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In case you haven’t noticed, life has gotten harsh. It starts with jarring alarm clocks and chlorinated showers, where we lather up with stripping detergents and petrochemicals. Once in front of the mirror, we might pass a little harsh self-judgment before brushing our teeth with sodium lauryl sulfate, gargling with stinging mouthwash, applying paraben-laden deodorant to freshly-shaven underarms, and coal tar-derived color cosmetics to freshly-exfoliated skin. With a spritz of great-smelling neurotoxins and carcinogens, we hit the kitchen for our blood-sugar-spiking juice and cortisol-pumping coffee. As we sit down with our newspaper to dwell on the important things, we think: Ahhh, the most relaxing part of my day, as our bodies gasp, What just happened! And what’s going to happen to me when we go out the door?

What often awaits are skipped meals, commando fitness trainers and lunch hour facial peels to show our body who’s boss. Or the two o’clock sugar or caffeine fix as we ignore our screaming body chemistry (which we think is just in our heads). We blame our missed gym sessions, or too many calories for our figure flaws, and our genetics for our skin problems. We down rice cakes, salads, and diet soda to get through the cravings and avoid weight gain.

It Wasn’t Supposed to Be This Way
What I’m about to tell you will anger the diet, fitness, and drug police. And the former food-addicted and exercise-driven woman I was would never have believed it if I hadn’t been forced to by a health crisis: Today’s boot-camp approach to health and beauty won’t fix your health or your skin, and guarantees you eternal struggles with food and weight, while forever distracting you from the real solutions, as the real problems worsen.

After a decade of temporary success (and ultimate failure) at pursuits that required willpower, I stumbled upon answers that caused no guilt trips, suffering, set-backs or new problems. And they transformed me more dramatically than any popular doctor-recommended approach ever could, actually restoring my health, my shape, my skin and my spirit beyond recognition. The only hard work was the decade of suffering I needlessly endured before stumbling on these answers. Unfortunately, it took me an incurable health crisis to finally consider them. But your self-love (and perhaps my example) will steer you from today’s short-sighted quick fixes for our weight and looks, and lead you to the most powerfully transforming motivation of all: health.

If you find yourself saying my doctor has me taking this or my trainer has me doing that, stop yourself. The decision must be yours, not delegated (if it is, then you don’t know enough about what it is you’re taking or doing). You have created what you are today, and only you can create what you’ll become. Looking back on my eating disorder and the health crisis that forced me to try alternatives I didn’t even believe in (and thank God I did), it struck me how many of the destructive choices I’d made throughout my former denatured life were defined by food, drug, and beauty industries (via doctor-recommendations!). But the choices were still my own. And because I had created what I’d become by twenty-four (a poster child for today’s scary health statistics), I could also totally re-create myself by thirty.

Reconnect With Your Spirit of Self-Advocacy
In order to become the beauty nature intended for us, we must embrace our roles as masters of ourselves and cultivate ourselves with the passion of an artist, using the finest inspirations, tools and raw materials. Only we live with ourselves twenty-four hours a day, making seemingly unimportant (yet truly life-changing) split-second decisions that impact our health when no one else is around. Only we can catch those valuable clues in the mirror before we cover them with our makeup and wardrobe techniques. And only we can see and feel the changes in our bodies in response to our daily choices.

Part of embracing this path to enlightened self-cultivation is to disenchant ourselves with the notion of government guidelines, and industry-sponsored experts as our paternalistic protectors, so we can put that role where it belongs: With ourselves. Never follow blindly. Hand-pick your own ever-evolving team of professionals and resources based on good (not just industry-sponsored) science, and your own gut instincts. If your practitioner doesn’t think for himself, brandishes the prescription pad too readily, or generalizes about supplements (a dead giveaway of ignorance), find a new one.

Finally, with self-love as your guide, reject the over-simplified, no pain, no gain approach to fitness and the stripping, zapping and peeling approaches to skincare (which leaves skin defenseless). Give yourself permanent sanctuary from industry-serving myths, harsh products and procedures, and the idea that you must ultimately suffer for beauty and fitness. Start considering your chemistry so you can stop counting calories. In place of health-trivializing goals such as lose weight, or clear up my skin, set health-focused goals such as stabilize my blood sugar, improve my digestion, or look into my hormone situation. Then expand your knowledge. These steps will produce far more dramatic results. Encourage every woman you know to rise above the merry-go-round of problem-causing solutions. Think health and beauty will follow.

For specific insights on how to customize a transforming game plan for yourself, I invite you to join me on my website.

Kat James

Kat James is an award-winning author, transformational nutrition and beauty pioneer, and syndicated radio host who’s been called "a master of self-transformation" by SELF magazine in response to her stunning recovery from liver, autoimmune, and eating disorders that nearly took her life. Her controversial and pioneering dietary method—now recommended at top neurologic, fertility, functional medicine, bariatric, and metabolic clinics—has left countless dramatic success stories in its wake and been featured at top spas and institutions such as Omega Institute, as well as on "Today," Fox, and, PBS among, others. To learn more about her original Total Transformation® Programs and TelePrograms, radio show on XM/SIRIUS, or her Silver Nautilus award-winning bestseller, The Truth About Beauty, visit her website since 1998.