Health isn't just nutrition and exercise

In this episode, Claire explores the concept of health, explains why nutrition is more than food and fitness, and breaks down the Flourish Pillars of Health.

Show Notes
  • Download our Pillars of Health worksheet (coming soon!)
Program note: Hey, glad you’re enjoying the podcast! In this episode, you might hear Claire talking about Nutritional Freedom and Foundations. Since we launched the podcast in 2020, we've undergone a makeover to improve the membership experience. For more, listen to our "And we're back! All the updates!" episode.

Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

When it comes to nutrition, does it feel like you know what to do, you're just not doing it? Or maybe you find yourself stuck in this annoying all or nothing cycle. If it sounds like I'm reading your diary, well, that was my diary for a while too. And it's also the story of the thousands of women I've personally coached.

That's why I created Flourish, the nutrition and body image support app made for women. If you recognize that diets don't work, but "just not dieting" isn't helping you feel your best either, download Flourish today. Your first live session with one of our credentialed nutrition and psychology experts is totally free, no credit card required.

From there, you'll continue your journey with personalized accountability and support so that once you graduate from Flourish, you'll never need another nutrition program again. So head to the show notes and download Flourish for iOS or Android today.

Coming soon!

We are in the process of adding transcripts to our entire back catalogue. New episode transcripts are typically available within 24 hours of the episode release.

Claire Siegel: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Flourish podcast. I am, as always, so incredibly delighted to be here bringing you another episode. I'm recording this end of day Tuesday. It's about 5:15, 5:30. I'm going to have some leftover Indian food for dinner that I'm pretty excited about. And, um, you know, life is good. Life is really good.

I am certainly feeling the urge to start preparing for the new year. Um, we actually had some meetings as a team today about ways that we'll be supporting our members and all of you, our podcast listeners, our audience on social, things like that. Um, how we can support y'all in the new year around setting goals that, you know, make you feel great. And are not gross diet-y goals, because we all know that those don't work. But anyway, that's really for, for next month.

But, you know, for me, the preparation for the new year looks like getting my digital planner sorted, doing some, you know, visioning exercises, really thinking about the goals that I want to set both personally and professionally over the next year.

You know, thinking about like frameworks and systems in my life, like checking in on my finances and, you know, taking notes on the books that I read. And just again, thinking about who do I want to become in the next year, like what identities do I want to really support? What habits and routines and goals kind of lend themselves to that type of person? How do my core values play into that? How do our business values at Flourish play into that? And I've just been in a super reflective state, and it's, it's quite nice.

Um, Jon and I are actually going on our first vacation in a while and one of our only international trips as a couple that we've actually ever made.

Which is so wild, but the kind of course of our relationship... we were together in Austin for about six months, then we ended up being long distance for almost two years when he went to business school. And then he came back, um, you know, when the world kind of flipped upside down in 2020, and then we've been kind of hunkered down at home, you know, getting married and working on Flourish together for the last almost two years.

And we've gone on some trips over the last year. We've traveled, you know, traveled domestically, and we've had some amazing trips, but we've worked on... all of them? At least like the longer ones. We went to Colorado, we went to The Bahamas, and... yeah, we worked on those trips. And I tell you, there's no faster way to ruin the restorative nature of vacations than to work on them.

And I've tried every which way to make working work on a vacation, and so with all of that, what I'm getting at here is that I am determined to make our upcoming trip—we're going to Mexico City. I'm determined to make our upcoming trip to Mexico City a non work vacation. Um, we actually had a leadership team meeting today, and I was like already talking about it, priming the team. And they're just so wonderful and supportive.

And, you know, I try to reflect that back to them. And when our team members go on vacation, like they are truly offline and we do not contact them. And I think that is just more and more important in the digital world that we live in.

So anyway. Yes, on my end all good things: getting ready for the new year, excited to share, you know, kind of behind the scenes of that with you, um, probably mostly on, on Instagram and then inside the membership, and excited to spend a little time with, with my boo offline. Just a couple of weeks, but that is neither here nor there. That is not the topic of conversation today.

In today's episode, I'm sharing a framework that we utilize inside the Flourish membership that I do think you're going to find useful as we head into the new year, start thinking about whether it's resolutions or intentions or goals or habits, whatever you want to call it.

