All of us understand the rules of living a healthy and happy life. One must eat right, work out, think positively, and strive for wellness. It's easy in theory, but the reality is that it's not easy because it takes time, patience, dedication, and consistency to take those steps.
Of course, everyone's journey is different, and it's never linear. Ali Kay is a health and wellness expert whose journey to wellness began three years ago. Her story is instructive, interesting, and human – perfect for teaching us how to live better.
Who Is Ali Kay?
Ali Kay is a health and wellness expert. She's also a mother, wife, and a successful entrepreneur. She owns Lakeland Staging, a local home staging business that helps homeowners and realtors make their offerings more appealing to buyers. Ali has over 80,000 followers on Instagram, which is where her journey began after she posted a picture of her body shortly after giving birth.
Kay's three-year-and-going journey has led to her helping people accept their bodies while learning how to include movement in their everyday lives. She does this while running a successful home staging business, parenting, and enjoying her family life. So, how does she accomplish all this, and where did it all begin? Let's find out.
The Moment It All Began For Ali Kay
Sometimes in life, we hit an inflection point where we realize that something needs to change in order for us to thrive. That is because we can't stay stuck anymore, and we need to work on ourselves to better our physical, mental, and emotional health. Kay's moment began when she realized that she was drifting away from the public and her kids. She wasn't happy with the person she had become over time. She could barely look at herself in the mirror because she did not feel physically and mentally good about herself. Her feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness led her to gradually hide away from the world more and more, even to the point where she would sometimes stay home while her husband went out with the kids. Kay began to realize that if she continued going down the path of taking shelter from the world, her future would become darker, clouded over by the mental and physical changes that had happened to her.
This realization drove Kay to find ways to change herself. The first changes she made were to her mindset and her outlook: the spring from which everything about us flows. Changing her mindset was important, Kay explains, because true change begins when one plants a seed in the mind.
Postpartum: The Struggle Of Many Women
Postpartum depression is real, and many women struggle with it after the birth of any child. Even if women don't go through depression, the postpartum phase is challenging and takes a mental and physical toll on all women. Kay also went through a complex postpartum phase where she was not her best self in all aspects. One aspect of this was that Kay continued to lead a pregnant lifestyle where she made unhealthy dietary choices. These choices caused her to feel guilt and shame, which led to diminished self-image and fed a vicious feedback loop. Her mental struggle to maintain a healthy diet was compounded by nursing; the constant demand on her body made her sometimes feel as though her body was not her own.
As if the mental strain was not enough, Kay did not physically feel her best self. Postpartum, she could barely run. She had an active 4.5-year-old son and found that she couldn't keep up with him. Running around with the kids made her feel short of breath. She felt trapped inside her body. Constant media messaging and the expectations of our society added another layer, and Kay often found herself telling herself that she needed to look a certain way or feel a certain way to accept herself and be happy. It's a struggle many of us know well: I'll be happier when I lose another 20 pounds, or when my biceps are swole, or when my stomach is flat.
Her struggles fed more negative emotions and energy. All of this began to take a significant toll on her. The postpartum stage is not easy for any woman, but for Kay, it was a real struggle. Until, one day, she decided to draw the line and take back the reins.
Kay's Eight Tools For Transformation
Human beings are unique in that we can learn from the experiences of others and apply those changes in our own lives. Kay's journey from being unhappy and unwell to being a fitness influencer is inspiring. The changes she made are simple and achievable. These eight cognitive tools helped Kay completely change the trajectory of her life, and they can work for you too. It all begins with the power of a positive mental attitude.
1. The Power Of Positive Self-Talk
The most critical thing in any self-improvement project is, believe it or not,positive self-talk. In almost every context, building a positive narrative is the most important thing one can do. That is because we spend the most time with ourselves. If we talk to ourselves negatively, we will create negative thoughts and outcomes. This also holds true when we engage in positive self-talk.
Kay began her journey to positivity by telling herself that things were actually okay, and reassuring herself that she had control over her life. The most difficult part of her journey was to get herself back on her side. The constant negative narrative in her mind had, in a way, turned it against her and made her mind her biggest enemy. Engaging in positive self-narration helped Kay shift her perspective and reimagine her perception of herself and the world.
