The Three Wellness Levels: How To Do Healthy By Making Your Life Easier
I spent a lot of time trying to solve this puzzle:
If being healthy is supposed to make us feel good, why are so many people avoiding or exhausted trying to get healthy? Why is it so hard?
This is what I’ve realized:
There are 3 levels when it comes to a wellness journey, yet our society makes it seem like there are only two. Level 1 (I’ll Do It…Tomorrow) and 2 (The Bandwagon) are both unappealing and uncomfortable, so it's no wonder that the norm is to be sick, overweight, and/or unhappy!
If you don't know and believe that Level 3 (Life Boost!) is possible for you, then there's a good chance you'll think it's normal when your approach feels hard and uncomfortable. The point of being healthy is to feel BETTER mentally and physically, so if attempts at making healthy changes makes your life harder of course it’s not sustainable.
One quick note: when I talk about health I’m not just talking about weight or nutrition. I am talking about your overall well-being: how you feel inside and out. Every aspect of your life influences your health and your health influences all aspects of your life. It’s impossible to focus on one thing without impacting the others.
I live a very healthy lifestyle and a lot of people make one or both of these assumptions:
- I rely on a bucketload of discipline and willpower
- I’m lucky that being healthy comes so easily to me
Neither of those assumptions are true!
In the past, I did try the discipline and willpower approach in Level 2 – many times, because I’m stubborn and I didn’t know Level 3 existed. 😅 I thought it was supposed to be hard, which is why I got sick like clockwork at the start of every vacation, had shingles in high school, injured myself running a marathon so that I could barely walk, suffered from random crippling stomach aches for years, and eventually reached the lowest point in my life when I regretted everything I had worked hard for and felt physically exhausted.
I know Level 2 VERY well, which is why I now help others unchain themselves from it.
Being healthy does come very easily to me now – but I wasn’t always this way. Everything I do now, I didn’t used to do. That means you can absolutely be one of those people who others assume has always been super healthy because you make it look natural. By the end of this post, you’ll see why.
The Old Me:
I grew up eating Eggos, Pop Tarts, and bagels for breakfast and I hated running. Yoga, meditating, and journaling seemed totally unappealing. I had ice cream every night and thought people who had fruit for dessert were delusional. I wore my constant stress, perfectionism, and inability to sit still as a badge of honor and the key to success, and yet I also suffered from imposter syndrome. It felt cringy to take a selfie or to draw any attention to myself, and no matter what size or how fit I was I always focused on the parts of my body that I wished were different.
Now I jump out of bed at 4:30 excited for the day. I journal, meditate, work out, go for a walk outside, have a dance party, and eat a giant “breakfast bowl of goodness” before work all because I want to and it makes me really happy and ready to conquer the day. Despite encountering stressful events, putting myself out there, and being seen in ways my previously ultra-introverted self never would have dreamed of, my baseline stress level is very low.
None of that happened overnight, and it’s 100% possible for you regardless of what your brain may be telling you right now. The first step is to understand why things have felt hard and to start allowing yourself to be open to the possibility that Level 3 is possible for you.
Here's what you need to know about the Wellness Levels:
Level 1: "I'll Do It... Tomorrow"
In Level 1: "I'll Do It...Tomorrow", life feels overwhelming and your idea of what "healthy" will entail seems too intimidating or exhausting. Level 1 feels safe, but uncomfortable. Safe because taking on anything new feels like too much. Uncomfortable because you don’t feel good in your body and you always have a nagging underlying thought that you "should" be taking better care of yourself. To feel better, you promise yourself you’ll start tomorrow or as soon as ____”. You're afraid of failing or disappointing yourself.
In Level 1 there’s so much pressure that it’s holding you down from being able to move forward. Your energy tank is empty.
Level 2: "The Bandwagon"
In Level 2: "The Bandwagon", you're proud that you're making healthy changes, but it feels really fragile. You rely on discipline and willpower, and you're motivated by self-judgement. You feel on track and successful, but it’s also exhausting and never enough. External things like the number on the scale, praise from others, or how much you accomplish in a day determines how you feel about yourself. "Cheating" on your healthy habits helps you to stay on track, because sometimes you need a break from "being good".
