Health Advice I Wish I Could Give to My 20-Year-Old Self

If I met my 20-year-old self, I wouldn't recognize me. I weighed 40 pounds more, and I'm sure at least 10 were divided between my face and my boobs. I was tired all the time, ate Swedish Fish by the bagful, was constantly bloated and gassy, had trouble sleeping, and was so miserable. I knew I could be feeling and looking better, but I just didn't know what to do. Time has been good to me, and once I found yoga, a healthier diet, running, and a healthier attitude, at 39 years old, if time travel was a realistic option, here's the advice I'd share with my younger self.

POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Barnes

Dear Me,

I know you're not happy. You wish things were different. Please don't wait 10 years to make a change. You'll probably roll your eyes at me quoting Oprah, but it's time to "live your best life," and here's how:

  • Love yourself. Every action and every thought, make it tender and supportive. That fragile, little voice inside is listening intently, being shaped by your every judgment — feel good about what she hears.
  • Quit being critical of your body. You spend way too much time nitpicking what you hate and comparing yourself to others — spend that time celebrating the awesomeness that is you. What you look like isn't as important as you think because the size of your jeans is no measure for the size of your heart.
  • Trust your instincts. You know in your heart what's good for you (like not going to bed at 3 a.m., or baking on the beach with no sunscreen). Don't be afraid to follow your gut, even if it goes against what other people are doing.
  • Stop caring about what other people think. Let hurtful, crushing comments roll off you like water on a duck's back. You don't need anyone's approval to know your value. Choose to spend time with people who lift you up. Negativity is contagious. So is positivity.
  • Do things that make you feel beautiful. When you feel strong, confident, and full of life, it shows.
  • Don't let insecurities prevent you from trying new things or doing what makes you happy. Looking good in a bathing suit is not a prerequisite for being good at surfing. Whatever you've been itching to try — signing up for that half-marathon, taking snowboard lessons, or traveling an hour away to try flying yoga — if you don't do it now, it may never happen
  • Stop eating crap, and so much of it. Living on your own is exciting with no one telling you how to eat. You can have doughnuts for breakfast and ice cream for dinner! But if you don't start eating a balanced diet now, it's going to take years to lose the weight you've piled on.
  • Move every single day, and make it a priority. Some days run five miles, some days take a walk. Life looks different from a bike seat or standing at the top of a mountain, and you'll experience things and meet people you never would have met before. If you start now, it'll become a habit. Make sure it's fun so you stick with it.
  • Use fitness as therapy. Endorphins are powerful things, and they're a healthy way to boost your mood when you're feeling down or upset — way healthier than polishing off an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's. And bonus points for working out in nature — it amplifies the benefits.
  • Take care of yourself every single day. With every bite you eat and every minute you spend, ask yourself, "Is this nourishing my body and soul?"
  • Change isn't as scary as you think. It may seem brutally hard at first, but it gets easier, I swear, and it's totally worth it.
  • Seek help. No one said you have to go at it alone. A strong support system will get you further than you can go on your own.
  • Arm yourself with information. Don't just go by assumptions about how you think you need to lose weight — you waste a lot of time making mistakes and even more effort being unhappy about it. Ask experts so you can start seeing progress and stop feeling frustrated.
  • Never stop feeling like you're 20. Don't become too preoccupied with becoming an "adult." Keep that creative and fun energy going strong, because your mental health is equally as important as your physical health.
  • Appreciate your changing body and all that it's able to do. If you think you're unhappy with the way your body looks now, just wait until things start descending and expanding as you become older and throughout your two pregnancies (yes, you're a mom, congrats!). Your body will never be perfect, so celebrate its changes and stop wasting time and energy on wishing for what can't be. Love your body for what it brings to your life.

PS: I love you. Even though it may not feel like that right now — it took me a long time to realize that — I love you. I appreciate you for you and all the things you've allowed me to experience and learn. I feel like at almost 40, I'm just getting started with taking life by the horns, so thanks for the beautiful head start.