Cultural Musings

5 min read

What Does It Mean To Be Your Own Health Hero?

We Asked Women How They Take Ownership Of Their Health

Health is an extremely personal matter — there's a reason why medical records are sealed and therapy sessions are confidential. But health is also a shared human experience. And yet, despite it being such an integral part of our lives, our obsession with being healthy doesn’t define what it looks and feels like for everyone.

At Daye, our mission is to give women the tools they need to be their own health heroes — to take charge of their health. In a bid to prove that wellness isn’t one-size-fits, we talked to women about their definition of health, and the different ways they have taken an active role in their wellness. While everyone we talked to viewed health from a different perspective, having a voice, particularly being your own advocate was a common theme. So here we are lifting the voices of women to paint a more realistic portrait of health.

Susannah Page-Katz

What does health mean to you?

When I think of health, I think of physical health. I never want things to get too easy, especially with fitness, so I try to vary it. But I also think of mental health. I make sure I’m not over-scheduling myself or letting myself get too anxious about things that don’t matter. Or setting aggressive goals that could be more relaxed. When I think of health I think of diet and exercise but I also think of sleeping and making sure that I’m well rested. I feel super overwhelmed and I get way more anxious and stressed out when I haven’t slept. So I prioritise eight hours of sleep a night almost every night, if possible.

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

I definitely don’t pay attention to calories or weigh myself. I do think about what I’m eating in terms of the proportion but not really what it is that often. I try to be healthy and eat all the vegetables and salad and green juice but that’s just the normal part of life, not a goal. Weight lifting. I’m pretty small so I have to be kind of conservative. But even in pilates when I level up a pound, it’s a lot. I’m proud of myself when I level up and feel comfortable using the weights.

I’m addicted to the step counter on my iPhone, I love it, and I’m sort of in competition with my friends all the time. If we have a day where it’s over 15 thousand [steps] we screenshot it and send it to each other like “look what I did.” It’s always a nice feeling.

I’m addicted to the step counter on my iPhone, I love it, and I’m sort of in competition with my friends all the time.

— Susannah Page-Katz

Also, [living plastic free] is a huge constant goal.  I’ve done all the easy things in the last couple of years like getting rid of all single use plastic. Bags, I don’t do that anymore. Coffee cups, I use a reusable one. Just two years ago I was buying one all the time. It is a really small change but now I’m moving onto the harder things. We do compost at home, which is pretty easy, but the hard things are deodorant, toothpaste, buying things like dishwashing detergent, things that you buy in plastic and then recycle—that’s what I’m trying to start attacking.

Medeka McGregor

What does health mean to you?

Health is a huge part of my life, it’s actually my career. I’m a personal trainer. I train everyday, but I think health is much more than how you look. It’s about what’s going on internally, your feelings, how you think about yourself, your mental health. Whatever’s going on inside is much more important than just what’s going on outside.

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

I train every day. [For mental health,] you always have to continue to learn, research things, look into things. Don’t be okay with not knowing. I read something new 15 minutes a day to keep my mind on top of things. You tend to get sluggish if you don’t lose your brain. Your brain is also a muscle.

Alana Oates

What does health mean to you?

For me it comes down to doing a lot of research, doing my due diligence to find out what’s in the products that I’m using. Earlier this year, when I was preparing to become a mom, I found out that my favourite daily cleanser actually had some really toxic chemicals in it. So I didn’t want to use that when pregnant or breastfeeding. I try to take control of what I put in my body and on my body.

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

I think that I hadn’t realised this until I became a mother, but I’m pretty forgiving. I have a tendency to put pressure on myself. When something doesn’t pan out, I’ve learned to really ease up. I think becoming a mom, you really have to be kind to yourself about your expectations before and after baby. Our bodies are different, our emotions are different, your goals and priorities are totally different. If you can just ease up a little bit, be kind to yourself, I think it eases pressures and stress. I think that applies to all women. We have so much external pressure, why put more on yourself? Be the kind voice that you want to hear.

Imani Curry-Johnson

What does health mean to you?

One thing I’ve learned shadowing doctors is you’re your own best advocate. In the US, women of colour are dying during childbirth at larger rates than white women because their health problems are not taken as seriously as other women. Their pain isn’t taken as seriously. From what I’ve seen, what I’ve read, and the research I’ve done on my own, I’ve decided that if I want to be taken care of in the best way possible, I need to be educated, I need to be articulate, and I need to be firm. I think that’s how all women should be when it comes to their health. I think health is about being in tune with yourself.

I’ve decided that if I want to be taken care of in the best way possible, I need to be educated, I need to be articulate, and I need to be firm.

— Imani Curry-Johnson

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

I had ankle surgery in the summer of 2017 and I have recovered from it, I did physical therapy and everything. But even now I still have some pain inside the ankle. I did acupuncture, which was fine, but I needed something that I could do right between class and rehearsal — a quick fix. I found this CBD cream in Colorado that was like Icy hot but incorporated CBD. I slather it on and go about my business. In 15 minutes I don’t have that weird twinge anymore. I found it to be good for those small adjustments that don’t feel quite right but aren’t severe enough to go to a doctor. It helps me get through my day, relatively pain free.

Amelia Hays

What does health mean to you?

