"I think growing up, my entire life, being healthy... was inextricably linked to, 'you're doing that because you want to lose weight'." Show of hands if that sounds familiar? Yup, thought so. Whatever the reason, we're going to go out on a limb here and say that we, as women, have the tendency to take healthy habits, and distort them to their most extreme in the name of numbers on the scale. Whether it's compulsively exercising, bandwagoning on and off of temporary diets, arbitrary food rules, and just about any feeling of guilt and shame around the combination of the two—it's real, and we're willing to bet no matter what size you are or have been, you've found yourself there at one point or another.
When we say that we're kicking off the month of January with 'physical health week', we do mean physical health in its truest sense—not bikini body week, or weight loss week. In fact, we like to think that our approach to health and wellness coverage (hopefully? Tweet us your thoughts @thecoveteur) embraces that most of us have a weak spot for cheese plates and skipping the gym for Netflix; but we ultimately feel our best when we make time for exercise and eating well—scales be damned (feeling our best in whatever we're wearing is the true test, after all). In that spirit, we sat down to discuss just that with blogger and all around babe Gabi Gregg (who you may know as Gabi Fresh) over bottles of 50 Shades of Green at Kreation Kafe, just off Abbot Kinney in Venice. We talked about everything from goal-setting to staying healthy while travelling, Paleo-ish diets, mental health and self care, Instagram hate, and maintaining your health regardless of numbers. Because eating greens and hitting the gym doesn't always mean losing weight—and that's okay. As Gregg puts it, "as long as you're being kind to yourself."
On how she first start blogging (& learned about body positivity):
"I've been [interested in plus-size fashion] for ten years. I was very into LiveJournal, and I loved the forums there, so I got introduced to body positivity through those forums. There was a community built around sharing outfits. I was a part of many communities, and one of them was a body positivity community, where I was introduced to other girls who were plus-sized, but still loved fashion. My outfits always had a really positive response, and I had many people tell me I should start a blog; when I couldn't find a job after graduation I thought it'd be a great time to explore that, thinking it would be helpful because at the time there were very few resources for plus size women,especially for younger ones who were interested in trendy fashion."
On the improvements the industry's made over the years:
"I've definitely seen an improvement [in clothing for plus-sizes]. When I started blogging, there were so few options for us younger girls. It was so difficult! I can't even explain how difficult it was to shop or find anything trendy. Now it's much easier, and I think bloggers had a lot to do with it. Because of the Internet, we could share our pictures, we could share our demands, write on brand's Facebook walls, use hashtags, to get them to pay attention. I've had brands literally tell me, 'you're the reason we started making more stylish [plus-size] clothes'. All of the places that I shop now didn't exist then. There's still a very long way to go, but even in the last year, things have gone even more mainstream. You're seeing such huge media coverage about body positivity. 2015 really seemed to be the year people started paying attention."
On why rejecting the idea of 'dressing for your body type' is so important:
"[Rejecting fashion rules] has been a main ideal behind my blog. I think rejecting those ideas is the first step in reclaiming your body and your sense of style. So many of us feel limited by what we've been told our entire lives about what we're not supposed to wear, that once you get rid of that, you can be free to really start exploring fashion in style in a way that's your own."
On getting over our obsession with numbers:
"Once you get over this obsession with numbers and size, and you actually like yourself—which takes a lot of work, don't get me wrong—it's so freeing. You're free to focus on your health, the nutrients in your food, what's good for you, without feeling pressure tied to that to a certain number.
I think growing up, my entire life, being healthy when you're plus-sized was inextricably linked to, 'you're doing that because you want to lose weight'. You're eating a salad? That's because you want to lose weight. You're going to the gym? That's because you want to lose weight. It really messes with your head because if you quote-unquote 'fail', or you don't lose a number, you quit. And that's not good! It took so long for me, even after liking myself, to get over that. Eventually, because you like yourself and you don't want to go backwards, for me, I saw going to the gym all the time as something that was going to mess me up, or backslide. I think really educating myself—and not the education we get from mainstream media—about the importance of health, and the importance of exercising and eating well, has really changed things."