Negative self-talk leads to limiting beliefs, keeping us stuck in a vicious cycle. On the other hand, positive self-talk helps us build our self-esteem and confidence, which we need to achieve our goals and control our life. Kay knows this well, as she holds an M.S in psychology and counseling. If anybody knows how to effectively leverage positive self-narration, it's Ali Kay.
Engaging in positive self-talk helped Kay develop the mental stamina and energy to do things she could not do before. But the journey to self-improvement does not end with positive self-talk: one must back up the talk with meaningful action.
2. Healing Through Movement
Our bodies are complex machines that need to move to function optimally—staying sedentary hinders our bodies from functioning in the best possible way. This is a challenge that most anybody in our modern time can relate to; even if you're not stuck in an office all day, your recreation likely revolves around stationary activities. Kay was no exception. She realized her physical health was deteriorating when even simple exercise like running for a few minutes would cause her to huff and pant.
To begin healing through movement, Kay set a specific time of the day where she would go for a walk with her son in a stroller. She also set reasonable expectations: for example, instead of setting out to do an hour of exercise, she initially pushed her son inside a stroller for ten minutes. After that, she began increasing her walk time.
In the beginning, Kay could barely walk and did not have the energy for prolonged exercise. However, with time and practice, she slowly got used to it. As time progressed, Kay came to a point where she started jogging with the stroller and even advanced to running.
We can't underestimate the connection between the body and mind. Our mind is not a separate entity from the body: our emotional, physical, and mental health are all connected. For example, when we move our bodies, we feel better mentally. And when we feel better mentally, we feel more capable of action.
This change is exactly what Ali Kay experienced. When she began running and walking, building her physical strength, she felt strong mentally too. The physical and mental strength gave her the power she needed to change her life and shift her mindset for good.
According to Kay, whatever you prioritize in your life is what will happen. No matter how busy you are, if you put something on your priority list, you will find a way to do it. Kay shifted her priorities and made her physical and mental health her main objectives. After years of feeling progressively worse, she decided that it was time for a priority shift and an emphasis on self-care.
Part of her motivation to care for herself was that, at heart, Kay prioritizes her family. But if she did not care for herself, she would not be able to care for her kids and spend time with them. She would also be unable to perform tasks for her business, help care for her home, and do other things that enrich her life. Self-care, Kay realized, was critical to these other ventures. If she did not prioritize her mental and physical health, she would not have the energy to do anything she wanted to.
Self-care sounds time-consuming, but Kay took on a systematic approach. Her priority was to move for thirty minutes a day and get it done first thing in the morning. Doing this improved her physical and mental health for the day and gave her the energy boost she needed. It also shifted her priorities in a more subtle way: her first action of the day was about self-care and wellness, which can shift how one approaches the remainder of their day.
While Kay is obviously a dynamic and driven person, anybody can take this approach. Ask yourself: what is something that gives you the energy and strength to get all your tasks done? What is your main priority? Once you understand prioritization, your life will transform just like Kay's, no matter what it looks like right now.
4. Creating Habits
As humans, we are creatures of habit. We like to set a routine for ourselves. It gives us the stability we need to lead our lives predictably and calmly. That is why if you want to change your life, you can begin by creating better habits and sticking to them for a long time.
One of Kay's habits has been to drink the exact same plant-based shake every morning for breakfast. The shake is formulated to keep her full till lunchtime and gives her the energy to get her work done in the morning. Making the same healthful choice every day builds it into an easy habit and lays the foundation on which you can build a new life for yourself. Of course, creating good habits is not easy. It takes consistency to stick to good habits; you'll need to consistently engage in the same behavior for several weeks to convert it into a true habit.
5. Plan Ahead
Many of us face difficulties getting things done because we don't have time in the day to do those things. That is why it is crucial to plan ahead for anything you do. For example, if you want to eat healthy during the week, you must prep your meals on the weekend. Otherwise, you'll find yourself back in the drive-thru, idly wondering whether the Chalupa is healthier than the Gordita.
