Spark joy in your health?

be connect Feb 21, 2019

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” 

Joseph Campbell, Professor of Literature

If you’ve watched the Netflix show “Tidying up with Marie Kondo”, then like me, you’re equally mesmerized by the diminutive Japanese woman who helps people get their homes (and lives) in order. One of the most appealing things about her approach is her use of the Kon Mari method to simplify spaces. This is done not by simply reducing clutter, but rather by asking her clients to keep things only if they spark joy.

Given that home organization is not a new concept, why is Marie Kondo so incredibly popular? My theory is that her gentle nudges toward respect and acknowledgment of inanimate objects seems like a way to teach her audience to live a more mindful life; if you must stop and think about the meaning of every item in your home, eventually you will make more measured decisions about how and what you purchase.

I think if we took the same mindful approach to our health choices, we also would have far more joy when seeking out ways to be more healthy. What would happen if we carefully considered our efforts toward better health as acts of service to bring joy to our bodies? What if we were really discerning in what might serve us, rather than feeling obligated to follow the latest wellness trends?

Over the years I have seen women put themselves through some horrific regiments in the pursuit of “wellness”. The true definition of wellness is striving to achieve better health in not only in the physical realm, but also in the social, emotional, spiritual, mental, and occupational dimensions of life. If a physical pursuit makes you feel terrible emotionally, it is not doing much to contribute to actual wellness.

My health riff on the Marie Kondo method is to start with this: take a moment to thank your wonderful body for all the things that it has given you (good and bad) and then expunge all of the “shoulds” from your pursuit of living a healthy life.

After 25 years of work in the field, here are my own top five things that I would happily throw in the wellness trash can:

1. Superfoods and diet trends. If we could let go of the idea that one food or one macronutrient will solve all of our health and weight problems, we would all be collectively a little happier (I’m looking at you kale, chia, protein, “clean eating”, paleo diets, etc.). Our bodies are far too complex and efficient to be reliant, or to work better, eating one type of food.

2. Cleanses. You have an excellent way of cleaning your insides already. It’s called your liver. No juice will ever outsmart it.

3. Products that promise the better (insert body part here). Many women over 50 are really good at being comfortable in their own skin from the inside, but many of us are still wanting thinner thighs, a smaller butt, tighter skin…as you know, this list is endless. Let’s make this the year to thank all of those crazy devices and then throw them away.

4. Exercise that you hate. I hate racquets sports, throwing a Frisbee, and skiing. Guess what sports I never do? If you hate the gym, don’t go.

I’m the last person who would ever suggest that you don’t exercise, but what I would recommend is that you find a different way to get some opportunities to build your strength. Do something that feels good and brings you joy. I’ll talk about other ways to incorporate strength-building in an upcoming blog post.

4. Supplements. Have you ever met anyone in North America who was suffering from a case of Scurvy? Rickets? These are the types of illness that people get who are vitamin deficient. There’s a reason that you’ve likely never met anyone suffering from a true vitamin deficiency.

In the developed world, most of us get all the nutrients we need from our diet. I caveat this with not letting go of certain supplements for which you might have a medical need (like iron or calcium). Save your money to treat yourself to something that really makes you feel good and nurtures your body.

5. Gwyneth Paltrow and similar pseudoscience peddlers. Seriously. Snake oil saleswomen who have a lot of money for slick marketing are the most dangerous people to sell wellness products. Abandoning scientific research for storytelling can be lethal when it comes to your health. And please, for the love of God, let’s include Gwyneth’s jade eggs and vaginal steaming in the wellness garbage bag.

Even if it’s not as sexy, we need evidence to make thoughtful decisions about where to expend our energy when we are trying to live a healthier life. Let’s hang on to what we know works and spark some joy by throwing away all those crazy powders and potions that make us feel guilty anyway.

I’ll be talking more about what I think are the most important (and joy-sparking) wellness pursuits over the next few blog posts.

Got anything you’d like to add to the wellness trashcan? Head on over to our Facebook page and let me know in the comments section.

Your sister in health,

 

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