Healthy people are weird.
Not to mention easy to make fun of.
Would GOOP guru Gwyneth Paltrow be the subject of so much ridicule if she didn’t pontificate on healthy living?
Super-healthy adults are like those super-smart kids in high school. Teenagers might secretly wish they had the grades of a brainbox, but no one wants to wear the freak flag. It’s much more fun to be normal.
Adults might wish for a pert bum and glowing skin, but no one wants to be a health freak. It’s much more fun to enjoy life.
It doesn’t help that the most visible role models for healthy living come across like drill sergeants. They advocate “punishing routines” and “strict macrobiotic diets.” Their biggest pleasure in life is pumping out one more set, sweat trickling down those washboard abs.
Good health looks too much like punishment.
I’ll never forget being confronted by the wrath of my Reiki master one morning when we showed up for a workshop. She asked us if we’d had coffee or tea with breakfast. When some of us tentatively nodded, she shoved mugs into our hands. She grabbed a thermos and filled our mugs with red bush (rooibos) tea.
“See!” she pronounced. “Just as good. No caffeine. Caffeine is a drug. It clouds your senses. You don’t need it.”
No, of course not. Who needs caffeine, right?
We dropped our eyes. No one tittered.
Health is like school for adults. Each day you’re put to the test. Each day you pass or fail.
Did you eat bacon? Big red X over your health for the day.
Did you exercise twice this week? Oops, should have been five times.
The latest scientific advice ensures that health is a class we will always fail, because the textbook is always changing. Only experts can keep up.
So drop the class.
Who needs that kind of pressure?
Do your best, but stop grading yourself. Instead, ask yourself one simple question:
“Am I able to do everything I want to do?”
If the answer is yes, then don’t worry.
But if you can’t do everything you want to do—like fit into a size 8, or stay on your feet all day, or get through winter without being sick half the time—then take action. Figure out what you need to do and do it.
But don’t do it because a patronizing personal trainer is telling you to do it.
We hand over a lot of power to other people. The number of diet and exercise books, DVDs, and websites out there could make a small mountain. We give doctors ultimate authority to decide who’s healthy and who’s not.
It’s always good to listen to experts in the know, but they’re not teachers with the power to fail us and keep us back a grade.
The only person who knows what it’s like to live in your body is YOU. You experience the rewards, and you suffer the consequences.
The benefits of health are highly personal. The better you feel, the more fun you can have. You can dance all night. You can join your friends on adventures. You don’t have to take breaks to get your breath back.
The better you feel, the more attractive you look. Vibrancy and vitality shine from your eyes. Men pass approving glances up and down your physique.
But the worse you feel, the less you want to do. You stay home and rest instead of going out. You feel less social, and your love life shows it.
That’s why you should care about your health. Not because you want a gold star on your next checkup. But because having fun matters. Pleasure matters. Feeling invincible and able to do anything matters.
You’re not a bad person if your health isn’t perfect. But you are selling yourself short.
It’s much more fun when your body keeps up with you. It’s much more fun when you love your shape.
And you don’t have to become a health freak to do it. You can set goals and move towards them one baby step at a time.
So what if you didn’t exercise five times this week? You’re getting there. So what if you drank five cups of coffee today? You’re working on it.
I didn’t stop my morning caffeine hit after being shamed about my drinking habits. Like most people, I don’t like being made to feel embarrassed. I dig in my heels.
But in my heart I know my Reiki master was right. I don’t want to have to depend on a chemical substance just to have a good morning. I want to have all the energy I need just from being me.
So I’m trying. I’m cutting back. I want it to be a change for life, so I’m allowing myself all the time I need to make it a permanent habit.
No one has the right to shame you about what you do or don’t do. Not Gwyneth, not Tracy Anderson, not Jillian Michaels, not Bob Harper, no one.
Your health is about YOUR life. Your pleasure. Your enjoyment.
And it’s not weird to want that to be the best it can be.