Why You Should Be More Mindful Of Your Body

While we think we understand our bodies, as neuroscientists we’re realizing this isn’t quite accurate. What we’ve learned and observed is that our bodies have the potential to change — to adapt to the demands of the lifestyle we develop — and these changes can be quite profound. When we allow this to happen, what are we? Are we merely a tool through which we are made to live, a product? We are our bodies — but only our body.  Not our life. No amount of changing our attitude about our bodies is enough.

For years, the biggest problem I had with my self-worth was thinking of myself as “thin/thin-ish.” I was the only one in the social group with the body I thought I should have. I was told I should be thin and not bulky — and by that I meant not overweight. In today’s society, it’s become commonplace to feel like my body does not “measure up,” so to speak. Because I was so fixated in it, I stopped taking care of myself in so many ways. After years of being anemic and in dire need of medical attention, I was finally able to shed the self-hate and embrace my life and the amazing person I was. I am so much healthier and stronger and have a lot more confidence in myself than I have ever had before.  I believe that a part of that is realizing that I don’t care how much I look like the “ideal,” I don’t care how “unhealthy” my body is (which is, again, me trying not to look like an ideal) — I just need to keep living. The fact that I can feel a lot more confident and feel much more alive because I am so much more comfortable in my body is such an incredible relief.

In an effort to be more compassionate, open, and thoughtful with our language, I invite you to consider this: the word “healthy” — what it implies, what it does, and how it’s used. As social scientists, we use “healthy” in a broad way. We don’t stop at healthy eating. We use healthy in any context — which means this: we are not afraid, or even ashamed, to use the word “healthy.” It’s not a negative word, it represents a positive message, and if we are going to use it, we must be willing to be honest about the message we are sending.

In our culture, “healthy” means “comfortable.” Not everyone wants to be healthy, or comfortable… and that’s okay. While we’re all entitled to our choice, the choice isn’t to be unhealthy and unattractive. We are all capable of living happier, healthier, richer lives without letting the word become a negative one.  We believe that what we eat/drink is one of many contributing factors to human health; we do not believe that the term “healthy” is the ultimate determinant of our own health. To put it in simple terms, we believe that it doesn’t matter how “healthy” we are — if we are not comfortable in our bodies, that’s how we are going to feel.

So in today’s language, instead of using the term “healthy,” let’s say “tolerable.” It’s not the ultimate measurement of our health, but it’s a beginning. It’s the word in which we all understand. “To be healthy” is synonymous with “to be comfortable.” Healthy doesn’t mean “perfect,” it just means that we do not want to be unhealthy, or uncomfortable. Being “tolerable” may not have the same connotations or implications the word healthy does, but we believe it’s important to use the words we do use in our daily conversations, because if we don’t use it, there is a good chance we don’t realize we are communicating a message.

The point we are trying to make is not “we don’t care how much you look” — but instead “we’re all doing it differently and that’s okay.”  We need to stop being afraid to use the word “healthy.” We need to be okay with the fact that we are different than average, and we may want to try new things. You want your body to be healthy, too? Make healthy choices instead of constantly looking for shortcuts.