The Sticky Subject of Health and Fitness

Health and fitness – the double-edged sword! So many of us are dying to be in better shape, and so many of us feel defeated by even the thought of fitness, seeing health as an unattainable goal.

But why? Why are we so stressed about something that is supposed to mean we’re feeling better and better? 

Not me

Not me

Every single day we are fed images and ideas of what “healthy” looks like. Granted, there are some well-accepted things to shoot for as far as health goes, but what a healthy person actually looks like is a little less distinguishable. Or a lot less. Not to mention that what we look like in general is like one big can of worms that spills out a mess of body image issues, prejudices, shaming (for being too thin or not thin enough), and so much stress about what is healthy/pretty/sexy/acceptable.

I think all of this comes down to our idol of perfectionism. We want to be liked. And in order to be well liked we obviously have to have it all together, all the time. Right? To be everything, in someone’s eyes – maybe everyone’s eyes.

I am a dietitian by trade and training. That being the case, I know that what we eat certainly plays into our overall health. I also know that there is much more to overall health than eating. And WAY more than only eating “healthy” foods all the time. Come on, people – life is no fun if you have to swear off all the foods you love.

It is also abundantly clear that it is important for all of us to be active. Whether you get your thrills from running marathons or Olympic power-lifting, or if you’d rather take a nightly walk with your family or pet, the point is that moving our bodies is important. There is not a one size fits all recommendation and in general our activity habits, just like anything else, should and will ebb and flow through the different seasons of our lives. If you want to be super ripped, you’re going to have to work for it. If you’ve never exercised before, you’re also going to have to work if you would like to become more active. It’s ok to have goals and to work towards those goals. But be careful to not let those goals take over your entire world.

Herein lies one of the big problems with the health and fitness world and industry. Don’t get me wrong, there are great things about incorporating more fruits and veggies and moving around more often. But if we begin to idolize a certain body type or fitness level or eating pattern, we can very easily start to make good things and desires into ultimate things and desires. And what you make ultimate will control your thoughts, actions, and self-image.

If you let yourself believe you are only valuable if you fit into a certain size, workout X many times per week, or have perfect Insta-worthy meals 24/7, the days you don’t meet these goals could be devastating to you. Comparison is dangerous and with everyone spewing out their top moments on social media, it can be very easy to only see all the ways you don’t measure up to (what seems like) everyone else in the world.

I believe we, as humans, were created with a certain dignity and worth that is distinct from all other creatures. And that means you are valuable no matter what you look like or what your blood panel says! When we compare ourselves to everyone else around us and strive for perfection, it’s so easy to find ourselves wanting. It’s also easy to forget that everyone has baggage and insecurities and is probably comparing themselves to you!

Health is a tricky topic. I’m all about making healthy choices! I encourage people all the time to incorporate more vegetables – few people don’t need that recommendation. Setting realistic goals for yourself – be they fitness related or not – and working towards them, challenging yourself and growing in different ways is great! But please understand me – healthy choices also include rest, and eating foods you like, and spending time with friends and family, and not being crazy stressed all the time about what you look like or if you should be eating that. Let’s work to make peace with ourselves – we can all use a little (or a lot of) grace once in a while. By which I mean daily.

Health means caring for you – all of you – well. So go do that!