It’s all about longevity. That’s what living naturally and sustainably means to me.
I love the idea of making sustainable lifestyle choices—choices that improve your quality life that you can actually stick to, as opposed to lofty goals or challenges that we eventually abandon because they’re too hard to keep up daily … essentially, because they’re not sustainable for your lifestyle.
This philosophy applies to every aspect of life, right? From the way that we eat, to the way we exercise, to the way we treat the planet.
Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to think in short-term, present-tense than it is to consider the long game. Taking on a 30-day eating challenge is a lot easier than committing to say, cut out an entire food group for your entire life, even if you know it’s good for you.
It’s hard to think about the future—how your metabolism will act in a month, how your knees will feel in five years, how much waste you create over 20 years if you use two paper towels a day—because humans are pretty myopic. How we feel and look right now seems much more important than how we’ll feel and look in five, ten, or fifteen years. That’s why crash diets and 30-day challenges work so well—we want to see the results of our hard work instantly.
Life doesn’t exactly work like that, though. And that’s a good thing! If that were the case, we’d wake up the morning after inhaling a bag of Cheetos a few pounds heavier … We’d toss a piece of plastic into the ocean and immediately a dozen fish would float, belly up, to the surface of the water. Maybe we’d learn more quickly if we immediately experienced the results of our actions.
Thankfully, we don’t. But the fact that we can’t always see the future positive outcome of the good that we’re doing today means it’s easier to give up those habits and kind of think, “So what?”
That’s where natural, sustainable living comes in. You should create a lifestyle that works for you—that you can stick to—that longevity in every aspect of your life. Basically, choose to do the things that impart the greatest good. If you do, you’re more likely to keep it up. And over time, that’s better for your health, your happiness, and the planet.
The beautiful thing? That natural, sustainable lifestyle is totally customizable to what works for you.
Here are some examples of sustainable living in my life:
I grew up as a calorie-counting ballerina (yikes x 1 million), which was hard to shake as I entered adulthood. After going to nutrition school, things got a little more clear for me—but ascribing to any specific “regimen” tends to lead me down a not-so-healthy path. I guess it’s my nature … type-A obsession coupled with a hatred for arbitrary rules equals an unhappy (unhealthy) Michelle!
Now, my diet is pretty fluid. As often as possible, I choose foods that are made ethically and locally. If that’s not an option, I’ll opt for the next-best choice: whole food ingredients without weird chemicals or preservatives. I eat when I’m hungry, I indulge my cravings when necessary, and I’ll try any whole food-based meal / ingredient at least once to see how it makes me feel. Having a fluid diet makes it way easier for me to follow my own “rules”—I go with my gut, and make decisions based off of how I feel, as opposed to making decisions based on a list of foods that I’ve randomly decided are OK (or not) to eat.
I’ve always been a mover—either through dance or yoga or cardio or running—but there were certainly times in my life where I took exercise to the extreme, thanks to a stint as celeb trainer in NYC (another story on another day!). In my experience, there’s no perfect workout that works for every single body. Most of the time, we need a few different modalities going on in our lives to feel really good, whole, and balanced.
When you start thinking of exercise as a time for meditation / nourishment for your body instead of punishment (I need to workout because I: ate those tacos last night / feel fat today / have to lose weight / am weak and need to prove I’m strong / am hurt and need to feel nothing / want to feel pain), it makes sense that we should move our bodies in ways that promote longevity.
Basically, you’re exercising so you can age gracefully.
Anything that leaves you battered, bruised, inflamed, or angry probably isn’t doing much for you, right? It might momentarily give you a six-pack (that will disappear eventually if you don’t get your nutrition + inflammation on point), but in the long run it’s taking years off your life. Plus, is it sustainable to work out super hard every single day—I’m looking at you, HIIT lovers—for your entire life? Hell no.
At this point, the sustainable choice for me is a combo of running, yoga, and meditation. I’m a distance runner. It feels good to me—better than almost anything else I’ve ever done, dance included—and I can fit in a run almost any time I want to, wherever I am. Sustainable AF. Every few days I’ll do a little strength training on my own, and I try to swing by yoga whenever I can. I also find that meditating daily is really important for my physical health; I sleep better, notice that I have less aggression and anxiety, and just feel better overall. I imagine myself doing all three of these things (yoga, running, meditation) until the day I die.
OK, here’s where the zero waste stuff comes in. Making choices that improve (or at least support) the environment are important to me, because damn, I like this planet a lot. Especially its wild, far-flung places.
For me, it’s totally sustainable to live almost totally zero waste. Admittedly, I just started this thing, and I’m in the process of slowly using up or giving away my excess packaged beauty products and pantry supplies. I also live by myself, don’t have kids, and live in eco-friendly Los Angeles—so yeah, abstaining from trash is pretty simple for me at this point in my life. It’s a sustainable lifestyle choice, meaning I can keep it up without adding too much stress or difficulty into my life.
I know that’s not the case for everyone. The most sustainable eco-friendly lifestyle choice for you might be simply switching out your plastic water bottle for a stainless steel option. And guess what? That’s still fucking awesome. That’s the beauty of making sustainable lifestyle choices—you know what you can commit to, and you keep it up. Maybe eventually you’ll find that it’s more than sustainable, it’s flat-out easy. Perfect—up the ante and start to challenge yourself for a bit to see what works.
So that’s the deal with sustainable living. Yes, it’s about being eco-friendly, but it’s also about making conscious lifestyle choices every day.