On her go-to way to hydrate (and squeeze in her 8-a-Day):
"Kreation is one of my places to go for green juice, and I'm not doing green juice as a fad. I know some people make fun of it, but for me, it's part of my life. I'm lucky to live somewhere that makes it convenient, but I either make juice at home, or get one, almost daily––I try to make a daily part of my life. It's not about cleansing all the time, it's about adding that to what I'm already eating. It's less about limiting yourself, and more about what can I add to my diet to make it more healthy, more nutritious."
On how she defines health & wellness:
"For me, it's all about how I physically feel, and mentally. I struggle with mental health issues, and I've been open about it on my blog. I have ADD, and so when I have a diet that's high in sugar and processed foods, without any balance, I can definitely feel that. When I'm eating more nutritiously, that's when I feel my best."
On how to set goals when you're not focusing on a number:
"I think it's okay to have goals. Even in the New Year, I think people are always like, that's so stupid'. It's just about making sure that those goals are realistic, and hopefully not focusing on a number. With fitness, I know I could be doing better, and that's not because I want to lose weight. It's because I haven't been to the gym in a while, and I like how I feel when I make that a priority, so yes, that's a goal for me."
On staying healthy while on the road:
"[Staying healthy while traveling] is probably my biggest hurdle. It's really tough for me. I just try not to beat myself up about it, because I know how unhealthy stress and anxiety is. [It's all about] being kind to yourself, and that's one thing the body positivity movement has really taught me—it's okay to be nice to yourself! You don't have to be in that cycle of eating so rigidly, and if you mess up, you're a horrible person—that's kind of the messaging that we get growing up. I cut that out.
It's all about planning and preparing, and because I have ADD that part's really hard for me. Almost every time I get off track with my goals, it's because I've been traveling."
On finding the right lifestyle for you; regardless of what works for everyone else:
"The biggest thing is learning about what is truly helpful. For me, that means doing a lot of research: reading different studies, and just trying different ways of eating that feel good to me. Cutting certain things out isn't good for everyone, I would never make a blanket recommendation, but I personally feel great when I follow something similar to a Paleo diet––I know there's huge improvements in how I feel when I do that. I don't think it's one size fits all. Apply different things to your life and see what feels best. For a while I was vegan, or vegetarian, and I did not feel great. I have two best friends who have vegan, and I don't in any way try to tell people what works for them. We're all so diverse when it comes to our health and our biology."
On focusing on whole foods over calories:
"Between high school and college, I went to a weight loss training thing, held at a doctor's office, with nurses, and they recommended things that I later learned were horrible! Because it was all about weight loss, they were recommending things like diet soda. It was all based on calories instead of nutrition, so I had no nutritional education. As long was something was sugar free, or low in calories, it wasn't bad for you, and learning that that wasn't correct later in life was really big for me. It was all the stuff you hear, Jenny Craig-type things. You're counting points or calories, but you're not focused on getting in whole foods."
On how she deals with hate & instagram comments:
"Health shouldn't determine how kind you are to somebody. Or how important somebody is. Or how valuable someone is. And that's a really dangerous road to take, to start saying someone doesn't [look] healthy. All these assumptions we make about people—we don't know who's healthy and who's not just based on looking, and if someone's not healthy, that's not really your business!
Let's talk about nutrition, let's talk about movement, let's talk about how we can get Americans more educated; but one way you're not going to solve a health problem is by telling them that they're fat. I actually think that does more harm than good, if not in a physical way, in a mental way, and we don't talk about mental health in this country enough. Girls and women of all ages message me telling me they were literally suicidal and my blog helped them. If you really care about someone's health, going to them and telling them they're fat and to kill themselves is not helpful. We've had a culture around shame and bodies in this country for so long, and if telling people they were fat and disgusting worked, everyone would be thin. Clearly, that's not what we need to be doing."
On her advice to anyone looking to get healthier:
"Education is key. We're inundated with this idea that if you're a certain size and doing something quote-unquote healthy for your body, it's automatically for weight loss. It doesn't have to be, and that's actually a big idea [to grasp] for someone. I've had girls tweet me that they've literally never even thought about that! They've never framed it in that way, that they could just go to the gym to feel better, because it's good for them in every single way, mentally, especially. It's okay to pursue health, and it doesn't have to be about weight. It's about trying things out and seeing those results—and by results, I don't mean numbers, but how you feel. I think it's great for girls to say I want to lift this much, I want to go faster, or I want to run a 5K by April. As long as you're aware and conscious of that balance, and being kind to yourself."