For the next ten minutes of reading, I want you to think of me as your Bossy Big Sister. I’m really good at being bossy. Over the years I’ve not only been Bossy Big Sister, I’ve also been Bossy Boss, Bossy Wife, and Bossy Mom — and now I’m enjoying being Bossy Girlfriend. A talented playwright friend even wrote a character based on me: Bossy Best Friend! I have strong opinions about things I deem really important, and I don’t hesitate to share them with people I love.
If there’s one single message I’d like to impart today it’s this: if you give your body what it needs, you can thrive. You stay well and feel good. You think clearly and are inspired and happy.
How do I know this? I’ve been fascinated with health and well-being since college, inspired by an amazing course on holistic medicine at Dartmouth Medical School in 1990. It founded my deeply-held belief that our bodies are magnificently designed and wiser than we can even imagine. Since that impactful course, I’ve loved to ask: What choices can I make to help myself (and my family and friends) thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally? In my spare time, this is what I investigate through articles, books, and podcasts.
I’ve had almost 30 years of being a test case! I’m now 50 years old, and though I’ve met a few health challenges, I am very happy, strong, and healthy. I’m moving through menopause relatively easily. I have a strong immune system and my body heals quickly. I’ve only had to use pharmaceuticals for very short bursts over my life. When I do get off-balance (generally with anxiety), I see it as my body communicating that there’s a need, and I do my best to listen and attend to it. The more I honor my body and its needs, the more good feeling, clarity of thought, and joy I have in my life. This is true for my kids too, who are both very healthy and strong. I know, without a doubt, that my choices have landed us here.
I can also see that the grand American experiment of consume-whatever and do-whatever because pharmaceuticals-will-help is largely failing. Upwards of 45% of Americans have a chronic disease, and more than two-thirds of all deaths are caused by the top five chronic disease. This year we rank dead last in terms of health in comparison to “peer” countries. So I’m motivated to speak up!
(I recognize that underprivileged communities have to work extra hard to achieve all of the suggestions below, as many families have little access to fresh foods, outdoor spaces, high quality medical care and time away from screens.)
Before I go into detail here, I’m sure you’re asking: Why is this relevant to the stories? As you know, Sparkle Stories are rich with seeds of learning, whether it’s about how to be kind, or how to love more fully, or how to navigate challenging situations. You’ll also find all sorts of other messaging — including those about health and well-being — all stemming from my own Boss Boss ideas!
Now, are you ready for all my Bossy Big Sister thoughts? Here goes!
It comes down to basics:
- whole foods
- time in nature
The simplest way to think about it is to ask: “What did our ancestors do for our almost 200,000 years of evolution?” That’s what we are designed to do.
1) Let’s talk about whole foods.
This would be my number one: eat food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. Fruits and vegetables. Whole grains. Nuts and seeds. Eggs and meats. I think all bodies are different and there’s not one single diet I subscribe to (eg: paleo versus vegan) — just keep it whole and as close to its original form as possible.
I also think organic is very important, as well as local and in-season. It’s worth any extra expense, because I’m not only investing in the health of my family, but also the well-being of the farmland (and the future of the planet).
I cook whole-food meals for our house every day. We try to include something fresh at every meal, whether that be a piece of fruit, a big salad, or some crudites. I talk to my kids about eating whole foods.
We are also part of a CSA, and we have giant garden beds in my front yard so we can eat as fresh and local as possible.
Does this take a lot of time and energy? Well, yes, particularly for a working momma. Do I get grouchy about it sometimes? Of course I do. But ultimately all of this is so important to me, I make it work. It’s worth it.
See our playlist for inspiring healthy eating HERE.
By this I mean using your full body in the way it was built to move. We are designed to reach, bend, run, stretch, and jump, engaging all of our complex and beautiful frame and musculature! (We were not designed to sit in front of screens all day — which I often do, and my teen boys definitely do!)
My favorite activities for using the whole body: yoga, dance, hiking and scrambling around in nature, gardening, building or other hands-on projects, wrestling, and martial arts. You can also just get silly! Crawl around like a cat. Roll on the bed like an otter. I also try to break up my work day with movement, whether it’s stretching or hanging laundry or taking a dance break. I also like to get down on the floor — to sit or pet dogs or stretch — which forces me to get up again! It’s great practice for staying strong and nimble.
