‘We are the most well fed, starving of nations’. Anon.
This was said by an acquaintance of mine last week over breakfast. There were three of us, all women, all on average to below-average incomes, all unhappy with our state of physical health ….and of course by that I mean specifically the way that physical health was representing itself on our bodies ie how we looked.
The comment was referring to the kind of food that was available to us in our supermarkets for just such times and inner monologues. Diet food, that is, food that as the quote suggests is anything but nutritious.
For the most part we now know that these foods are either full of sugar and salt (to replace the fat content) or worse, full of chemicals in the form of preservatives and sweeteners, a long list of numbers appearing on the packaging. In this regard I recently read somewhere that ‘if you don’t recognize the ingredient, your body probably wont either’. I also read ‘an apples ingredients should read apple‘.
So what we end up doing is starving our bodies of what they need whilst we are eating. It’s an odd paradox and I would also add so uncaring, rude actually, toward the incredible machine that is the human body, to life itself.
How do we look after our body then? Our frustrations aired over breakfast were equaled by our confusion when considering this very question – when so many options for optimum health are out there, which one do you choose?
Commercially, here in Australia, we currently have so much conflicting advice. High protein diets, the ‘BMI’, a raw food diet full of green juices and ‘activated almonds’; or when it comes to exercise, that anything from 20 minutes of walking a day (if you’re on the Dukan diet), one hour of sweaty exercise a day (if your detoxing) or three, 40 minute sessions of cardio a week if you just want to keep ‘healthy’. But rarely do any of these suggestions ask us to turn inward, to ask us to listen to our own individual bodies and see what they are telling us.
I don’t mind sharing a couple of personal insights here to illustrate my point. The BMI suggested for a woman of my height for instance is around 55kg. Any time I have gone below 60kg, healthily or not, I have stopped menstruating. So how does the BMI work for my individual body?
I was also recently diagnosed with a severe case of plantar fasciitis. It’s a painful condition that effects the foot and can only be managed as apposed to fixed. This condition rules out a lot of the cardio training suggested for a girl like me who’s a little overweight.
The first thing I did in this regard was to seek out advice from a qualified practitioner. The advice given to me by this podiatrist wasn’t rocket science; beyond strapping my foot and wearing orthotics, I needed to change the type of exercise I do so that I can stay fit but reduce the impact on said foot. I had to listen to the pain and move from running to walking, from the gym to yoga or swimming.
The fight that I have had though between doing what my body needs of me and what I want of it has been incredibly difficult. In part this makes no sense to me for if I truly want a healthy body (and one that does not feel so much pain) then doing this is in line with that goal. But my idea of health, like so many others (and this takes us full circle, back to the conversation I referred to at the beginning of this post) I would argue is tied up with what I believe health should look like.
Today therefore I am wondering, when we set out for health are we really talking about setting out to look good as apposed to feel good? And are we prepared to let our body take the shape they naturally take when we truly listen and act in its best interest?
The answer to this last question I believe, so strongly, is no for the majority of us …and don’t you just think that’s a little bit sad?
So. How can we change this mindset?
If you’re like me this task feels a little akin to climbing Mt Everest with not only no help but the majority of the world offering me short cuts and distractions as I go. The amount of times for instance I have been on my merry way to health (climbing up the mountain, enjoying the sights and sounds) then come face to face with a bunch of magazines featuring bodies I will never have (and feeling subsequently deflated, that the mission is hopeless), is countless.
I can honestly say I don’t have the answer. Not for you anyway and that’s because your body is different to mine. But I do know that anytime I have felt great has been when I’ve listened to my body, listened when it was in pain, listened when it was tired, listened when it wasn’t hungry, listened when it was. …Listened to what specific kind of food it wanted at any given time as much as what kind of exercise, if any that day; AND, most importantly, acted accordingly with this information it has given me.
Better days are also days when I don’t compare my body, more importantly my health, to anyone else’s.
All this can be a little ‘trial and error’ and it involves patience and time …sorting out what works best for your health. It also involves a lot of letting go and a change in both ones inner and outer dialogue. Angie White of the ‘Butterfly Sisters’ in fact calls it a ‘shift in consciousness’ which begins with changing the words we use to describe ourselves and others. For instance how often as women do we think ‘bitch’ or ‘cow’ when we see someone who has qualities we wish to have rather than ‘wow, doesn’t she/ they look great’? And why can’t we take this thought one step further and tell them?
I did this just the other night whilst having a cuppa with a friend. The woman sitting next to me didn’t have the body of a supermodel but I can’t tell you how bloody attractive she was. Long locks of strawberry blonde hair, freckles and curves. In my mind she was absolutely mind blowing.
So I told her.
Not only did the most beautiful of smiles erupt across her face and out of her glorious eyes, but she actually came back to my table about 10 minutes after she had left to say thank you again, that she just felt spectacular.
If this is the impact changing a couple of words can have, imagine if we all started to change the words we use?
Wonder. Meant …that a healthy body is a body who’s intricacies are listened to, not compared to, anyone else’s
my body, as much as yours, is beautiful simply because it is an incredible organism that gives us the gift of life in all its sensorial glory.