Wellness is a term I have had a love-hate relationship with over the years as I used to wonder, what really is wellness? Is it health? Is it looking a certain way?

In my twenties, wellness meant jumping on the various bandwagons of celebrity endorsed diets, in an effort to ‘be’, ‘look like’, or ‘feel like’ a particular celebrity appeared. I went through years of being super strict with myself as I followed a certain diet. One month it was paleo, the next was superfoods only; I tried macrobiotic, then it was raw food, then I’d cut out sugar, did juicing, counting calories, I even tried Atkins for a few days.

Following (or trying to follow) these unrealistic standards set me up for constant failure and I yo-yoed between sticking to my plan, then inevitably ‘falling off the wagon’, which was always accompanied by guilt and anger at myself for ‘failing’. I put my body through so much, and constantly chopping and changing between different diets left me feeling totally confused and like I was never getting anywhere – wherever that elusive destination was.

We all know that eating more fruits and vegetables, less processed foods and getting our bodies moving are good for our health. Aside from that there can be way too many things that one feels like one ‘should’ be doing when it comes to health. Taking supplements, making sure to include superfoods, cutting out meat, making sure to eat meat, avoiding sugar at all costs. Nutrition information can be a confusing and contradictory minefield and it’s sometimes hard to know where to even start!

Do you ever feel like this?

Deciding to ditch hamster wheel of trying to fit into what I thought I should be, and starting to pay attention to what MY body needs and what my sleep, moods etc are like when I eat and drink certain things, have been the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself.

Alongside that, and something I learned when I did my health coach training (but is also intuitively so correct), was understanding (and really feeling) how much of a part the rest of our lives play when it comes to our health, not just food and exercise. It’s the loving what you do every day, waking up and feeling happy so you don’t turn to the biscuit tin or want to numb how you feel with copious amounts of booze. Having nourishing relationships, feeling like you can express yourself creatively, space to breathe and time to connect with yourself away from others’ demands. All these different factors play a part in our overall wellness.

Learning to listen to myself and honour my evolving needs has been life-changing. I now know that meat and dairy have been making me feel sluggish for years so I eat an entirely plant-based diet and have never felt better. I let myself drink alcohol when I want to (which isn’t very often as I’m more connected to my feelings behind why I want to drink), and don’t beat myself up like how I used to when I have a few too many! I eat delicious vegan chocolate (Om Bars are my favourite – you’ve got to try them)when I feel like it. I know I need at least a day (ideally more) a week alone to recharge, sleep and just be. I find I get overwhelmed easily if I have too many small different things on at once. I need to do something creative every week (for me that’s cooking, writing or art) or I feel bored and want to fall into one of my old patterns of drinking a lot, just to create some excitement in my life.

Wellness, for me today, means accepting all parts of me, even when they aren’t society’s image of what wellness looks like. Yes I’m curvy with big hips, that’s fine and I’m learning to accept my body, even love it, for what it is. Wellness includes me showing up as the real me, not afraid to not have it all figured out (who does really!), not afraid to be down some days, messy and not on form, whereas other days I feel fantastic and am bouncing off the walls with happiness.

I accept there’ll be days I need distractions such as endless episodes of a show I’m into, or pigging out on a delicious vegan pizza. I know though that when I do these things I can easily spiral and these days I’m trying to be more conscious of balancing them with things that make me feel good longer term… Easier said than done, especially when I have loads going on. So it’s an ongoing journey and one that I pay attention to and adjust every week. Except this time it’s coming from a place of awareness and how it makes me feel.

Tapping into what you need and what makes you feel good in your skin is, in my opinion, the way to wellness. Why define your wellness by someone else’s standards?

When working with clients the first thing I ask them to do is start a food and mood journal, so they start connecting to how certain foods make them feel, as well as noticing how different emotions affect them. Tapping into these moments and un-layering the patterns, feelings and emotions behind them, alongside how foods affect them individually is the beginning of a beautiful wellness journey. I invite you to do start to do the same as getting to know yourself is truly life-changing.