To prevent this scenario, Kay utilizes Sunday to prep her meals for the entire week. In the same way, if you want to incorporate something into your life, you must plan ahead of time. If you want to work out or eat clean, you can budget your time beforehand to ensure you have enough time during the day. For example: pack your gym bag in your car so you can stop by and pump some iron on the way home, or plan a 30-minute walk on your lunch break.
Of course, overplanning or completely saturating your life with planned tasks can make your existence somewhat joyless. It's important to plan some unstructured time into your life to relax, decompress, and enjoy yourself. As many wise people have said, moderation is the key to success and happiness; be sure to block out some time with no real purpose so that you don't begin to feel stifled by routine.
6. Use Small Actions To Make The Most Progress
There's tremendous power in small changes wrought over time. Don't underestimate the power of the smallest actions you take to change your life. According to Kay, small actions drive motivation, and motivation drives action. The cycle of action leading to motivation continues as time goes on and eventually leads to something big. If you want to move your body and become more physically fit, you can start with 15 minutes a day. These fifteen minutes will make a difference and give you the motivation to move your body even more as you progress. Before you know it, you'll be rocking out 20, 25, even 30 minutes a day of motion!
So, you must always start small if you want to change your life in the biggest way possible. Once you do this, you will notice the changes adding up, and soon you will finally get where you want to be. One of the best ways to tackle a big goal is to chunk it into smaller wins and crush your goal one step at a time.
7. Change How You View The Situation
Better or worse, humans are good at making snap judgments. We're quick to make associations from previous information to a new topic. For example, many of us don't like working out because we view it as punishment and torture on our bodies. The pain, exhaustion, and sweat of working out can cause us to associate exercise with discomfort and thus avoid it at all costs. However, people who work out consistently notice how good they feel after exercising and how light their bodies and minds feel once they get into a fitness routine. Over time, they begin to view working out as something pleasant instead of something punishing. But this process takes time. To be proactive, it's important to shift your perception of a situation or activity. Kay says that you should look at the positive side of a situation or an action.
For example, instead of telling yourself that you hate exercise, reframe the narrative and tell yourself that it feels good to work out, good to have a better body habitus, good to think more clearly after a workout. Stop letting a negative view affect your mindset, and instead, consider how change can lead to a better quality of life. Looking at the bright side will motivate you to continue on this path and make relevant changes to better your life.
Of course, reframing our thinking patterns is not easy. It takes conscious effort and time to get out of our old ways of thinking and adopt new ones. It's not easy to rewire your mind. In the end, it all comes down to what you value the most and how you can use those values to change your life for the better. So, making small changes to your mindset and reframing your thinking will go a long way in sustaining those positive changes.
8. Stay Accountable
Accountability is perhaps the most difficult aspect of staying consistent with your goals and actions. Kay stays accountable by sharing her life with other people every day. When you have an audience or even a partner in crime, you have an external source holding you accountable – and that can drive changed behavior. Everyone has a different way of keeping themselves accountable. In Kay's case, she uses the power of social media to share her journey and hold herself accountable: she has 80,000 friends who want to see her succeed!
So, what do you do if you're not a wildly successful entrepreneur and fitness influencer? To stay consistent with your goals and actions, you have to find something to keep you accountable during your journey. Many people opt for the help of a loved one to keep them accountable: a spouse, a parent, a brother or sister, or even a close friend can help keep you on track. You have to find out what works for you and use that to create accountability within yourself.
Like anything else, you'll need to remember that the process of finding accountability is a process of trial and error. You will not find something that will keep you accountable within a day: you'll need to be persistent. The key is to put some thought into understanding yourself and then using your motivations to create accountability. Once you do this, you will never stay off track with your goals.
Start Small: The Power of Meal Prep
If you need an example of a small but meaningful habit, think about meal prep. Meal prep is a fitness tool that encompasses many aspects of Kay's health strategy. It can serve several goals – spending less and eating better, to name two – and it helps you learn to plan ahead. When done with a partner, meal prep helps hold you accountable for at least one nutritional choice every day. Here are the top three tips Ali Kay has to share for meal planning and prepping:
Do It Over The Weekend
Most of us work on weekdays and don't have time to cook our food, especially if we are doing a 9 to 5 job at a desk. Most times, we end up ordering from outside and gorging on junk. Taking an hour or so to meal prep on the weekend can change that.