The framework I'm talking about today with you is our Pillars of Health. Now, we do talk a lot about nutrition and food here on the podcast, but that's not necessarily the only thing that we support our members on inside of Flourish. This is often where we start—specifically, you know, starting with helping our members develop a healthy relationship with food and, you know, relatedly with their body because these two things really tend to be the biggest pain point our members are facing as they enter the membership. It's the thing that kind of takes up more of their time and energy and, you know, really what they want to work on.

But as our members, you know, start to get coached on their struggles with food, it often becomes clear that at least some of these challenges are exacerbated by another aspect of their... let's call it health behaviors, or, you know, in this case, another Pillar of Health.

Okay. Now, before we dig further into the Flourish Pillars of Health, I do want to zoom out just a bit and just talk about this concept of health. As someone who has a chronic illness... and you can learn more about my MS diagnosis in our recent episode called, "My decade of diets, plus five takeaways." As someone with a chronic illness, I've certainly spent some time contemplating this word, this idea of health... thinking about what it means for me personally, um, what it means for me about someone who works in the field as a dietitian, as a coach, as a founder of a women's wellness company. Um, and, and of course with that, what health really means in the context of the work that we do at Flourish.

So a definition of health that I quite like comes from the World Health Organization. They state that, "Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

And what I like about this definition, um, although it is not my own is that it kind of encompasses a few like overarching beliefs or, um, I guess, points of clarity, perhaps that I've had about health based on my own personal journey. And certainly that of, you know, the hundreds of women, um, that we've, we've supported at this point.

And, and I'll just share some of those. So one is that, you know, help of course is not just physical, but it's emotional and mental too. That was a huge kind of like awakening and epiphany for me. Certainly when I got my diagnosis. Um, and it's something that I think, more broadly, we've kind of woken up to, specifically in the last year and a half, which has certainly been trying on our emotional health, our mental health, and our physical health.

And I think a lot of us for the first time, or perhaps for, I guess, in the most kind of acute way, we've felt that personally over the last year and a half, 21 months, two years... it's been a long time.

Um, so another, you know, kind of truth that I think is perhaps baked in here, or certainly that I'd like to point out, um, is that health isn't binary. Okay? It's not simply about the presence or absence of illness or disease. You can have, you know, health episodes or flare-ups in which, you know, your health is not at it's kind of status quo level. Um, or you may be someone who has a diagnosis, but doesn't actually experience any sort of, um, symptoms or struggles as it relates to that.

You know, health, I think, again, it's not, it's not binary. It is not either/or, it is not black or white. It is very gray. It exists on, on a spectrum. And, and with that, you know, as the definition states health is a state and, it's a state that can ebb and flow with time. All right?

And, and the last thing I'll just point out or mention specifically, especially at this time of year, is that health isn't a goal. Um, but it's a value. It's something that guides your actions over time, rather than being kind of a one-time achievement that you can check the box on.

The other thing about health being a value is that it's a choice. I don't believe that everyone needs to value their health. And that sounds, perhaps, kind of brash. And, and, you know, while I, as a health professional and someone who personally values health, I certainly can see the benefits and, um, certainly, you know, wish for people to value their health. And I respect the values of individuals, you know?

And so I think it's really important that, you know, we don't necessarily push our value of health on, on others. You know? I imagine that you're here listening to this podcast because you value health in some way, shape, or form. And I'm here to help, you know, you partner in that, but again, it's not for me to decide. It's not for you to decide for someone else. And sometimes that can be a tough, a tough pill to swallow, but you certainly don't owe anyone your, your health. Okay?

So now that we've got a working definition of health, it's important that we touch on the concept of healthism. All right. Healthism could kind of be considered like a cousin of diet culture, and it was first defined in the 1980s by Robert Crawford as "the preoccupation with personal health, as a primary focus for the definition and achievement of wellbeing. A goal which is to be attained primarily through the modification of lifestyles."

And you can see how, you know, upholding healthism can lead to disorders like orthorexia, which is something we certainly need to be aware of when we're discussing health-promoting behaviors. And that is certainly something that we take into consideration inside of Flourish in terms of how we coach, the curriculum that we provide, and, and the, the spirit and, and ethos that we create inside our community.

