I have noticed that there is a popular sentiment that arises when people talk about being healthier: “I would be healthier, but I would rather be happy.” They might not necessarily say that exact phrase, but it’s close. I would eat better, but I don’t want to be miserable. I would work out more, but I don’t want to hate life. I would take care of myself, but I have other things going on. For some reason, there seems to be a disconnect between being healthy and being happy.
This idea pervades the health world all the time. Diets are associated with denying yourself what you really want to eat, what would make you happy, and eating foods that are boring and tasteless albeit good for you. Exercise is tied in with punishing yourself for eating poorly or torturing yourself to make your body look good. In order to be the best you health-wise, you have to deprive yourself of happiness.
Leaders of the health realm play into this idea, to some extent. How many times have you heard a new fad diet claim that you can still eat the foods you love and lose weight, somehow implying that food that is good for you is food that you don’t love? How many new fitness trends focus on the no pain no gain motto? Or advertise that their workouts are really intense, but if you only devote yourself to twenty minutes of torture you can look like a fitness model? I know that not every diet or fitness trend out there does this, but I feel that on some level they still make the association that being healthy takes a little bit of being miserable.
This is so far from the truth, and it is one of the obstacles that stand in the way when people think about being healthier. No person wants to give up being happy or submit themselves to deprivation and torture to be in a better state of health. For awhile, I thought that if I wasn’t denying myself some type of happiness when it came to my health, I wasn’t really getting healthier. If I didn’t feel totally worn out after a workout or say no to an extra helping, I wasn’t doing it right. Inevitably I would give up on my diet and working out because I didn’t like feeling miserable. Sound familiar?
I want to help perpetuate the idea that healthy and happy go hand in hand. Eating well doesn’t have to be a battle of temptation. You can find food that is delicious AND good for you. You might have to experiment a little to find out what you like and you might have to let your tastes adjust to less processed food, but you can eat good for you food and still feel the joy of eating good food. Exercising doesn’t have to be a tool of torture. There are so many ways to work your body that I am sure you can find something that you enjoy doing. Again, you will have to try different things and see what you like the best and what your body can handle, but you can find pleasure in working out regularly. Instead of viewing being healthier as something that is going to take happiness away from your life, view it as a way to add your happiness. You’re taking steps to add years and energy to your life, you’re taking control of your health, and you’re taking pride in yourself. These are all healthy things that can make you happy.