No matter how challenging our situation is, we can often work through it if we have good health. That said, why then do we abuse our bodies so much and, in doing so, sabotage our energy and emotional wellbeing?The following situations aren’t from my personal experience but reflect oft-repeated sequences of events told to me by clients and friends.
Scenario A: In college you find yourself partying every other night and putting on what’s known as “The Freshman 15”. Post college you move into a more stable life professionally, but since you’re only in your 20’s you still have the energy to go out all the time. Dinners and drinks with friends, clubbing, and even hooking up happens more than you’d like to admit. As you start to sober up and replay the night’s previous events, you’re mortified by your behavior and feel depressed across the board for your actions. By your 30’s you start to feel it a little more, and you need more sleep. You start to limit your partying to 2-3 days a week. You advance in your career, your hours are more intense; this means less time for exercise. You also become more cautious about sexual partners and are probably hiding those Mardi Gras beads deep in your closet. What once seemed like fun is now causing serious havoc in your life. If you eat or drink without caution, there are going to be consequences. Similarly, being physically intimate without caution can be emotionally wounding down the road. Both behaviors that previously never always conjured a second thought have begun planting the seeds for long-term damage. Whether you find yourself struggling with exhaustion, depression, anxiety, being overweight or having low self-esteem, a lot of these behaviors are a result of not taking better care of your body. To cope with the instability of life, you don’t have time to slow down and so instead you resort to prescription drugs. Whether it’s uppers or downers, something is needed to take the edge off. Your body isn’t what you had hoped for. You beat yourself up for not being skinny enough or perfect enough. You’re not married and feel like you’re competing with the dating pool that’s 10 years younger. You try juice cleanses or extreme diets that maybe help you drop a pound or two of water weight, but in a week you feel defeated, say “screw it” and go back to the way you’ve always eaten. You want to get to the gym after work but Happy Hour seems like the more logical option because that’s what everyone else is doing. You succumb to the peer pressure and, before you know it, it’s 9 p.m. by the time you finally get home. You don’t feel rested, but tomorrow is a long day ahead of you.
Scenario B: You pride yourself on being responsible. College wasn’t about partying; it was about excelling and getting the career you were passionate about. You also knew at a young age you were ready to settle down and have children. Drinking, smoking, and staying out late aren’t a part of your world, but most activities all revolve around eating. You find yourself gaining weight, possibly pre-diabetic, and having elevated cholesterol. You don’t sleep much because you have to get the kids to school and arrive to work on time. With lack of rest, the last thing on your mind is sex. You’re also not as turned on by your partner because in some ways they’ve let themselves go. You wouldn’t consider cheating, but the only consolation is to get attention elsewhere. You take up tennis, Pilates, or working out with a private trainer and flirt with them for some short-term satisfaction. While you’re busy getting fit, you’re growing more resentful of your partner for being out of shape and lazy. To make matters worse, one of you is on the computer late at night “friending,” chatting, or commenting on someone’s Facebook photos that you have never seen or met before. Your partner starts to catch on and fears that you’re going through a mid-life crisis and will soon leave them for a younger, sexier, replacement. Depression kicks in, sometimes leading to prescription medication or just a constant anxiety about instability in the relationship.
These two situations are all too familiar although it doesn’t have to go down like this. It’s easy to blame our external environment for the breakdown of our physical health and emotions. Every day we are faced with decisions and we tend to choose the path of least resistance.
Even at a young age, I didn’t get wrapped up in Scenario A because my mother’s early death was a wakeup call. I could have easily been pulled into partying every night, eating unhealthy, having multiple sexual partners - but all of that seemed like scary stuff.
In the second scenario, even being a parent doesn’t mean that you stop living for yourself. Children learn by watching the example set by you. You will always have events and celebrations but your health comes first. Exercise and play with your kids. Buy healthy foods and get them excited about good nutrition. And who says when you turn 30, 40, or 50 that you need to stop being sexy and now look like a mom or dad? Even worse, you don’t need to start developing premature health problems that prevent you for being there for the course of their childhood
The body we live in is by design; we didn’t just wake up that way. I’ve seen people make 360’s in their health, but ultimately it comes from a shift in consciousness - not just diet and exercise.