then one day, you go outside, to do some yard work. And one of your neighbors comments on how great your house looks from the outside. Can you kind of like that attention? Right, you kind of perk up when you hear that comment.

Or maybe it’s a different kind of comment, maybe your neighbor criticizes the outside of your house. And that to start to compel you to focus more on the outside of the house than on the inside of the house. So over time, you, you find yourself spending more and more time on the outside of your home, you’re living your life on the lawn, rather than inside your home. And I’ve never in all my years of being in the wellness space Have I ever heard an analogy that so poignantly speaks to disembodiment. We have deluded ourselves into thinking that if our houses look awesome on the outside, we’re healthy. But that’s not how it works. What happens on the inside is what makes us competent and healthy humans. So let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about how to be healthy, not how to appear healthy.

There’s one word that always comes to mind when I think of really being healthy, embodying health, which to me is respect. Respect is when we treat something or someone with kindness and care. So first and foremost, we have to respect our chemistry. What does that actually mean? It means recognizing that your body has needs. It has requirements that need to be met in order for it to support you in the way that you want to be supported. If you want to have energy tomorrow, you need to go to bed tonight and get a decent amount of sleep. If you want to feel strong, you need to condition and care for your muscles. If you want to be less reactive, you need to feed yourself well balanced meals throughout the day. If you’re not taking care of your body’s basic needs, health will remain elusive right because not only will you be reactive and have difficulty showing up in the spaces and places of your life in the way that you want to. But you literally start to break down your physiology. So it’s kind of like a house that’s imploding. I’ve used that analogy a lot on this Podcast.

You can have a great looking kitchen but if the floor ring has rot in it or being it’s starting to be eaten away by termites, you’re not gonna have a very nice kitchen for very long. So are you respecting your chemistry. So I have an entire program based on this, it’s free. It’s called Five2Thrive. And in that program, I sort of mentioned the elements that I believe are sort of the foundation of respecting our chemistry. And none of these will come as any surprise to you probably, but sleep, hydration, eating real food, moving your body, and connecting with yourself with nature. And with others, those are the five elements.

If you want a little deep, or you want a deeper dive into those five elements, as sort of a starting place, you can sign up for that by going to my website, graceandgrit.com/five2thrive.

The next layer we have to consider is respecting our resources. And I always kind of think of this as strategy, the way that you’re approaching your self care, the way you’re approaching your to do’s in the day. That’s what I mean by respecting your resources, in order to direct your energy towards the things that nourish your health. And sort of direct your attention away from the things that deplete your health, you’re going to have to manage your resources.

When I say resources, I’m speaking specifically to time energy, willpower focus. And even what I always reference is your state of well home, which is a term that I sort of adopted from Susan, David’s work, I’ve talked a lot about it on this Podcast. And state of well just means that you’re not overwhelming your brain, and you’re not underwhelming your brain. You’re choosing to operate in a space that keeps you in a state of well home. So in order to protect your time, your energy, your willpower and your focus, because you only get so many of these things every day. And if you’re spending these things on, if you’re spending these resources on things that don’t really matter much to you, you’re not going to have those resources for the things that do matter.

This requires organizing yourself, it requires including yourself on your daily schedule. It requires leaning into practices like setting boundaries, and making decisions and saying no to things that are not in alignment with your values, and with who you want to be as a human. Then we have learning to respect your brain. You could also call this right thought management mindset work. decision fatigue is a very real thing. We make a lot of decisions in the day, and the brain gets very tired by midday. We also have, you know, some pretty remarkable parts to the brain, that when we understand how they work, we actually feel more compelled to manage our own thought processes.

What I’m speaking to really specifically is your amygdala, right your amygdala is your it’s like the oldest part of the brain. It’s a part of that one of the parts of the brain that developed first, and it’s very reactive. And it has three primary objectives. seek pleasure, avoid pain, exert the least amount of effort. And when our life was constantly at risk, because we lived in caves, and we were foraging for food, and we were constantly being hunted by predators, those three things were really important. But today in modern times, if we let the amygdala run the show, pursue pleasure avoid pain and exert the least amount of effort is a recipe for death. It’s a slow death.

And this is what a lot of people are choosing to do not ever get out of their comfort zone. Not ever apply any effort. Never lean into discomfort. Pursue tons of pleasure because man pleasures around every corner these days. And the thing that is so important to know is you also have this much sort of higher evolved part of your brain, sort of the executive functioning center called your prefrontal cortex. And that part of your brain allows you to really just see what your amygdala is doing. Right?