Young children do all of this naturally, but as they get older, they are more self-conscious and the outlets for full movement are fewer. My boys now go to the gym, but every once in awhile I’ll get them on a trail run with me, or we’ll dance in the kitchen like big goofballs. Plus I talk to them about bringing awareness to engaging their whole person.
See our round-up of activities to get you moving HERE!
3) Time in Nature.
I feel like a broken record in my own house, because I remind my kids, over and over, to get themselves outside into the sun and fresh air every day. “We didn’t evolve to sit on the couch with a computer in our laps all day long! Get your butt outside and move!” There’s no small amount of eye-rolling, but they hear me. They’ll go sit in the grass, or lie in the hammock, or take a bike ride, or stand with bare feet on the earth while I garden in the mornings. After years of Bossy Mom, they get it.
Why do I insist on this? Because we are meant to be in contact with the earth. Again, think about it: we evolved over 200,000 years outside, in the sun and air, with our bodies touching the soil and engaging with the plant and animal life. Now most of us spend 95-99% of our time inside, generally sedentary!
It’s important to be exposed to natural environments for your own immunity — in that the “biome” of the earth helps us keep our own “microbiome” diverse and robust! (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, start here.
There’s even research behind the idea of “earthing” —- that making direct contact with the electrical charge of the earth can offer healing for a variety of challenges.
Plus, our bodies have a chance to make Vitamin D in the way we are designed, through sun exposure on our skin.
I myself go barefoot in my yard, make a point to sit outside as much as I can (even in the Texas heat), and get at least 15-20 minutes of direct sun a day (generally in the morning).
I think we feel it more acutely than ever in this time of Covid-19 — we need each other! We are meant to have tribes and communities, to have contact with each other day-in-day-out. Not only is this healthy for our psychological well-being, it’s healthy for our immunity and our entire physiology. (That’s one of the painful ironies of the Covid-19 time — we have to be apart to stay healthy but we also need to be together to stay healthy.)
With myself and my kiddos, I insist on engaging with our small social bubbles. My kids need to be around other kids to stay happy and well, and I remind them of that. When they have time with a good buddy, I can feel the joy and ease radiating off of them. This is true for me too! A walk and talk with one of my best girlfriends is utterly satisfying and energy giving.
This can be boiled down into one simple thing: you need to be able to express what you think and feel.
I find this can come in so many forms, from simply sharing your heart with someone you love, to drawing with crayons on butcher paper, to punching a pillow while giving a hearty holler.
If you weren’t raised in a home where this was invited, it can feel nervous-making (or even terrifying). But I tell you, it’s important. Allowing things to flow — including your creativity — creates not only happiness, but also health, where bottling it all up can lead to discomfort and, I believe, disease.
Evolutionarily, most people had opportunity through song, dance, and ritual to be expressive. But these are largely gone from us — unless we go seek them out!
In our house I do all of it: sing at the top of my lungs, dance like a maniac, cry when I feel sad, share how I feel (ask the people closest to me, bless their patience!). I journal and do Emotional Freedom Technique. When my kids want to express, I do my best to stop and get present with them, so they feel invited to share fully.
I’m not perfect. In fact, I can be really clunky! But I know it’s important, and so I make a giant effort. (Besides, my barometer is my anxiety. If it’s high, I know I need to pause to see what’s going on in there, and I very likely need to express it!) This is where my many years in the theater come in handy!
Our stories are filled with characters expressing themselves, but a particular favorite is Libby & Dish: The Feel Guide.
Now listen to your Bossy Big Sister and eat your fruit and veg, drink a big glass of lemon water, put your feet in the grass, dance around your kitchen, call a friend to share your thoughts and feelings, and get some hugs today! And see if it doesn’t help.
I am not a medical professional. This is my own experience and doesn’t constitute medical advice.
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About the Author
Lisabeth Sewell has worn many hats at Sparkle over the years, from Sparkle Kitchen Blogger to Editorial Director to Doer of All Odd Jobs. Her primary role is as CEO.