Societal pressures are everywhere: in how we look, act, how we live our lives, who we’re to love — the list goes on and on.
Then, there are the mold-breakers.
These mold-breakers fight daily to bring light to what life should be: lived to the fullest in the way the person of that life deems fit. They are breaking the mold.
One such mold-breaker is Jennifer Stravinsky Wheeler. Yes, she’s my cousin but she’s also one who is on the front lines of breaking those barriers of the “ideal look”. Her approach? Encourage women (and men) to simply make healthy choices for a healthy life.
She took the time to talk about that approach as well as what others can do be mold-breakers as well:
1) Tell us a bit about yourself: What makes you, you?
I’m a mommy, a wife, a lover of music, a lover of people and their stories, a nurse, a dreamer, a learner, a triathlete, a lover of all things healthy and healing, a thinker, an extremely sensitive, sentimental but happy & positive person.
I could live on a farm in the middle of nowhere and also in a high rise in NYC among the hustle and bustle. My husband calls me the “most organized, free spirit” he knows.
2) What do you do for a living?
I’m a full-time mommy, a health coach and a part-time registered nurse with a background in neurosurgery, currently working in outpatient surgery.
3) When and how did you get into the health/fitness world?
I have always loved being active- growing up dancing, playing soccer, field hockey and softball.
More specifically for my career, it would be right out of college.
I took one course in exercise science my senior year of college. After graduating the instructor of that class asked me if I wanted to join her and be a personal trainer in the new corporate fitness center she was opening. Yes! A job out of college sounds great to me! I went on to study for my Master of Science in Applied Physiology from Columbia University about a year later. Then, a few years after, transitioned into nursing.
4) Why do you think health and fitness is so important?
I 100% believe that creating a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit is at the core of achieving happiness and peace in life. Key word CREATE!
I’m not into the whole “finding” balance thing. Where are we looking for this balance? We need to dig inside, figure out what makes us tick, what makes us happy, what makes us feel strong and positive and confident and CREATE that balance for ourselves.
Scientifically/physiologically or however you want to think of it, being physically active triggers processes in our bodies that literally translate into sending happy vibes to our brain. I know for myself, if I am missing exercise and healthy eating from my life, I am a completely different, unhappy, exhausted person. That’s no fun!
5) How can someone feel good about who they are, where they are in their fitness goals right now?
I love that question! It goes straight to what I believe as a health coach and a friend: always be in the moment. Always be in your moment.
Goals are absolutely wonderful and very important. But, it is about the journey!
We cannot beat ourselves up over where we think we need to be; we will never find happiness in our day-to-day. Be proud of each small step you take towards your goals. Be proud of the journey for that is what defines who we are.
6) What are your thoughts on society’s view of achieving the “perfect body”?
Yuck! There are many aspects of social media that have made this “perfect body, perfect look” concept so much worse for girls as we grow up.
There is such a fine line.
I encourage women on the daily to be strong and confident and to discover and find their best self. But it’s not about comparing our journey to others or comparing ourselves to others. It’s about embracing our skin, our individual beauty that God has given us; treating our bodies and our minds with respect; feeding and fueling our bodies and our minds with healthy food, healthy exercise, and healthy literature.
We can’t listen to the negative part society contributes to personal image. Check your friends list, your followers and don’t be afraid to clean up that list to include people who lift you up, people who are encouragers. Say bye-bye to those who bring you down, those who are negative or those who have an unhealthy approach to body image. It’s not worth reading all of that nonsense!
7) Do you think there’s pressure for people to be thin? Why or why not?
For sure! It’s definitely out there along with tan and perfect hair and makeup and clothes.
But wait: Who are we doing this for? For those people that we don’t even know?!
It’s easy to tell someone not to let the pressure get to them and to just be happy with who they are, but it’s not that simple.
Body image and how we view ourselves runs deep.
It can be developed throughout life from many elements like parental guidance, family values, social influences, participation in sports or group activities, and, of course, our genetic make-up — the hormonal and chemical makeup of our own bodies, that can strongly influence how our minds work.
8) How do you respond to that pressure?
Spend time by yourself or even with someone you really trust and think about all of the influences that may have affected you and molded you into the person you are today.
Separate the positive and the negative.
Cut out the negative.
Stand up to it and know that you have the choice and can find the strength to be whoever you want to be, not who society thinks you should be.
Understand that we can never find true happiness within if we are trying to fill a mold or be someone we are not. There is nothing wrong and everything right with staying healthy and in shape, but that doesn’t mean a certain size or figure type — it means a healthy YOU! A you that has energy, confidence, positive thoughts, a fiery spirit, a and a passion for life!
9) What can we do to ‘turn the tide’ on the pressure?
Band together with other like-minded women!
Surround yourself with positive influences until you feel strong enough to go out there and impact others.
Be the change! Be that person you hope for in others!
You’d be surprised — you can positively influence others and not even realize it just by committing to grow yourself. Take that step!
Yes!! Simple and important:
-Get enough sleep. Aim for 8 hours!
-Stay hydrated with water throughout the day
-Limit alcohol intake
-Exercise: Move that body for 30 minutes a day. Whatever you enjoy — dancing, jogging, lifting weights, mud runs, Zumba, yoga, just get that heart pumping!
– 80/20 rule- Eat clean (fresh, whole food- no preservatives, additives, flavorings, sweeteners, food colorings) 80% of the time then have some more treat-like meals or snacks 15-20% of the time.
-Spend time in solitude, in meditation, in prayer to find peace and create that balance
–Don’t put too much pressure on yourself — get done what you can and let the rest go- enjoy your family and friends
-Do what makes YOU happy!
11) Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to Amanda for asking me to be a part of her special blog! How incredible she is to share her insight and honesty and strength. I have learned so much just by answering these questions. Thank you! XO