I am so pleased that many people have taken a new interest in healthy living and wellness. My social media pages are flooded with healthy eating advice and work out tips complete with the requisite fitspo selfies. As a physician with particular expertise in Lifestyle Related Diseases and Wellness, it warms my heart to see. Finally, I thought, we will get out ahead of the Diabetes, Hypertension and Heart Disease epidemics that have plagued us for ages. But then something troubling started happening. What began as a positive movement has, in some instances, become quite negative.
No longer are we content to improve ourselves and our health but we have become incredibly judgmental of others. We have become food nazis and exercise czars. The inspiration has morphed into a dictatorial, holier than thou carnival complete with the requisite food shaming and fat blaming. Where I used to see pictures of lovely fresh, leafy green vegetables and appealing arrangements of fruit and plant based meals, I now am greeted by posts that read more like “listen you dumb, fat, lazy, meat eating, non- exercising Lunkheads, it is time to stop eating meat. or carbs, or fats or whatever I’m not eating”
Gone are the days of selfies of perspiration drenched friends doing their thing on the track or in the gym and here have come the snarky memes about “running laps around others on the couch” or the well meaning yet insulting advice about why the intended audience is going to die early of a heart attack because they haven’t jumped on the latest fitness bandwagon.
Can we talk? Really? Let’s talk. Regardless of your intention or how it is phrased, meanness is exactly that. ‘Badmind’ kills just as many people as a bad heart. Believe this to be true because it is. Stress and isolation are predisposing to heart disease and other illnesses as is a sedentary life style and poor eating habits. Certainly the cortisol secreted from stress contributes to abdominal obesity which also predisposes to coronary artery disease.
A lack of sleep robs the body of restorative time and the disruption in sleep patterns contributes to hormonal imbalances and multiple diseases. Perhaps you are happy with the 4 am workouts and the constant weighing and measuring, perhaps being tied to the scale doesn’t bother you one iota. I believe that because it really doesn’t bother me either…. well maybe not the 4 am workouts. I will NOT be on that schedule, Thank You. The point however is this; in much the same way we choose healthy habits and overlook the inherent stressors and difficulty with compliance with a healthy lifestyle, let’s allow others to choose their path to health. Perhaps instead of cutting out certain foods, your BFF may choose to incorporate meditation or laughter. Perhaps the extra hours gained from not working out in the morning are spent boosting a spiritual practice . There is ample scientific evidence that faith improves health and prolongs life.
Am I suggesting that you purchase a Big Mac for your obviously overweight friend or Valentine’s Chocolate for the fluffy amongst us? No. You certainly shouldn’t contribute to what you feel is harmful or dangerous to the health of others. No one is asking you to encourage your friend who is a fitness newbie to sit on their butts while you work out. All I’m asking is “Can we all live?”
Encouragement sweetens labour. There is much to be said from encouraging others to emulate and be inspired by your progress as opposed to a steady force fed diet of all the things they’re doing wrong.
Frankly, I miss the inspirational pics like the one below and could do well with less of the demotivating rhetoric. And you know what? Something tells me I’m not alone.