Health Shame

You can’t shame yourself healthy – you can shame yourself into six pack abs.

Maybe you chuckled when you read this. Maybe you said, “Psh, I’d take the shame and six pack abs!” I know there were many years where I’d have said that – well, honestly, there’s still days where I’d say that.

But that’s where our culture is really messed up. We place way too much of an emphasis on how things look and not how our health really is. While the message that your weight is not a direct reflection of your health is more prevalent than it was ten years ago, it’s still largely drowned out in favor of thigh gaps and Kardashian booty.
We aren’t told to question the culture around us, whether that is messed up, we’re told to focus on fixing ourselves, because we are the problem.

Now, here’s the tricky thing. It’s easy to go off the other direction and say, yeah, who needs those salads and cardio? Pizza and couch surfing it is! But that’s not health, either. So how do we be healthy while not getting sidetracked by all the random messages our culture throws at us?

There’s no one size fits all answer for that, either. What motivates you won’t be the same thing that motivates me, and the exercise that makes your soul sing will undoubtedly make me scream.

But let’s circle back. You can shame yourself into exercising diligently, and you can shame yourself into only eating the most optimal foods. You can have all of the outward appearance of being healthy, and not actually be healthy. I say this from both a clinical perspective – who among us hasn’t had an acquaintance who ‘looked right’ but always complained about their doctor bloodwork? – and from a more holistic approach: look as healthy as you want, but if you’re handling your body out of fear and shame, that is not healthy. Neither is running yourself ragged. Or knowing that you have anxiety, but refusing to find a treatment that works for you because you’re afraid of a stigma.

Health is so much more than numbers on a scale. It can be measured a hundred different ways, and if you’re only focusing on one, you’re missing the bigger picture. Give yourself grace. You carrying around some baby weight but making sure you get some sleep? That’s fine! You struggling to get in any movement while your friends are running around the block? Do what you can! Did you eat a vegetable today? Yay! Put down your phone when you could feel facebook raising your blood pressure? Healthy choice!

Stop beating yourself up for the areas where you aren’t as successful as you’d like, and give yourself another high five for the ways you are. In those areas where you’re weak, make a small improvement. No matter how small the improvement is, they stack up. Do things that feel good and get you 1% closer to where you want to be.

Your health, inside and out, is something to be celebrated and challenged. Don’t shame your way to six pack abs. Celebrate and encourage yourself to a bigger picture of health.

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