Level 2 is like a pressure cooker – you carry around the pressure as it builds up inside of you. You can’t stay in Level 2, because there’s only so much pressure you can carry. There are 3 options:
- You try putting up with the pressure until something in your life that was adding pressure has to give and you go back to Level 1 (since there is so much pressure build up this results in a big release like not wanting to go anywhere or do anything, overeating “bad” food, etc.)
- You use discipline and willpower to stay in Level 2 despite your body’s warning signs that it’s too much pressure. Something in your body eventually buckles under the pressure in the form of injuries, weird signs in your body, burnout, etc.
- You recognize the pressure building and release and let go of unnecessary pressure to uplevel to Level 3
In Level 2, trying to contain the pressure is exhausting.
Level 3: Life Boost
The good news: there’s a Level 3! At Level 3, your healthy lifestyle feels natural. You live a healthy lifestyle because you WANT to, not because you feel like you should. You can never imagine going back to the way things were before – you feel more alive and fulfilled than ever. You no longer seek external validation, because you have a strong sense of self-worth, love, and compassion for yourself.
In Level 3, it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder and you can breathe again. You’ve released the pressure from the previous thoughts, beliefs, and rules that were weighing you down and holding you back so that you feel lighter physically and mentally. Level 3 GIVES you energy.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the 3 Wellness Levels, can you see how the problem isn’t you? It’s a pressure problem.
The pressure comes from beliefs and rules that our society and your life experiences have conditioned you to believe are key to your success. But remember, our society acts like there are only 2 wellness levels! The thoughts and rules you’ve been taught are for Level 2 – the level that exhausts your energy instead of boosts it. That is why the normal approach to health and wellbeing is so deeply flawed. That is why it’s not normal to thrive.
Levels 1 and 2 are guided by what you think you SHOULD do. “Should” creates pressure and pressure is trapped energy. Think about it…
How does it feel when you tell yourself:
- you should workout
- you should eat better
- you should be better at your job
- you should say yes when you really want to say no
Notice the pressure you feel and the energy zap. There’s a lot of judgment behind “should” and it doesn’t feel good.
In order to move forward, you need to release some of the pressure first so you can get some of the energy back. You will know when you are moving towards Level 3, because you will feel a weight lifted off your shoulder. Level 3 is guided by ditching the “shoulds” and replacing them with what you WANT.
Here’s where to start:
- Create a pop-off valve for the pressure. Pressure creates a lot of stress. Start by releasing some of that stress with anti-anxiety tools. Put your hand on your heart to reconnect with yourself. Take a moment to think about all the pressure you have been putting on yourself for so long. Have compassion for that part of you. Practice my favorite 1-minute anti-anxiety tool any time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Anytime you feel stuck and trapped in the “shoulds” and pressure from commitments and expectations, hang out at this step. Allow yourself to feel any emotions that come up that may have been bottled up inside you. Did you know the biochemical reaction of an emotion only lasts for up to 90 seconds? When you allow yourself to feel the full emotion, you can release it instead of holding it trapped in your body.
- Do a pressure and energy check with these questions:
- Where in your life are you feeling a lot of pressure? Write down the specific thoughts about yourself or your circumstances that are contributing.
- What parts of a healthy lifestyle that you think you should be doing seem unappealing? Be really specific!
- What food, lifestyle choices, relationships, interactions, parts of your job, etc. have been draining your energy? Start keeping track and noticing the balance of things that boost your energy vs drain it.
Your brain is likely coming up with lots of reasons why things in your life that are causing pressure are never going to change. That’s totally normal, and it’s also not true.
Note that there will always be unavoidable things in your life that cause pressure and drain your energy. That’s what makes life interesting! But the key is to be aware of the pressure so that you can create balance.
When something in your life is creating a lot of pressure or draining energy, that means you need to look for somewhere else in your life that you can release some pressure or boost your energy.
My Life Boost programs help you to slowly release and let go the rules, beliefs, and thoughts that have been weighing you down so you can live the life you WANT instead of being smothered by the "shoulds".
Cheers to your inevitable health, happiness, and success,
P.s. Check out "Life Boost with Amelia" podcast Episode 57: Unleashing Your Inner Unstoppable Bad-Ass. Around minute 28 there's an exercise with a guided mental rehearsal/hypnosis to help you to start unchaining the things that have been holding you back.