bodies: health for living vs. living for health

Bodies. We all have one, therefore we all have a relationship to the one that’s ours. Why is it that some people seem to get along with theirs while others are constantly battling theirs? Why is it that some people don’t mind that they hate their bodies while some people want to get to a place of body love?

I spend too much a lot of time thinking about my body and how it looks, or thinking about how I shouldn’t be thinking about it and how it looks. You get the picture. I know that I’m not alone here—from conversations about how many calories this friend is eating to how many workouts a week this friend is doing to the new program that this friend’s trying to the new body image book that this friend is recommending, at least in my circle of friends, there is plenty of concern with our bodies.

In my last post, I talked about wanting to make my health a priority, but shifting my perspective on it all. Physical health should be like a table leg, one thing that, along with others (emotional health, psychological health, etc.), supports me and my life. A full life requires health, but it isn’t simply being healthy. This is the difference between wanting to be healthy in order to live (health for living) vs. making our lives about being as healthy as possible (living for health).

In the past, I’ve been sucked into a world where health is the absolute be-all end-all. But isn’t health supposed to be what allows us to get out there and live? It’s like the spin class superstar who’s super fit but never takes it to the road; or the indoor rock climber who never touches a real rock; or the swimmer who never dives into the ocean. It’s sad, right? A waste? If we have a healthy body, we might as well use it to live a life.

whoohoo

Some day, every single one of our bodies will just be done—we can’t get away from that. Lots of people are scared to get older. I don’t like to think about the fact that we are all headed to the same place and can’t avoid it, but when I do I remember that I’ve got a limited number of days to spend on this earth. No matter how much effort I put into preserving my body, the eventual end is going to come. So why waste all the effort and energy I have trying to stave off something that I’ll never be able to? Why not focus on how I want to feel at the end of the journey—on what I want to do, who I want to be, the kind of life I want to live? And not so much on the appearance of the body I do it in?

I think it’s normal for us to feel like we are at war with our bodies. We see “ideal” bodies all over the place, and we don’t match up. Then we see blogs like mine and articles and books and coaching programs to help us love our bodies. I think these things are valuable. But I don’t think that we need them forever. In healing from my eating disorder, it’s been absolutely essential to get back to a healthy place with my relationship with myself. But I’ve noted something along the way: my relationships with other people are pretty darn important and deserve my attention too. While I was busy hating myself, then learning to love myself, I let some of my friendships and family relationships suffer. We only have so much energy.

We worry about our bodies, and we worry about worrying about our bodies. We try to fix our bodies, and we try to fix our relationships with our bodies. Both of these things are seemingly in our control. Tackling something like the last 10lbs or our negative self-talk lets us feel like we are in the driver’s seat of a life that we live in what can be a pretty scary world.

We think that if we can fix our bodies, or the way we think about them, we might find happiness. Forever. But we live in a world where bad things will still happen. People will die. Friends will hurt us. We will lose our jobs. Stock markets will crash. Even if we have a six pack. Even if we embrace our cellulite. It’s a dangerous notion to think that we should be happy all the time. Brene Brown talks about embracing all the emotions that come with living and says that if we “numb the dark, we numb the light.” We try to avoid the “bad” emotions but we end up limiting our ability to feel all emotions—even the “good” ones. No matter how strong we make our bodies, we cannot protect ourselves from the “bad” in the world. It is a heck of a lot easier to tackle the fat on our thighs OR the thoughts we have about the fat on our thighs than to deal with things and feelings that really challenge us and come from things outside of our control. I think this keeps us locked into our body struggles. It might be uncomfortable to hate your body, but it’s comfortably uncomfortable and in your own control. It might be uncomfortable to project our stress onto our bodies; but it’s comfortably uncomfortable, predictable and arguably less challenging than addressing what’s really going on in our lives.

numb brene brown

There will always be a reason to dislike our bodies, and there will always be the option of fixating on the physical vessel we’ve got to live our lives. But there will also always be the opportunity to let it go and to focus on the lives we are living. I, for one, don’t want my being to be dedicated to the shell that I’ve been given to make a life with. Remember, at the end of this thing that we call life, what we want to be able to say about the way we lived. Our bodies have been given to us—they are a gift—we can make the most of them but remember that they were given to us to make the most of life. 

onel ife

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One thought on “bodies: health for living vs. living for health

  1. Pingback: Health as an enigma: why I think we all need to define what “health” is really about | Happy is the new healthy

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