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I love my birthday. I count down the months and days to my birthday. I celebrate my half birthday, even if no one else wants to celebrate with me.

And I figure the passing of another year is as good a time as any to reflect. 

So, with the passing of my 33rd birthday even though I still look like I might have just celebrated my 21st birthday, I decided to write down a few thoughts. Some are deep, some not so deep. 

But they are all things I’ve learned about health, wellness, and taking care of me.

A sort of manifesto, if you will.

I hope you can take away some lessons, too.

Stop caring what other people think when you don’t eat or you don’t eat what they’ve made.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten out of a sense of obligation. You might feel awkward turning down the food, but you’ll feel much better when you’re eating what you want to eat. So bring that smoothie to your meeting, order the salad without the cheese, bring your own food to the picnic. #youdoyou

Speak up for what you believe in.

I’m allergic to conflict. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t speak my mind when something is important to me. If you’re assertive instead of mumbling under your breath, you might be able to avoid similar situations in the future. 

Stop eating (or drinking) the things you know make you feel like shit.

If I had a dollar for every time I vowed I would never eat something (looking at you, pizza….and patatas bravas…and not-gluten-free beer…) because of how it made me feel…

Don’t worry about how fast or slow you’re going.

Time. We’re so worried about it. Stop watching the clock. It doesn’t make time go any faster or slower. Time goes at its own pace. And you should, too. Also, just because you’re not the fastest runner doesn’t mean you can’t run. 

Your body will tell you when something’s not right.

Your body is kind of amazing. It might take time to learn what those tummy aches or those stiff muscles or those sleepless nights mean. Some calls for help are louder than others. But learn to listen. 

Your mind and your body aren’t always on the same page.

Your mind will tell you to give up long before your body will. They’ve got competing interests sometimes. Decide which one you want to follow. The one that wants you to quit when the going gets a little tough or the one that says you’ve still got some fight left?

Try new foods because you never know what you’ll end up liking.

I used to hate coconut and the smell of it. I used to pick pickles and onions off of hamburgers. Now, I miss being able to eat coconut at all, I eat pickle spears like it’s my job (not so much the hamburgers), and I drool when I cut up onions. Tastes change.

You can get stronger as you get older.

Remember those Presidential Challenges in gym class? Yeah, I sucked at most of them. But I’m still getting stronger every year. Yes, I work at it, but that just means it’s possible if you try. You don’t have to wither away.

You can get faster as you get older.

Remember when you had to run a mile for the Presidential Challenge? Yeah, I barely got in under the time limit. You’ve heard me say this before, but I ran my fastest mile ever in my 30s. Getting older doesn’t have to mean slowing down.

Stress isn't something to take lightly.

Stress isn’t cool. Stress can mess you up. Especially as you get older. Stop trying to fight stress. Learn to manage it and avoid it as much as possible. And see below.

Stress messes with your digestion.

A good friend of mine made this connection for me. And when she did, it was a huge a-ha. Now I know better than to eat when I’m stressed out or anxious. And I’ve got “safe” foods that I can always fall back on in times of extreme stress.

The food you eat, no matter how healthy, can still be bad for you.

Your body is a special little thing. You can feed it all the healthy food you want. But it can still be sensitive to that healthy food. So, no matter how many chia seeds you’re shoving down its throat, if you can’t digest those chia seeds, it doesn’t matter if they’re healthy. They don’t work for your body. Deal with it and find what does work. 

You’ll almost never regret a workout.

Note to self: Just do it. Some days will be better than others. Some days will be a challenge. Some days, you’ll knock it out of the freakin’ park. But most days, you’ll never walk away wishing you hadn’t shown up.

Your body will tell you when it’s time to rest.

You’ll pull muscles. You’ll lose a toenail. You won’t be able to walk. Those are the days when you will regret a workout. Listen to your body and rest. 

Don’t be afraid of food.

Food is not the enemy. The way we classify food and pick it apart and determine how worthy we are by what we eat is the enemy. Food is fuel. If you treat it that way, it will be your friend forever. #bestfriendsforlife

Don’t feel like you need to count calories.

