Monday, July 20, 2015

National Girlfriends' Day: Health Tips

Every day is a holiday we don't know about. This is true on a literal - I mean, who knew that July 24th is National Drive Thru Day - and a metaphorical level. This August 1st, however, I know exactly what I'll be celebrating: the CDC's National Girlfriends' Day, which emphasizes the power of friendship on health.

A snapshot from the CDC!
Now, "health" is a highly personalized and slippery subject. And that's why the support of a girlfriend can be so important. And why I choose to break down "health" into six ways I challenge and am challenged to live better every day.

Help one another through hard times. Perhaps even more challenging than physical is mental health. Sometimes it's just a bad day ending in frustrated tears, other times it can be bigger problems like the death of a loved one or a medical diagnosis. My freshman year of college, both fell right onto my lap as I battled complications from celiac disease at the same time as my grandfather suddenly passed away. At the time, I wasn't even healthy enough to fly to Texas for his funeral service.

All the throwbacks...
And that's where my girlfriends came in. My mom kept up my spirits though long phone calls and a little tough love. The girls at my dorm hugged me like they knew me for years, not weeks, and even spent an evening down at the cliffs to pray for my grandfather. And my best gal pals - Kendall especially - filled my life with (gluten free) food and local adventures and constant motivation. Everyone faces different challenges, but sassy sidekicks can improve most struggles.

Eat what makes you and your body happy. As I've learned to eat healthier by exploring the world of naturally gluten free foods (avocados, sweet potatoes, and salmon I'm looking at you!), I've enjoyed sharing my recipes even more. Whether that means on my blog, with my parents, or with friends in college, I like showing that healthy eating doesn't have to mean boring.

A few of my favorites!
But, as the battle over the universal benefits of a gluten free diet has shown, humans aren't designed to follow the same menu. This means that me, the celiac, rocks a completely different diet than my sister, gluten-r-us. And that's OK. My newest understanding of health means that everyone can be healthy while living off of different foods. So while I'm thrilled that my mom is trying out smoothies for the first time (a new, consistent love of mine), I don't force my meals on her or anyone else. A true girlfriend inspires healthier eating choices (plus a few treats!), but doesn't push that veggie mac and cheese down her friends' throats!

Attend your doctors' visits. I'll admit, I've attended more doctors' appointments at 19 years old than should be fair. A hospitalization for celiac complications, check ups on my weight, scans for bone density and celiac antibody blood tests. And, not surprisingly, hospitals are not one of my favorite places. But, my friends and family keep me accountable. The same way I hope I can for all of my girlfriends.

'Cause when it comes to ignoring the appropriate doctors' visits for your age group, ignorance really isn't bliss.. As this Roadmap to Health from Oscar Health insurance company* shows, acting as empowered women taking control over their health is the way to go!


To see a close up, click here!
Listen and learn from others. Some people hate hearing stories from their parents or grandparents, but I was never one of those people. And I hope more people are on my side, especially when it comes to learning about a family's health history and tips. From my grandma, I know the dangers of sun cancer. From my mom, the triumphs and trials of living with fibromyalgia.

And from me, I hope others will learn about celiac disease. What are the symptoms, how to get tested, how to survive once diagnosed, and how to thrive with it as a college student. Opposite to common thought, girlfriends gossip about more than boys, clothes, and food (the latter of which is always a favorite topic of mine). And that chitchat - this blog post and Oscar Insurance's check up outline - could even save or lengthen a life.

All ears?
Tackle the gym together. Some of my favorite memories from freshman year are hitting the weight room with my gals and kicking butt at group workouts. I never mind going to the gym alone, but I do work twice as hard when I see a friend rockin' her new Nikes next to me. Plus, the laughs must count as an extra ab workout, right?

When I want to catch up with friends, my first suggestion usually involves going for a walk. Whether its a long hike down a lake trail or a simple jaunt around my college campus, it exercises the jaw and the legs. And you never know. Moving from the typical "let's have lunch" routine could spark a new motivation to hit the gym. Either way, friends + movement = smiles (and maybe a few selfies!) nearly any way its done.

Walks, hikes, and trampolines!
Have fun! Stress can be just as unhealthy as an unbalanced diet or lack of exercise, so having girlfriends who aren't afraid of a little relaxation never hurts. One of the most important factors of being healthy is realizing that you man (or "woman") the controls. As I've written before, sometimes it seems like the body doesn't want to listen. Sometimes I've wondered if health is really within my control when a decently healthy life couldn't prevent celiac disease from breaking my body for a year post-diagnosis.

But, this National Girlfriends' Day and every week after, I'm celebrating my own empowerment. Celebrating how the encouragement of a friend can impact a life. How, by watching my eats and exercise and yearly check ups, I can keep smiling for years to come. And how its up to us - both as individuals and friends - to ensure those girls' nights stay on the calendar.

Laughs all around!
Cause spending Fridays happy and laughing with friends? Now that's what makes staying healthy worth it.


*Oscar Health currently offers insurance plans in New York and New Jersey and soon in Texas and California

What does "healthy" mean to you? How do your friends help you be healthy? Comment below!

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