Alright, I may have unintentionally misled you. I was hoping to tell you all that you needed to have to be healthy this week, but I realized that I wanted to make sure that you could see what you did not need first. What follows is a list of what you have been told that you would need to be healthy and happy, but you don’t need at all.
1. Gym membership-I actually have one of these and it’s not for the reasons you may think. I live in a little cabin in the woods with no running water. It’s a great place to see other people and to get a nice hot shower. I also enjoy the steam room. But, I don’t need this for my health. Neither do you. I much prefer to be outside, going for a hike, running around with my dog, or just doing some push-ups in my little cabin in the woods.
2. Special footwear-There are dozens upon dozens of articles explaining the benefits of going barefoot. I hike barefoot, run barefoot, Zumba barefoot, ad infinitum. When the terrain gets a little too prickly I do wear my Vibrams, but it’s fine to just avoid that type of terrain. The only possible exception is in the weight room around less conscientious folks. A barbell on the bare instep is the sixth circle of hell.
3. Juicer-Oh, juice. Apparently, fresh, raw juices cure cancer, get your children to behave, bring about world peace, and can do your taxes. It’s a decent treat, but you can get incredibly healthy without one more thing to take up counter space and clean.
4. Vegetarianism-This is the pinnacle (well, right beneath veganism, just easier to attain) of a healthy diet, we’re told. But, there is and never has been an optimally healthy human population that eats this way.
5. Early wake-up to run or another punishing workout-If you’re setting your alarm early, slapping the snooze button, then dragging your heavy carcass out of bed to work out with bleary eyes, you’re not doing yourself any favors. The release of cortisol that this stress creates and then the cumulative sleep deprivation that builds will eventually have your body flipping you the bird in any way it can: increased fat storage, flus, lower pain threshold, forgetfulness, and my pet favorite, depression. Sleep, beauty!
6. Fat avoidance-Dry hair, depression (there she is again!), mood disturbances, hunger, dry skin…really, fat free and low fat diets have done nothing helpful for us. They’ve done tremendous favors to the diet industry and the weird food products industry, though. Have some butter or lard today and nourish your cells!
7. Whole grains-Please, please, please, just say no! If you aren’t ready to get off the grains quite yet, ferment them! They are not a great source of nutrition, bleak actually when compared to meats or vegetables. They are also enveloped in little toxins that are only meant for the birds.
8. Caloric restriction-This one’s a tricky one. When you eat foods that are truly dense in nutrition, they are high in calories but it takes less of them to satiate you. However, close attention (or any, really) to caloric intake affects the psychology of a person and can easily make one overly aware of every bite and that does not for a happy person make.
9. 30 minutes, 3x a week-Hello, Monotony, this is your twin sister Boredom speaking. Besides the crushing tedium and it’s cascade of emotional effects, your body is so much happier when it gets surprised by something new and even more giddy when you play stochastically. How about 15 minutes of intense dog chasing today, a 2 hour hike tomorrow, and floating in a pool the next day?
10. Eliminate all stress-Quite the mantra we have going on these days. Eliminate stress, eradicate it. However, you eliminate all stress and it’s impossible to get out of bed in the morning. Instead, find the appropriate level and the appropriate game with stress. That’s how I see stress: it’s an ally for play. It always demands a physical reaction and fluctuated in intensity. It takes a lot more self-knowledge to discover what is the level that you feel most alive at.
11. Slather up in SPF 50 and stay away from windows-avoid the sun!-Or, how about instead, you get a few minutes of quality sun exposure a day and bypass the vitamin D deficiency and the rampant sadness that happens when we, heliophilic creatures that we are, avoid it.
12. Detoxification supplements/teas/treatments-You have innate detox strategies. They are called the skin, the kidneys, the liver, the bowel, the lymph, etc. Instead of punishing your body with harsh programs and disgusting concoctions, support it with movement, appropriate food to the season, plenty of sleep, and lots of emotional expression. Laugh ’til you cry and cry ’til the laughter wells up.
13. Superfoods-Do people in the Himalayas ship in blackberries as their super fruit? I get that there is a spectrum of nutrition that food stretches across. But, don’t believe the hype that a food from across the globe is somehow superior to the food that grows in your region. My heart goes out to people that do not have access to much other than food products, but, when food (not products) are available, eat well from the local abundance. That is super enough.
I’m posting a day early because I am headed to NYC for a couple days before my graduation with some of my dearest friends. Laughter, sushi, Broadway, and a possible new piercing? Nourishment and Freedom! See you next week when I will let you know all that you need to have to be healthy.