We live our life surrounded by stories. We tell ourselves stories about our backgrounds, how we met our spouses, or how we came to feel a certain political affiliation.
We also tell ourselves stories about our health.
There was a time when I was telling myself a typical American story. I had subscriptions to Women’s Health and Runner’s World. I counted calories and planned hour-long workouts 5-7 days per week. If I went over my calories or didn’t go to a workout, I beat myself up about it. All I ever did was gain weight, but all I ever felt like I did was diet and exercise. It just didn’t make sense. (And then I stressed out about it more).
Your diet and your activity level are core foundations of physical, mental, and emotional health. But weight loss and overall health are not about calories in, calories out.
If we were to simplify anything, it’s about quality sleep and quality calories in, stress out. If you can’t find it in yourself to prioritize those things, no amount of exercise and calorie deprivation will encourage your body to release excess fat. If anything, it will encourage your body to cling to it more, making all of your efforts even more stressful and depressing.
All of those magazines and television shows that featured quick ways to hide the bags under your eyes or feel full without eating anything that feeds your body (Make light popcorn all the time! Swap out meat for grains! Avoid fat!) seemed like they were sharing secrets to help you care for your body. But those “tips” only allow you to abuse your body more.
Real care? Means giving your body what it needs and loving it the way it is in the mean time.
Why hide the bags (a sign you’re sleep deprived and your cortisol levels are probably out of whack) instead of caring for yourself by prioritizing sleep? Why do the work of an intense workout (that might only further the hormone stress your body is under) when you could eat a filling meal, spend time with loved ones, and take a walk?
This is not a judgement on the way you choose to live your life.
This is a call to disarm the story you’re holding onto.
Maximum health is not deprivation and punishment or pushing your body beyond its limits over a long period of time. Maximum health is taking steps to create a life that reflects what your body actually needs: sleep, nutritious foods, activity, and relaxation.
And any story that tells you that you can skimp on those things and “lose weight, and feel great!” is a story that belongs in the fiction section.