Right, but that's also, you know, that's not the only risk or issue, I guess you could say, um, that comes along with kind of prescribing to healthism. So Lucy Aphramor, who is a PhD and dietitian and also the author, or co-author rather of Body Respect, summarizes healthism as "the belief system that sees health as the property and responsibility of the individual and ranks the personal pursuit of health above anything else."

Healthism ignores the impact of poverty, oppression, war violence, luck, historical atrocities abuse, and the environment which includes traffic pollution, clean water, et cetera. And healthism protects the status quo. It leads to victim blaming and privilege. It increases health inequalities and fosters internalized oppression. Healthism also judges people's worth according to their health.

And so I just want to really just be mindful of this idea of healthism and perhaps bring awareness to you because I think there is this potential for kind of a dark side, um, both individually and socially when it comes to prioritizing health.

And certainly when it comes to prioritizing health above all else. That again, I just want to, to provide some context on or, you know, encourage awareness of all right. And while your individual behaviors and choices impact your health, your choices are not the only, or even the most impactful factor when it comes to health, right?

There are so many other factors here, whether it's genetics or your biology, um, your financial status, your education, your access to healthcare, your environment, your housing, your social and family situation, any discrimination or stigmatization that you face of course is going to impact your health. We could go on and on and on with the many factors that impact your health, especially when we recognize that health is not just physical, but mental and emotional as well.

Clearly some—if not many—of these factors are either out of your control as an individual, or they're far bigger than you, right? Some of this kind of social or more systemic level of, of health inequity can often feel hard or even impossible to tackle as an individual.

And of course, to the extent that you can, I encourage you to create the impact that you are resourced to by, you know, whether it's voting or practicing anti-racism or working on your own internalized biases, whatever the case may be.

Do that. And let's come back to these individual health behaviors, because even with this awareness around diet culture and healthism and systemic injustices in the health system and, and, you know, the world at large, I believe, and I would imagine if you're listening to this podcast, you probably believe that you can still choose to prioritize your own wellbeing by engaging in healthy habits, because you want to. Because engaging in healthy habits help you feel your best. Because it aligns with your values. Because it allows you to show up in your life and in the world, the way that you want to show up. Okay?

I'm not saying that individual health behaviors don't matter, and I'm also saying that they're not the end-all, be-all to a quality life. And they're certainly not the end-all, be-all to health. Okay?

So with all of that context, that lovely foundation that we've laid, let's get to the Pillars of Health. This is the health behavior framework that we guide our members through. Our pillars—there are six. They are: number one, non-diet nutrition and hydration. Number two, movement. Number three, sleep. Number four, stress management. Number five, community. And number six, core values. I'm going to walk through each one, just to kind of contextualize and explain what I mean. And then we'll kind of talk about what to do with this information. All right?

So let's start with non-diet nutrition and hydration. What I mean here, when it comes to nutrition, simply, nutrition accounts for the type and amount of food that you eat to feel your best physically, mentally, and emotionally.

And that's going to look different from person to person, and that's, you know, what, we help you kind of figure out inside of Flourish. Now on the hydration side of things, ensuring that you're hydrated and experiencing, you know, the proper balance in your body of water and electrolytes is truly one of the easiest and most effective ways to feel good. All right?

That brings us to movement. This includes all types of physical activity, both meaning kind of exercise, whether it's running, biking, weightlifting, yoga, Zumba, whatever your jam is. So there's exercise, but then there's also just activities of daily living. You know, perhaps stretching or walking, going up the stairs, standing, gardening, again, whatever your vibe is. All right?

Regular movement is, is important for our long-term health and, and certainly, um, disease prevention, all right?

Sleep. You know, I don't want to choose favorites, but I think that sleep might be the most impactful. At least it certainly is for me. Let me just... I'll, I'll stop right there, and I'd encourage you to reflect upon that.

So sleep is essential for basic maintenance and repair of so many systems in our body, including neurological system, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal, digestive. When you sleep is the time in which your body kind of takes out the trash. Right?

So we've perhaps on the podcast... I can't remember... we talked about why you don't need to like, do detoxes and cleanses, um, because your, your liver and kidneys do that for you. Well, a lot of this is happening during sleep. This is when your body is detoxing itself of metabolic waste and other kind of bodily toxins.

Good sleep also is going to enhance your memory and your mental clarity. It'll boost your mood and energy. It improves immune function, helps you deal with stress better. Sleep is... sleep is the magic potion. Well, okay... maybe not, maybe not. I should take that back, but sleep is good. Sleep is important. All right?