I’ve gotten to the point where I know the things that make me healthier and happier, it’s more figuring out how to follow through and actually do them. And it’s about making time for it. As I’ve gotten older it’s about prioritising the things I actually want to do, that make me feel good, as opposed to things I think I should be doing or things that other people are doing that seem cool. I think a lot of it is taking stock of what is important and how I want to spend my time and what I actually want to make time for.

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

As I get older I really care about the food I’m eating. I love food, but knowing ingredients that are anti-inflammatory or won’t make my skin break out or make me feel bloated. I look at things more holistically.

There are certain friends who make me feel better and those who make me feel worse.

— Amelia Hays

I know [health is] about not eating certain foods but also having what I want to eat when I want to eat it and not depriving myself. There are certain friends who make me feel better and those who make me feel worse. I think it’s a combination of things, not just one thing, that’s going to make me feel better. But I think where I’m at is trying to realise I’m not going to get it all at once, but I need to be deliberate about one thing each day that I can do to make myself feel better. In the end maybe I’ll slowly incorporate everything I need to.

Samantha Kassay

What does health mean to you?

I think of health as maintaining a low level of stress, so I try to give myself time to be anywhere, to take long walks, to take baths.

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

Basically if I can maintain a low level of stress, I think all of the other health benefits fall into place. I end up eating better, I end up exercising more if I have the time and space to think about health and consider it. I’m very all or nothing. I love cooking for myself and my family. It tastes better, saves money, and I get a lot of joy out of it.

Victoria Lewis

What does health mean to you?

When I feel my healthiest, I am taking good care of myself and have a little bit of a routine. When I don’t feel “healthy” it has a lot to do with not being mindful of myself and my routines. It’s not a number on a scale, it’s not my arms looking a certain way. It’s knowing that I feel strong, and taking care of my body.

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

I had this realisation that I got to 30 years old without totally understanding female health and my cycle and what the hell it means to ovulate. Part of that was being on birth control for 15 years of my life and not really having to worry about it. But all of the sudden I’ve started reading articles and realising that everything that happens during your period and each day after your period and leading up to your period has meaning. You can understand your body so much better if you understand your cycle and how to work out, what to eat, and how to be more in sync with yourself. I was kind of horrified that no gynaecologist had ever talked to me about that. Or anybody. My mom. A friend. So I just felt like a whole new world opened up to me.

You can understand your body so much better if you understand your cycle...

— Victoria Lewis

It was funny because a friend told me that when she went off birth control it felt like her body was more hers. And I was like “oh, you know I don’t really feel that different. I didn’t gain or lose a bunch of weight. Everything kind of felt the same and then I realised that was the change—I felt so much more in tune with my body, having to figure out my natural cycle and actually having to keep track of when I was getting my period or when I wasn’t. You know, tracking all of the things that you take from granted while on birth control since, basically, childhood.

Rose Lawrence

What does health mean to you?

I don’t work-out but I do try to make a conscious decision to work on my mental health. I think about who I hang out with, what I do on a regular basis, how I eat. All of that plays into my physical health, but I’m more concerned with mental health. I work out here and there, but I don’t think health has to necessarily be physical. If you’re emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, spiritually healthy, that all feeds into overall health.

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

I used to want to be one of those girls who would wake up and go running. I can’t run a mile to save my life, and I used to think, “oh my gosh I’m not running a mile so I’m not healthy.” But I eat well, I eat vegetables, I make sure I’m not in toxic environments and I think that is taking care of myself.

It’s like accountability in our home for taking better care of ourselves.

— Rose Lawrence

Community and health absolutely go hand in hand for me. I live with three other girls. Someone is always recommending something new. Someone is always like “we’re going to wake up early and go do this together.” It’s like accountability in our home for taking better care of ourselves. Whether it’s doing a face mask together, going to a class together, or cooking together.

Oona & Maxine Wally

What makes a healthy woman?

Oona: Confidence, true confidence, not just faux confidence. It’s hard to achieve.

Maxine: Confidence permeates your whole life as a woman in ways you may not necessarily think or recognize. It makes you more able to communicate with people, to assert yourself. Confidence is about how you approach your life.

What steps have you taken to become your own Health Hero?

Oona: It definitely is a lifelong journey. It’s hard. I think you need someone on the exterior to help. Both of us consulted our therapists. And we talk to each other about how we felt. Maxine started cutting out those things before I did but hearing about the improvements Maxine had, I thought, let me just try it. And then talking to our therapists and them giving us a more scientific reason as to why you feel how you feel was helpful.

We have depression on both our mom and dad’s side of the family. And living in New York is a really fast paced place. It’s fast and hard, so it’s easy to feel really anxious when you’re surrounded by people and noises. So I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety over the years and I know Maxine has too. We’ve sort of both been on these journeys to figure out what works for us.  

So I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety over the years and I know Maxine has too.

— Oona Wally

Maxine: A big thing for me was getting sober. I never had a problem, but I wanted to feel my emotions and go through everything with a clear head. I stopped drinking, smoking, I don’t have coffee anymore. And also starting to exercise. I run now and that’s huge.

Also, Inner pep talk. Telling myself that today is going to be a good day. Keeping a positive attitude. Let’s go get this money!

I still feel like I’m on the journey. I feel like it’s a lifelong journey.

Illustrations by Erin Rommel. Erin is the founder of @second.marriage, a Brooklyn-based brand, illustration, and design studio.

Words by Genevieve Fish. Genevieve is the Director of Brand and Community at Daye.

Health Hero

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