Well Life Episode 1: Why Wellness Matters

Hey there. I’m Johnna Wilford. Every week, I’ll be sharing a health or wellness strategy that will help you love your body, love yourself, and live life well. My mission is to help active women like you embrace their bodies and unique identities, because wellness is not one size fits all.

I know you already wonder how you’ll fit everything in, so normally we’ll dive right into the tips in order to use this time wisely. But, since this is the first episode, I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce myself and talk about why I am so passionate about wellness.

Professionally, I have a Master’s degree in medical anthropology, which basically means that I look at health and wellness from a cultural perspective. Since I got that degree about four years ago, all of my professional experience has been related in some way to health and wellness. I worked in a food justice ministry at the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. I worked as a community organizer advocating for city policies that would decrease the opioid epidemic. And now I’m at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, one of the top ten pharmacy programs in the country that leads change to improve health.

I combine this professional experience with my work in my free time as a RRCA-certified running coach, an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor, the first POP Pilates teacher in Lexington, and a SymptoPro fertility educator. I’m also the co-founder of a popular online community called Catholic Women Run, which discusses the intersection between faith and women’s fitness. So I have a lot going on outside of my 9 to 5 day job, which my husband points out pretty regularly. Don’t worry – I still make time to spend with him, too, as well as with friends and family. So I understand that sometimes, living well can seem pretty much impossible. Between family, health, friends, faith, and a career, it can be hard to find time, find motivation, stay consistent, all while avoiding burnout. But I want to help you understand that you CAN.

I’m not the typical health and wellness influencer who has a clearly defined before and after picture to share with you. Although there were times that I definitely weighed more than others, I was never overweight. Weight loss makes for good Instagram posts, but my wellness journey is just not like that. Instead, my transformation was really internal. In college I ate well and worked out, but it was mainly so I could look a certain way for other people. I kept all of my emotions and feelings and problems to myself. I wasn’t aware of my thoughts or all the things going on in my body as a young woman. I only felt like I could be my true self with maybe a handful of people, mostly because I didn’t like my true self, not because of anything anyone else said or did. Not surprising, I had a breakdown, and I started going to therapy.

When that happened, I started realizing that a lot of the health and wellness information I was consuming was really only focused on diets and exercise. Sure, changing your diet and starting an exercise routine will change things for you. But after that initial results, focusing on just that doesn’t really move the needle anymore in a wellness journey. So I started adding other things into my wellness journey – therapy, like I said. Meditation. Prayer. Healthy relationship advice. Education about my cycle and how my reproductive health worked. It made me realize that, for me…and now I know this is the case for many of the clients I work with now, health and wellness was less about disease and more about whether I had the energy and vitality to do all of the things I wanted to do in a day. In college, I was young and physically healthy because I worked out and ate well…but I had low levels of wellbeing. That’s because I didn’t have a good sense of myself, I was still trying to figure out what my future held and didn’t have the tools to manage that stress, and I was just generally insecure about myself and my life. Just because I was physically healthy didn’t mean that I was well. On the flip side, having an autoimmune disease or a terminal illness does not necessarily mean that you’re not well. I don’t have either of these, but I have met so many people like this who would say that they are living life well despite their illness because they have a strong social support, a personal relationship with God, and a positive mindset.

I love exploring these sorts of things and sharing them with others. I have learned that engaging with feelings of vitality, thriving, having a sense of purpose and meaning – those are the things that can really help in the short term. So I want to be a part of shifting the health and wellness narrative from one that’s obsessed with preventing disease to one that’s focused on fostering well-being in the moment.

Trust me, I know that the topic of wellness can almost seem a bit too small what with everything else that’s going on in the world. Around the world violence, cruelty and disasters upend people’s lives. Yet here I am talking about how to squeeze fitness into your busy life. It’s almost like a first world problems hashtag, right? I know that. But I truly believe that we can’t do things about the violence, cruelty, and disasters if we’re not taking care of ourselves and our own health. It is every human being’s right to enjoy a state of complete mental, physical, and social well being. But that right is unequally distributed throughout the world because of a lack of access, lack of sanitation, feeble delivery systems and…get this, it’s what I just talked about, a treatment-oriented health system rather than a preventative system. So I want to help people see that you can make the world a better place, do work that you enjoy, nurture your relationships, AND take care of yourself. Be thoughtful about your wellness journey, and taking care of you will lead to taking care of others.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey to live life well. Every week I’ll be here, sharing tips and strategies that have worked for me or for someone else I’ve met along the way.

If you’ve got a question, you can write me at johnnawilford@gmail.com. Just indicated if you’d be willing to have your question read on The Well Life. I plan to answer many listener questions over the next few months. This is Johnna. And here’s to living life well.

Do you want to get even more tips and tricks for your wellness journey? Then I hope you’ll join my community by subscribing to my newsletter. When you join, you’ll get monthly 4-day wellness challenges, and two research-backed articles sent straight to your inbox every month. If that sounds like something you want to be a part of, then head on over to my website at johnnawilford.com and subscribe to my email list.