Jan 18, 2014

A Healthy Medium: Health vs Self Image

A healthy medium: health vs self image

I remember, as a child, being upset about something that my father said.  I don't even remember his comment anymore.  What I do remember is my aunt's immediate offer of support and the talk we had.  Having someone on my side made me feel better, at first.  Then we started trying to get to the root of the problem.

I was upset over a growing sense of insecurity, of never being good enough for my father.  I was upset because I was too young to reason out my feelings and come to terms with them.  Too young to understand that my father was projecting his own insecurities onto his family.  Too young to explain it coherently.  I told my aunt about the numerous workout plans, diet plans, weekly weigh in plans, none of which lasted long, but long enough.  I got the message.

Her response was something like, "Well, one pound a week isn't much.  If that's all he's asking, I could lose that much just by drinking water and peeing a lot."

She didn't get it.

And I came to realize, in a vague, childish way at the time and more fully later on, that she wasn't comfortable in her own skin either.  Here she was, healthy and active, and thin even by Hollywood standards, and all she could focus on was her flaws, imaginary or not.  The next diet plan.  Somehow squeezing another workout into days already filled with an active lifestyle and active hobbies.  I made a resolve that's grown over the years.  To be secure.  To accept myself.  To focus on what I liked and to see the positives instead of projecting the negatives that the rest of the world probably saw.

I might have done this too well.  Well enough that every half-hearted exercise or healthy eating plan felt a bit like a betrayal.  Was I not happy with myself anymore?  How could I turn my back on my self-acceptance principles?  Why was this important again?  Then I made a discovery!  Somehow, this discovery didn't arrive until well into my adulthood.  Here it is: there are other reasons to eat well and exercise.  The impacts on your future health are far more important than the short term acceptance and admiration by the general public.

There's a general idea in our country that being thin and dieting are desirable because they'll make you more attractive.  Being attractive and conforming to other people's standards of beauty is by far the most common reason for trying to get in shape.  And it's stupid.  How long are people going to find you attractive anyway?  Why do you even care?  What good does it do you?  It was never a reason that could motivate me to stick with a plan.

But health is.

Like a 401k for my future financial health, I need to take steps now to ensure a healthier and easier future.  So I've made health goals.  You can read them in my Resolutions post.  But they're not about getting abs or losing weight.  They're about adding more produce to my diet, exercising more, making it fun, sustainable and fitting it in wherever I can.  Will those 10 pushups before breakfast make me thin and beautiful?  No.  But it gets my blood flowing and keeps a few muscles from wasting away (more than they already have - I am terrible at pushups).

So no more diets!

No more frantic short-lived bursts of exercise!  Just a healthier lifestyle overall.  Accept yourself, love yourself, and do your best to keep yourself around for a long time.

What are your thoughts on health vs. society's expectations?