Are you trapped by the guilt of healthy living?
One of my goals in life is to help my daughter fend her way through this image-obsessed, guilt-driven, thin-worshiping world. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food, her body, and the environment. I also want her to enjoy life, special occasions, and the interactions with others.
A lofty goal, right?
The real struggle is that it’s so easy to fall into the traps that keep us from truly loving our bodies and the elements that nourish them. We have messages all around us destroying those good intentions. Sometimes in the most unlikely places.
Let me illustrate this with a short, but true story. It was the day of my younger sister’s wedding. A joyful event full of good friends and good food. In fact, my personal favorite (ice cream) was being served at the reception. My husband and I were helping out at the ice cream bar.
Free ice cream (and guilt, too!)
Something funny happens when you hand people free ice cream. Tom and I were standing behind the table with all the toppings—our task was to be friendly, keep things stocked, and help anyone in need.
But our presence, especially for the guests, resulted in some interesting remarks from the people enjoying the free food:
“Are you here to make sure we don’t take more than our fair share?”
“I shouldn’t eat this. I am being bad.”
(From a guest who came back for thirds): “Uh… this is for my wife.”
“It’s okay; I’m going to kill myself at the gym tomorrow.”
“This is my dinner. Horrible, I know… but what can you do?”
“I feel so guilty, but it tastes so good!”
“I’m not here to be healthy!”
Maybe I had an unconscious condemning look on my face, (THOU SHALL NOT EAT THE ICE CREAM!), but I was intrigued by how many people felt compelled to justify their actions—to the people supplying the food, nonetheless!
Fight or Perish
Most people know they should eat well and exercise… they are chiseled onto our forever-to-do list, right? But rather than seeing both these aspects of living as part of a natural approach to nourishing our bodies, we have created these battlefronts where we must either choose to fight or perish.
On the food front is the battle between two enemies: whole foods and all sorts of enticing processed food-like substances. Too many view eating healthy as a chore, as something that “should” be done, and something that usually isn’t enjoyable. On the other side are the seductive foods that are marketed as “sinful.” We crave, desire, and lust after that which “should not” be consumed. They are the foods that we must conquer with our weapons of fear and guilt.
On the fitness front we must choose between doing nothing or death. Seriously, sometimes it seems that extreme. I’m always amazed by how often people use words like kill, pain, or destroy when referring to their workout. So many fads in fitness today focus on boot camp-like experiences where one must be broken before one can conquer.
Nourishment, not punishment.
When we see health as a nagging chore, we must choose to reluctantly oblige or rebel through a myriad of excuses.
Think how different our views of health would be:
- If we saw food as a source of nourishment instead of calories?
- If people viewed movement as a way of life rather than a militaristic event?
When we love our bodies, we respect the things that make them feel good. All of a sudden healthy living is a natural outcome of a desire to be vibrant and happy. Depending on our starting point it may take time to get to where we want to be, but it no longer becomes a hopeless cause.
We don’t see health as a battle. We choose good things because it makes us feel good. It is that simple.
And when we can do that, we can walk up to the ice cream bar without fear or guilt because healthy living allows us to celebrate, too.
This. This is my wish my daughter. Myself. And you.