I read an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday about learning to “break the health rules” once in a while. While I’m still processing much of the article, I think the last paragraph really hits on an interesting point.
Dr. Love said she and Dr. Domar decided to write the book because many people seemed to have lost sight of what it meant to be healthy. “The point of this is to use your common sense, and if you feel good, then you’re fine,” she said. “The goal is not to get to heaven and say, ‘I’m perfect.’ It’s to use your body, have some fun and to live a little.”
While I think some Times readers will take the last sentence as an excuse to treat their bodies poorly either by drinking in excess or not sleeping enough, etc, I hope most people consider Drs. Love and Domar’s assertion that our goal shouldn’t be perfection, but health and happiness.
Another wise writer recently discussed two similar, important issues—labels and striving for perfection. As I expressed in my comment to her post, I initially found labels to be too restrictive. I tried to hide behind them and they served as justifications for an unhealthy mindset and body image. I “didn’t” eat certain foods or “wouldn’t” participate in certain activities. The cut-and-dry nature of labels and their simultaneously exclusive and inclusive nature ended up making me unhappy rather than happy. I was so focused on the perfection described in the Times article that I wasn’t “hav[ing] fun…and liv[ing] a little.”
While, like Gena, I believe there are some situations in which moderation is not appropriate, e.g., drug use, infidelity, I do agree that we need to give ourselves a break. When I shaped my goals for 2010, I made some specific, measurable goals, but I also made goals that encouraged flexibility and moderation. I strive to eat a vegetarian diet four days/week. For me, I think eating a vegetarian-focused diet will both make me healthier AND make me happier. Not only will it move me toward my great goal of the highest level of health for myself, but it will also make me feel better physically and allow me to use my body and have some fun. And I know by leaving “wiggle room” for myself that I will be able to remember what it really means to be healthy, both mentally and physically.
How do you remind yourself of the real meaning of “health”?