It’s been well over 30 years in the health and wellbeing industry for me, and I have to say I have pretty much loved every day of it. There have been some challenges, some frustrations, some poor choices, some direction changes and some uncertainty, but I have loved the journey, nevertheless. As I reflect on my time, and what I have learned in the process of helping people reach higher levels of wellbeing, there is one thing I know for sure. That is this; no matter what you put in your mouth, do for exercise or change with your lifestyle, optimal wellbeing is not possible if you don’t love yourself.

After everything I have learned about eating, exercise, and all the other physical elements of getting into shape, and what I have observed about people who are living wonderful lives of optimal wellbeing and those who are not, I now know for a fact that it is an inside job. I have seen far too many people, including yours truly, thinking they could eat and exercise their way to acceptance, validation and self-worth. I was a crazy over-trainer and extreme eater, worried that if I missed a training session, or put even the smallest piece of indulgence-type food into my body, it would show, I would ruin all my hard work and not be admired. I ate super clean, I trained regularly, and you would look at me and say, ‘That guy is super healthy.’ You may think twice, however, if you knew what was happening in my head and consequently in my body.

In my head were doubts about how I looked and concern that I would not be admired. In my body was fear, stress and anxiety that was wreaking havoc on my immune system, my DNA and the other hormones and physiological processes in my body. Let me tell you this, and I want you to hear it loud and clear; no amount of salad, vegetables, steamed fish or chicken can compensate for self-loathing, and, the stress, anxiety, fear and resentment it causes. So, are you ready for my prescription for optimal wellbeing and joyful longevity? Here it is; feed yourself love and actively move towards self-worth.

The way we eat and what we put into our bodies is often a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. The extreme way I was eating, was a reflection of my insecurity and need to be admired. In my recent podcast conversation, ‘Building a positive relationship with food,’ with Craig Harper, he talks about his young years as ‘a fat kid.’ He describes how, even though he knew he shouldn’t be eating it, he would consume three meat pies, because, and I quote, ‘It would make me feel f#@&ing amazing for 20 minutes of the day.’ He then when on to say, ‘for the other 1420 minutes of that day, I felt ashamed.’ Why did Craig eat the three pies? It was self-loathing. The only way he could get any comfort to ease his turmoil was in that instantaneous moment of gastronomic pleasure.

I would ask you to assess, not the food you eat, but the inner voice that moves you to the choices you make. It is a firm belief of mine that all food is good. Of course, some we should eat more of and some we should eat less of. But, make no mistake about it, the food is not responsible for the results you experience in your life, it’s the feeling that moves you to eat the food that will determine your level of wellbeing and the quality of your life. Three meat pies did not chase Craig down the street, back him into a corner, hold him down and force their way into his mouth. He chose to eat them, to help ease his feelings of self-loathing. Craig is now in a very different place in his life and eats in a wonderfully balanced fashion, which includes some indulgence. He does it naturally and normally, because he has learned to love himself.

I have moved from my extreme way of eating to a far more enjoyable and balanced approach, which definitely includes, chocolate, alcohol and all the good stuff. Why am I in a better place with my eating? Because I love me! It has taken time, it’s been challenging, but I can honestly say, I love and value myself and I am worth looking after.

Right now, as you are reading this, I would ask you to monitor your self-talk. What are you saying to you? When you ask yourself how you feel about yourself, what is your answer to you? This is the place to start if you want to live a life of joy, wellbeing and longevity. Feed yourself positive words, audios, blogs, books and feelings, and, when you do, you will start feeding yourself in a way that will fuel and fortify your body. This is a big topic that I have covered very briefly in this blog, but my message to you is that you are good enough and worthy to be loved. When you start feeling that way, you will love yourself to optimal wellbeing.