I'm on like a big sleep kick right now. Maybe you've seen my Instagram posts about it.

Okay, that actually brings us quite nicely to stress. One of the biggest strains on our mental health and our physical health actually is, is chronic stress. And certainly in Flourish, we find that when you take a proactive role in managing or even mitigating stress, you're going to see how that can make, you know, pursuing or prioritizing the other Pillars of Health so much more manageable, enjoyable, and—you know our favorite word—sustainable. Okay?

Community. Your family, your friends, your coworkers, your community at large, whether it's like your neighborhood, your town, your city, your state. All these people are undoubtedly a very important part of your life. And I think it's really important that when you're kind of thinking about how you approach health, it's important to think about how these people do or perhaps don't fit into the puzzle. Okay?

Lastly are your values. So I believe we've done episodes on values. We've done a lot of episodes at this point, y'all. I used to like, remember every single one. Now I'm like, I think we've talked about that somewhere down the line...?

But anyway, your values are really your compass, right? Your compass that guides the decisions that you make. Your values are what's most important to you in life. They give meaning to your actions. Sometimes your values can even provide kind of like this invisible source of motivation, right? Can help again, just kind of guide you in the direction and kind of down the path that you want to lead. And it's very important again, when you're kind of thinking about strategies for implementing health behaviors that you take your values into consideration.

So those are the pillars. Again: number one, non-diet nutrition and hydration. Number two, movement. Number three, sleep. Number four, stress management. Number five, community. And number six, core values.

Now inside of Flourish, just to give you kind of like a behind-the-scenes of what we do with these pillars. We early on in the program, we help our members create clear and sustainable goals around, you know, a couple pillars at a time. You do not want to really tackle all of these at once and you don't have to.

And then after completing that goal setting exercise, each week our members complete a form as a way of leveraging both internal accountability by way of filling it out, and then also external accountability since our coaches review and offer feedback on these forms each week.

Now if you're not a Flourish member yet and want support working through the pillars and implementing a strategy that really works for you so you can kind of create balance here without veering into that scary, toxic healthism place, there's a link in the show notes. Duh. As a podcast listener, you get early access. So check that out.

But for now, while you're here, I would encourage you to do two things. Number one is to think about how these pillars may be interconnected for you. That's one of the best things about the pillars and why I say you don't need to focus on all of them at once.

So for example, many people find that when they exercise, they tend to prioritize their nutrition more.

Okay? Boom. Movement and nutrition, linked. Okay? That one's kind of easy though. Let's, let's look at some others. Perhaps sleep and stress management are linked for you. You find that you're much more resilient towards everyday stressors when you're well slept. Or you find that when you're stressed, you don't sleep as well. This, again, for me is a big one.

Another connection point that may occur for you is movement and sleep, right? When you move more, you sleep better. When you don't sleep well, it's hard to get you to move. And, and in many cases I would suggest that you don't, you know, certainly engage in, uh, extreme exercise or intense exercise.

Perhaps—this is a big one—community and movement. If you have a workout buddy, you're much more likely to exercise. And if you don't have that source of accountability... less likely. And if you kind of start stacking these together, you recognize... okay, community, movement, nutrition are linked or movement, sleep, and stress management are linked.

And this is what I mean. There's this like kind of positive ripple effect that can occur by simply focusing on one or two pillars at a time. So that's the second thing I want you to do. Select one... let's say one. We're at December. Select one pillar to focus on for the rest of the year. Commit to a small, sustainable habit as it relates to that pillar. And monitor, you know, notice, observe how it impacts the rest of the pillars. Okay?

And we've got two things for you in the show notes. One, again, is a link to sign up to be a Flourish member. Um, with that you get a free seven day trial and you kick things off with a free initial strategy session with a coach. Those are powerful, powerful sessions. I really encourage you to check that out.

Um, and then we've also included our Pillars of Health guide. This is a totally free download for you. It has some of the information that I shared here, along with a habit tracker that you can take with you, all right?

Now, I hope you've enjoyed this week's episode of the podcast. I'm so grateful to you for being here. I would love your thoughts, your feedback. Send me a DM on Instagram, and I'll see you next week! Bye!

Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

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Claire Siegel
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.

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