Will Breaking the Rules Improve Your Overall Health?

There's the pressure to fit in and the pressure to stand out. Influencers tell us what to love and what to hate. Not to mention all the fad diets and too-good-to-be-true workout plans that promise quick results in no time. With all the conflicting information and endless options, making smart food choices and exercising healthy behaviors can often feel like a chaotic, never-ending battle to find the "right" fit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." Channeling those words, it's time to ask yourself: Will you break the rules or break yourself? Are you ready to be true to yourself in your pursuit of success? Are you willing to be a "healthy deviant"?

Defined by award-winning health journalist Pilar Gerasimo, the term "healthy deviant" is used to describe anyone willing to defy unhealthy norms and defaults in order to achieve a high level of vitality, resilience and autonomy. When anyone with a dumbbell and a phone can describe themselves as a "trainer" and people discuss their healthy eating habits online without citing scientific research, it's now easier than ever to fall down a black hole of overanalyzing, comparison, negative self-talk and bad habits—and our health is suffering as a result.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese, and less than three percent of all U.S. adults maintain basic, critical health behaviors such as regular exercise and a healthy body fat percentage. Take all of that and add in rising stress levels and decreased levels of happiness, and now is sounding like a pretty good time to break the mold, no?

Becoming a healthy deviant requires you to live in the present moment and take charge of your own life, choices and behaviors without allowing the world define who you are as a person. To be successful, you must resist social media influencers, acquaintances, friends, news stories and family members trying to mold you into a certain shape or size.

Being a healthy deviant does not require you to follow a certain diet, consume a certain number of calories or follow an unrealistic exercise plan. Rather, this mindset simply gives you the power to be true to yourself, embrace self-care and discover happiness as you decide on lifestyle behaviors that will lead to a healthier, longer life.

The Healthy Deviant Starter Kit

Gerasimo, who recently published a book on the concept of healthy deviance, notes that it's often easier and more convenient to go with the flow and the status quo. But by becoming more present and aware of your unique needs and slowing down using these five tips, you can achieve a more reliable, more sustainable healthy lifestyle.
  • Slow your pace. This can be done several times a day, and should be prioritized in times of feeling overwhelmed, stress or drained. When you feel the need to relax, begin by dropping your shoulders into a comfortable position and standing up straight. Focus on tuning into your thoughts, mind and emotional state.
  • Disconnect yourself from the world around you. Several times throughout the day, allow yourself to turn off electronics and step away from social media. Kick back and allow silence to bring a focus to your feelings, thoughts and impulses. Tune into what is truly around you and bring your senses to life.
  • Allow yourself to ask questions. Unfortunately, we tend to make quick decisions when we are overwhelmed, stressed or worn out. Instead of rushing into uncertainly, focus on what might set you up to be vulnerable at this moment. Ask yourself simple questions, such as, "What are my choices in this given moment?" and "What might I change next time to focus more positively on myself?".
  • Be responsive to your body. Our bodies are always sending us signals to let us know what it craves. Thus, when your body is telling you it is thirsty, be responsible and give your body a glass of water. Acts of self-care may be the one thing between you and potential breaking points with major consequences.
  • Take a "beginner's mind" approach. Do not let the system break you down. Do not judge yourself too harshly. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and giving up before you start, aim to use your resources to find a solution. Be open to experimenting with healthy eating ideas until you find a plan that is easy to adhere to and testing out different workouts until you find the one that sticks. Along the way, tell yourself that everything is a learning experience and embrace the journey without giving into feelings of frustration or impatience.
Now ask yourself: What will it take to change the way you approach health? Will you allow the world around you to shape you into something, or will you stay true to yourself and be a "rule breaker"? It is your life; it is your choice. Will you choose to be a healthy deviant?