I was planning on moving my body today. But now I don’t feel like it. Well, it’s probably because my amygdala just wants me to stay in the cave and stay safe. But going to work out today is not threatening my life in any way. So even though I don’t feel like it in this moment, I know the reason I put it on my schedule, I’m going anyway. That’s what using your prefrontal cortex looks like, among a lot of other things.

Another thing I love about this idea of respecting the brain to really become healthy, is it allows us to focus on what we want for our future, versus only focusing on what we have been in the past. And this is so relevant to the community of women that I work with. Because I find so many women are chasing a version of themselves from the past, rather than stepping into who they want to be in the future. And I see a whole Podcast episode coming about exactly that topic.

But for today, I want to read you a quote from breaking the habit of being yourself by Joe Dispenza. I love this book, it’s such a great book. But he says this, he says, when you think from your past memories, you can only create past experience as all of the knowns in your life, cause your brain to think and feel in familiar ways. Thus creating knowable outcomes. You continually reaffirm your life, as you know it. And sense your brain is equal to your environment, then each morning, your senses plug you in to the same reality and initiate the same stream of consciousness. So what he’s saying there is that when we are constantly making decisions from our past, when we are constantly pursuing a past version of ourselves, we’re only going to get more of the same, we’re only creating more of what we already have. We’re not creating anything new for our life.

The final piece of this that I want to speak to today, and there’s probably a far more elements we could talk to in this conversation today, as well, in terms of being healthy versus just appearing healthy. But being healthy really requires that we learn to respect our emotions. So there’s a difference between a sensation and an emotion. A sensation is a message that your body is giving to your brain in terms of something that it needs. I have a scratch on my arm I need to watch, I might you know, I feel like I need to pee. So I go to the bathroom. I get a rumble in my tummy, I’m hungry. Those are sensations versus emotions are messengers about how you are showing up in relationship to the world around you. So it’s a message from the brain to the body. So we are in relationship, which is again how we’re thinking about the world around us. And then that creates an experience in the body. So when we learn about our emotional landscape, and we start paying attention to it, it is an incredible lesson in self development, because we learn about ourselves.

Now, I’m not going to spend a ton of time talking about this today, because I actually just did an entire episode about the friending emotions. So if you missed that, you can check it out by revisiting episode 276. But I will summarize by saying this when we start respecting our emotional landscape, meaning, we see our emotions as important messengers, and we start paying attention to them, and we start listening to them. Essentially, we start allowing them, we stop doing things that actually cost us our health. We stop resisting emotion, we stop reacting to emotion, we stop avoiding emotion. And we start opening ourselves up to learning how to regulate emotion in healthy ways.

So I want to ask you this, if you could only look healthy, or be healthy for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Again, if you could only look healthy, that you weren’t necessarily internally healthy? Or you could be healthy? Which would you choose? I sure hope it’s the latter. And some of you might be hearing that question saying, well, can’t I have both? Absolutely, you can. looking healthy, is often a byproduct of pursuing the practices that actually allow you to be healthy. Right.

It’s kind of that inside out work. But being healthy, so pursuing a becoming healthy, is not a byproduct of looking healthy. So again, like I said, at the start of this Podcast, I know lots of people who pursue a certain look on their body. And people who don’t know them, well would think from the outside, wow, that’s a really healthy person. But when you get to know them, it quickly starts to become apparent that actually, that’s not the case. This person is not being healthy, they just have a certain look that I have defined in my own brain as healthy.

So if you need help with anything that we’ve talked about today, so I kind of I always mentioned those four buckets, I talked about respecting chemistry, respecting your strategy, respecting your brain, respecting your emotions. And I talk about those four buckets a lot on the Podcast, because those are really the four categories of work that I do with my students and my clients. And this is actually how we organize all of the content inside of the Rumble & Rise membership.

If you’re looking for a space that can help you to start thinking about health in a different way. If you are someone who is really committed to being healthy, and not just appearing healthy. Come join us inside of Rumble & Rise. It’s an incredible space with amazing resources, amazing support. And I promise you, you won’t regret it. You can check out the benefits and sort of all of the things that this membership entails by going to graceandgrit.com/readytorumble. I’ll see you again next week. Make it a great one.

Thank you for listening to the Grace and Grit Podcast. It is time to mend the fabric of the female health story. And it starts with you taking radical responsibility for your own self care. You are worth the effort and with a little grace and grit anything is possible.


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