Kay does all her meal plans and preps on Sunday since it's closest to the week ahead. After she is done, she labels and stores all the food. Having nutritious and tasty grab-and-go lunches for the week helps keep her on track, nutritionally.
Plan The Night Before
You might not have time on all weekends. So, if there is a weekend where you are busy and don't have time to meal prep for the week, you can always plan the night before. Before you go to sleep, think about what you will do about your food the next day. For example, if you don't have time the next day, you can plan to go to the grocery store and buy a salad instead of eating fast food.
Use The Power Of Seasoning And Sauces
Meal prepping can be a boring and tedious endeavor. It also gets boring eating the same foods over and over again. That is why one of the best ways to elevate your meal prep is to use the power of sauces and seasonings to add some variety to your meals. A basic set of ingredients like chicken, brown rice, and vegetables can take on a lot of different personalities with different seasonings. Doing this will help you stay consistent with your nutrition and dietary needs in no time.
The Journey of a Thousand Miles is Full of Potholes
Positivity can be transformative, but it's not easy. Your path is going to have obstacles. You're going to have bad days, days where you fall off the wagon. You're going to make mistakes and missteps. It's easy to rage-quit in the face of an inevitable hurdle, but it's not constructive. Kay has faced her share of adversity and has advice for those who are serious about making changes to their life. The journey of a thousand miles might be riddled with potholes, but having a few cognitive spare tires will keep you from becoming a rusted-out hulk abandoned on the side of the Highway of Progress. Now that we've sufficiently mangled that metaphor let's look at Kay's tips to overcoming adversity on your journey.
Be Aware Of How You Talk To Yourself
The ancient Greeks advised us to "know thyself." And indeed, awareness is the key to understanding yourself better. Self-knowledge will help you drive change. That is why you must cultivate awareness of how you talk to yourself.
The average person has more than six-thousand thoughts in a day. Most of these thoughts are you talking to yourself in your head. If your inner narrator is a miserable sod, their defeatist and depressing narrative will lead to defeatist thoughts and negative actions – and of course, negative outcomes.
Because of this, Kay stresses the importance of becoming aware of your inner dialogue. You can do this by journaling down your thoughts and understanding the recurring themes and patterns within your thoughts. Once you understand this, you can use different techniques to replace these thoughts with positive ones. Cultivating an awareness of how you talk to yourself is essential on the road to self-improvement. Techniques such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness will help you develop an awareness of your thoughts and emotions. After that, you can take the necessary action to make your life better.
You're Not Alone
You might look at Ali Kay's Instagram page and think that her life is great and every day is full of sunshine and rainbows. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Kay has struggled with her mental health, especially during the postpartum period when she was at her weakest physically and mentally. And it's not just Kay: even the bubbliest influencer, the most chipper guru, or the seemingly unflappable personality has some internal struggle. Nobody is perfect. It's okay to have bad days. Just remember that such days pass, and better days come along.
It's easy to forget that we all struggle. Most people try hard not to show signs of their struggles. American society doesn't have a lot of mechanisms for informed and intelligent discussion of mental health. The takeaway here is that even if someone doesn't show it, they might still be struggling with their mental health in various ways. It's okay to enjoy some social media, but remember that it's a closely cropped version of a much more complex reality.
It's also important to remind yourself that the struggle will end. Making conscious efforts to better your mental health will help you find ways to improve.
There is still a stigma around asking for help from your loved ones or even professionals. In many circles, therapy is still only spoken of in whispers. But why? Asking for help is okay. Consulting a professional who understands the machinations of human cognition is okay. Nobody would fault you for having a mechanic fix your engine; there's no shame in having a professional help you improve your mind. Kay used therapy to great success in her journey of self-improvement, and she'd recommend it to anybody who's struggling. And in today's world, it's relatively easy to find a therapist: the pandemic drove a lot of therapists to the internet. You can get therapy from the comfort of your own home.
Move Your Body
Finally, Kay stresses that we must move our bodies to better our mental health. By now, we understand the endless benefits that come with movement, such as better sleep, improved productivity, enhanced digestion, and much more. Once you start moving your body consistently, you will begin noticing these benefits.
