Dear Cassey: How do I balance my mental and physical health?

Dear Cassey,
I used to be at my fittest two years ago but I was very depressed (130 lbs 5’2, lots of muscle and abs). I was working out because I was stressed and freaking out about my body and insecurities.
Now I’m at my best emotionally and mentally, but at my highest weight yet (170 lbs). I finally feel okay with my body but I don’t quite feel like myself at this weight. How do I balance this out and keep my mental health and physical health balanced?
Best of Both Worlds

Dear Best of Both Worlds,

First of all, you should feel so proud that you set your body insecurities to the side in order to work on your mental health. That is a HARD thing to do. Now that you’re in a better headspace, it will be so much easier for you to find the balance between fitness and mental health that you’re looking for. I’ve been EXACTLY in your shoes before, so I hope my experience can help.

Okay. So the most important thing I always tell myself and others is that when it comes to health and fitness, it’s all about YOU. Any commitment you make, any goals you have, and changes you go for – they are all for you, and no one else. When we try to change our bodies for someone else’s approval (even if there is no one specific in mind), THAT is what really weighs on our mental health. It sounds like you’re already crushing this, but it’s always good to hear. I remind myself of this every. single. day.

Kinda on the same note, find ways to be active that also bring you joy. Before, it sounds like you were working out a lot, but pushing yourself way too hard because you were trying to fight insecurities about your body and stress. While I’m sure those workouts brought some temporary relief and some confidence, I have a feeling it was very short-lived. Fitness seems important to you, and it is always going to help your mental health. But I want you to think about what kind of activity truly makes you happy. What do you look forward to? Dancing? Going on walks? Pilates? A mix of everything? Whatever it is, DO IT! Treat your workouts like an activity, rather than a chore. You’ll find more balance when you’re not forcing it.

Same thing for food. Eat what makes your body feel THE BEST. Yeah, that usually means plenty of fruits, veggies, etc. But that also means you are happy to indulge every now and then without guilt.

Finally, don’t lose sight of the fact that even though your body was “healthiest” according to the numbers at a much lower weight, that doesn’t mean that you were really healthier. Mental health is JUST as important as physical health. It sounds like you’re really in tune with your body, so allow yourself to focus less on what the scale says and more on how you feel.  That way you can still make some changes to feel even better, without the risk of spiraling back into an unhealthy mindset.

PS – If you have a burning question you want to ask me, I’m taking questions via text at 510-692-4556. Currently this only works for US and Canada. If you’re outside of those countries, you can leave a question below.

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