Elle and Jessica attend high school in the Bay Area (as juniors), are dedicated athletes, and have a truly balanced approach to living healthy. I was excited to interview them because they are kind, loving, wise beyond their years, and highly entertaining. I was absolutely blown away by their insightful recommendations on how to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life, and their perspective on the importance of comprehensive wellness. I cannot believe how much high school has changed since I went :-0. I hope you learn from them as much as I did!
DEFINING HEALTH: What does being healthy mean to you?
Mind + Body. Being healthy means both mind and body. You need to have a good, stable balance of physical, mental and emotional health so you have the right mindset for the day. It’s important to have strong relationships with those around you and to surround yourself with healthy influences. Working out also greatly improves your mental health (from your body releasing endorphins).
Personal approach. Health is different for each individual and unique for each person. It is not defined by society or looking or feeling a certain way. Everyone’s level of fitness is different, and each person will have individual goals and levels of accountability.
CHALLENGES: What challenges do you face at this stage in your life in prioritizing your health and wellness?
Embracing a healthy mindset: Many high schoolers have the wrong idea of what being healthy is. They celebrate drinking, partying, laying in bed and watching Netflix. It is cool to be ‘bad at school’ and is becoming normal to be lazy and depressed. The challenge is NOT adopting this mindset or way of living, and being okay with standing out for the right reasons. If you are physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, then no one else’s opinions should matter. It’s not healthy (or worth it) to have a high school party lifestyle.
Finding the right friends: High schoolers think that they won’t have friends if they don’t drink or do drugs, but that isn’t true. You can be a better friend; and can be a truly healthy version of yourself. You don’t need 50 friends—you just need one good person in your life. One good person is better than 100 mediocre ones. You need to be vulnerable so you can find that person, even if it’s tough to open up to others.
Body image traps: It’s trendy to be as skinny as possible and not eat. Vaping, drinking coffee and chewing gum are used to suppress hunger. Social media influencers present perfect bodies, which takes a huge toll on students’ mental and physical health. They stay on their phone (and remain anxious and depressed) instead of finding ways to improve their health. It is too easy to have an eating disorder—looking at one photo on social media or a comment from someone can derail you. Eating disorders aren’t talked about enough—they are increasing, prevalent among athletes, and aren’t discussed with men.
SUCCESSES: What have you found to work or be successful in living healthy or achieving your wellness goals?
Staying active. Sports help keep you in shape and improve your mental health.
Taking rest days. Make sure to take a rest day—both a physical and mental one. Homework, school, stress and other burdens lead to mental fatigue. Dedicate an entire day for you or you will get overworked. A long weekend in nature refreshes you and gives you time to chill out.
Sleep. Getting sleep is huge—not enough students are getting enough sleep. Out of my entire psych class, I was the only one who wasn’t sleep deprived. Make yourself go to bed at 10:30 or a reasonable time so you can get the rest you need.
Being around others. Surround yourself with those who care about you, and open up to them if you are struggling. Attend church services, support groups, and reach out to friends for social interaction.
Being vulnerable. Being vulnerable is important so you don’t bottle things up inside, which can make them worse. Do what you need to do to be mentally healthy—talk to someone, journal, whatever it is.
Limiting device time. Take a breather from your phone. Limit social media as it consumes your time. If I start my day with a walk, I will feel amazing, versus watching a show or 10-minute video (that leaves me feeling lazy, sad or ‘off’ the rest of the day).
PRIORITIZING: How do you find time to make health a priority?
Make it. You just gotta make it. You have to build it into your schedule or you won’t find it—or you’ll make excuses. It’s making the time, not finding it. 5 minutes of meditation is okay.
Manage it. Look at your screen time and think about how you could be doing something else with that time. Setting a consistent schedule can help you make time for things that you enjoy and keep you healthy.
Practice it. Make it a habit! Forcing yourself to do things in a healthy pattern will keep you motivated and happier. Wake up earlier in the day if you need time for yourself. Partnering with others can keep you accountable.
RECOMMENDATIONS: What advice do you have for someone in your life stage to live a healthier, fuller, more abundant life?
Lifestyle: Drop the societal things…healthy bodies aren’t defined by looks or by weight. Imperfections need to be normalized. If you’re not perfect, then you don’t think you’re good enough or okay or healthy (which is not true). Be open with yourself and others around you. And be more loving to yourself.
Mindfulness: Think of everyday as its own, and take it one day at a time. ‘For today, I will’ and don’t worry so much about upcoming days and responsibilities. Knowing that there is a higher power above you [Jesus] who is in control also helps. Manage your mental health: Don’t start each day on social media, look for the good, and be grateful for what you have (not what you don’t have).
Fitness: Don’t make excuses. But listen to your body and make sure you don’t overdo it—some days do less and some days do more. You don’t have to push yourself every day. Be active and outside, getting in both strength and cardio.
Nutrition: Eat healthy, nutritious foods—eat good foods that taste good. Also have a day where you treat yourself, just not all the time. Feel good about eating both salads and ice cream sandwiches. It comes down to mindfulness and listening to what your body needs. Food is fuel for your body and mental exercise is fuel for your brain.
Clean Living: Do not put anything on your body that you would not consume. If I cannot pronounce what I’m saying, I will not eat or use it. Pay attention to what products are made of —clean products can be more expensive so you might need to save up to incorporate them into your existing routine. You can also DIY and make a lot of products yourself with everyday grocery items.
Rest: Get a good night’s sleep. It is popular to be sleep deprived but rest days are important so your muscles can grow. Your muscles and body need to rest, or they will be overworked, and you can lose motivation.