Moving also affects our brains and our cognition positively. People who regularly move their bodies experience better physical and mental health. It's been said that movement is medicine, and it can heal your body in ways you never thought possible. Kay herself swears by movement. She runs every day and engages in other kinds of exercise to improve her health and body. You don't have to run a marathon or power-lift a Volkswagen to enjoy the benefits of exercise; a stroll around the neighborhood or a few reps with some dumbbells is better than nothing!
Lessons From Ali Kay's Story: You Too Can Have It All
Almost all of us have this bizarre, self-limiting belief that we can't have everything. This is especially true for women, who often struggle to believe that it's possible to have a job, business, family, passions, or hobbies. Historically, the role of women has been selfless giving, and the expectations of the past weigh heavy on the present. Women still sometimes get short shrift and have invisible labor that is not necessarily expected of men.
Modern feminist theory aside, Kay's story gives us hope that we can have it all if we use the right techniques to change our life. It is all about how you want to transform your life.
Remember: It's Never Too Late
It is never too late to change your life. Many people think they are too old to create a new life, but that is just a limiting belief standing in your way. No matter how old you are or how many responsibilities you have, you can always take out time to change your life for the better. It is all about believing in yourself and taking the first step. The first step is always the hardest, and it gets better from there.
If you want to change your life, Kay makes a good example. Even if you're beginning to feel the endless strain of adulthood, you must understand that age does not matter when taking charge of your life. Kay took charge during a time of her life full of struggle and responsibility; with a few small changes to routine and a big change to her mindset, she prevailed. Even if you're struggling now or feeling the weight, you can still start with a small step in the right direction.
All Bodies Are Good
Kay is also an advocate for body positivity. That is because her journey began when she posted a picture during her postpartum phase with her baby in one hand. Pregnancy can be hard on the body, and Kay showed a real-life vision for what it's like to gestate and birth a baby, complete with extra body weight and stretch marks.
The truth is that no matter what social media says, it is not realistic to have a flat tummy with no rolls. Bodies warp and jiggle when we go for a run or move them in other ways. It's not shameful to have an authentic human body, imperfections and all. Kay's bravery in showing the world the unfiltered truth brought her many messages from people celebrating her and telling her that what she did was positive and excellent. As long as you take care of yourself, move your body, and eat right, you should be proud of the body you have. The totality of who you are as a person is more than your appearances and your body. Take care of yourself and celebrate yourself every day.
Nobody is coming to help you. That's a jarring thing to say in an article about positivity, but the reality is that nobody else will save you. You have to make your own decisions with the resources and information you have available. Kay, suffering from a challenging postpartum phase, eventually came to learn that nobody else could help her except for herself. Not to say she doesn't have a supportive family or friends – but as much as those people care about you, they can't make your decisions for you.
So, the next time you feel down, remember Kay's story. By making small changes targeted at being better, she got herself out of the most challenging times of her life. Take responsibility, stay accountable, and take action by doing something to make your life better each day. That simple change will put you on the right trajectory.
Listen To Yourself And Your Body
Kay's final piece of advice is to listen to yourself and your body. You must stay in tune with what your body is telling you. Listening to the sensations and information your body sends you will help you get in touch with what you need. Why does that matter? It will help you avoid overexerting yourself or engaging in things that are not good for your body. If you eat two boxes of Girl Scout cookies or drink seven beers in a row, listen to how your body reacts to that habit, and consider how it is likely to affect your overall sense of wellness. Once you understand what your body is saying, you can take steps to make better choices in terms of your health.
The Journey Continues
Ali Kay's story is not over. Her journey to wellness began years ago in the wake of a difficult time in her life and continues to the present. Her journey has inspired countless people to make small but meaningful changes in their lives that will help them live better lives. And while a few small changes may seem insignificant, carried out over a lifetime, they can have a major impact. After all, wellness and fitness are not simple voyages with a discrete endpoint; they are lifelong journeys that require good mental and physical habits. Kay's dedication and commitment to living well and being fit will continue into the future. Don't just take our word for it. You can learn more about Ali Kay and tap into her vast well of knowledge on her Instagram, TikTok, podcast, or app.