Counting calories was a major source of stress. I freaked out when I went over my daily allotment and assumed it was the end of the world. It’s not. Stop counting calories like that’s the only thing that matters. Eat real food and exercise. That’s what matters.

Don’t feel like you need to count macros.

Eat a balanced diet, but don’t analyze those 200 grams of carbs or those 30 grams of sugar. Not all carbs and sugars are created equal. No macronutrient calculator can understand that.

There is nothing wrong with saying no.

I’ve been a people pleaser for a long time. But being a people pleaser does nothing for me, except prove that I’m all about putting myself second. When I learned to say no because saying yes would make me miserable…game changer.

There is nothing wrong with needing time to yourself.

It took me a really long time to accept that I’m an introvert. An INFJ, a unicorn, if you will. I always knew I liked spending time alone and felt more comfortable doing so. But I wish I had leaned in to that need earlier instead of pretending to be someone I’m not.

Be you, no matter who’s looking.

Who cares what the self-professed cool kids are doing? You’ll find your tribe someday, and you don’t need people who think they’re better than everyone else only because they’re trying to be like everyone else make you feel bad about you. 

Understand that people will want to fuss even if you don’t.

It makes them feel better. Even if you’re totally chill, people need to fret and fritter and frustrate themselves. Remember that it’s not always about you, no matter how fabulous you might be. 

Stop weighing yourself.

A quick story to illustrate this very important point. My boyfriend calculated his BMI. It said he was obese. This is someone who’s been on a weight gain program and still gets weight gain shakes to this day. The numbers do not tell the whole story. The numbers do not define you. Neither does the size of your dress or your jeans. You are not a number.

Stop talking to yourself like you hate yourself.

I know, it’s cliche, but would you talk to your best friend like that? A kid? A cat? If you wouldn’t say it to someone you love, don’t say it to yourself. On a related note, you should love yourself more than anyone else, and you can’t really love anyone else until you love yourself. Circular logic but totally true. 

Don’t be afraid to give up.

There is nothing wrong with quitting something when you know it’s not working, when it’s not right for you, when it’s doing more harm than good. Whether it’s food, a job, or a relationship, there are some things you just have to let go of. 

Accept what scares you. But do it anyway (if you can).

I am terrified of being a business owner damn near every day. I was scared to quit my job. I’m nervous as shit showing up every day and putting myself out there. But I’m still doing it. I’m moving past the fear.

Buy a Vitamix sooner.

Best. Investment. Ever. I guess besides a house…?

Learn more about nutrition.

Why don’t they teach us about nutrition growing up? I had one nutrition class in college, and it was a blowoff course. No one else is going to teach you (unless you pay them) so you better damn well learn how to feed yourself properly.

Drink water.

Not pop or juice or iced tea. Just plain old water. You’ll be less hungry, you’ll feel better, and you’ll look better. And don’t just chug it after a workout or when you’re hungover.

You have to take care of yourself.

Stop relying on others to take care of you. Show up for yourself. Act on your behalf. No one else is going to look out for you the way you’ll look out for you. Don’t expect anything but do be grateful when you get something.

Learn to cook.

And, no, microwaveable meals and frozen meals that you technically cook on the stovetop don’t count. At the risk of sounding dramatic, making your own food is life changing. It’s powerful to make what you want and to know exactly what you’re eating. And you’ll feel better, too.

Eat. Preferably real, whole food. But eat.

Not eating doesn’t make you cool. It makes you hungry and sickly. It makes you cranky and weak. You and your body will get along much better when you feed it. 

Your body will change.

I didn’t want to believe this one, but over the last couple years, I definitely noticed changes. My metabolism started to slow down. I got weird aches and pains without reason. It will happen, but don’t hate your body for it. What worked in your 20s won’t work in your 30s. #findwhatfeelsgood

You’ll be flattered when you still get carded.

I’m still waiting for this one to come true…

TL;DR? (Testament to my oldness - just found out what this meant like last week.) Grab the Spark notes version below.