At the end of May I started a new yoga program that encompasses workouts for everyone from beginners to advanced practitioners. The program has a community on Facebook that many people use for questions, support and to show off their transformations after using the program for a long period of time.
But the types of posts I see the most are people who talk about how ashamed they are for something. Either they confess the sin of not eating ‘right’, or they haven’t worked out in awhile, or didn’t do as well as they wanted to, and on and on. And every time I see one of those posts I want to just to comment…
We are taught at an early age that there are only ‘bad’ things, and ‘good’ things. If we aren’t one, then we are the other. And the health and wellness industry has made millions off this fact. We are made to feel horrible that we don’t live up to the photoshopped pictures that show us perfect images of health and fitness that looks nothing like what exists in real life. Slogans convey the intent that if you only did ‘A’ or ‘B’, you’d look just like them. (Of course, either option means paying through the nose for gym memberships, fitness equipment, personal trainers and anything else they can think of for the up-sell.)
Having any sort of chronic mental or physical illness just amplifies how horrible we are made to feel if we can’t do everything that we are told to do in order to get healthy. We are the ones that need aid the most, and yet, most of the things that we are told to do are things that are just too hard to start all at once, making us feel even more broken even if we try.
I’m not saying there isn’t work involved in getting and staying healthy. There is work involved to create positive change in life, and once you start that work, it’s a struggle to keep going until better habits are created. But just like the image of optimum health looks different for everyone, our starting points are also going to look different. I can’t count the number of times I’ve started something only realize it’s too much on my body and I end up in bed for almost a week.
But that is not my failing. That is life.
If things were perfect, those of us who really want to try and change would each be given use of a personal life coach and trainer to work with us to understand our strengths and weaknesses, and work on a personal step by step plan to get us healthy. And every time we lost a couple days because something else got in the way, we would simply take stock of where we were with the help of that trainer, and start moving forward again. And the trainer would tell us plainly, it wouldn’t be starting over by any stretch of the imagination, like many of the posters in my yoga facebook community say it is. It’s simply working through an issue and continuing what was started.
But, we don’t live in a perfect world. We are left to our own devices, and left to fend for ourselves, with many like me feeling even more horribly about themselves than they already do because we can’t do any of the workouts or dietary habits that we are asked to do. It truly pisses me off.
If I could, I would reply to all of the people that talk about ‘falling off the wagon’ or saying how horrible they feel because they weren’t able to keep moving forward in the program at the pace that was laid out for them. I’d tell them that they are already doing so very much more for themselves by just starting the process. I’d tell them what amazing wonderful people they are for even starting. I’d tell them how strong they are for trying to find a way to make themselves healthier. I’d tell them how proud I am of them for even trying to start what looks like a very long and hard journey.
And, I’d also tell them they need to find their own way. It may mean only doing one workout a week, only cutting out certain foods and leaving their comfort foods, or something else. Whatever it is that gives internal strength and confidence to the person trying to change their life, that is all that matters. Because only that will be the key in making changes for the better.
There is a lot of health and wellness sayings out there that I think are total crap. But there are some that are worth keeping in mind. A saying that I think is worth keeping around is this; “Either you say you can, or you say you can’t. Either way, you’re right.” Diamond Dallas Page says this during his workouts, and it’s a good thing to keep in mind, especially for those with chronic illness. I firmly believe we have more control over our lives than we think. It takes time to figure out where and how, but with work and time we can find the strength and better health we strive for.